Recipients honored at 12th Annual Awards Ceremony
Auburn, Calif.- Eighteen people whose testimony or actions assisted Placer County prosecutors over the past year have been named recipients of the District Attorney”s 12th annual Citizen Recognition Awards.
The recipients were honored today in a ceremony during the Placer County Board of Supervisors regular meeting.
Fifteen of the recipients were selected for their help in the District Attorney’s most high-profile case in 2008-09 the murder trial of Paul R. Kovacich Jr.
Based largely on circumstantial evidence, prosecutors proved to a jury that Kovacich shot his wife, Janet, in 1982 and disposed of her body. Only a portion of her skull was ever found. Convicted by a jury, Kovacich is now serving a state prison sentence of 27 years to life.
District Attorney Brad Fenocchio told the supervisors that law enforcement agencies and the justice system rely heavily on witnesses who either saw or took action that led to an arrest and subsequent prosecution.
The 18 winners of the Citizen Recognition Awards ‘had the courage to step up and do what was right,’ Fenocchio said.
Handing out plaques or certificates during the ceremony were Senior Deputy District Attorneys Suzanne Gazzaniga, who was one of the prosecutors in the Kovacich case, and Garen Horst, who has put together all 12 of the annual Citizen Recognition Awards ceremonies.
Among recipients of this year’s awards were the couple that found the partial skull of Janet Kovacich Gary and Susan Satterlee of Auburn.
The two were walking in a dry lakebed at Rollins Lake on Oct. 22, 1995, and spotted the upper half of the skull in the silt. Through advances in DNA testing in 2006 and 2007, forensics experts were able to establish that the skull, which had a bullet hole in it, was that of Janet Kovacich.
The Satterlees were presented with plaques during today’s ceremony at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting.
Also receiving a plaque was Marion Entz of Auburn, who is the last known person to have talked to Janet Kovacich before she was murdered.
Entz was the registrar at a private school and Janet Kovacich had set up an appointment to meet with her later that day about enrolling her children. Janet never showed up for the meeting.
Eleven others who assisted in the Kovacich prosecution received certificates.
They included Jeannette Baldwin, Charley J. Berger, Claudia Buford, Dr. Leon Burke, Elaine Cunningham, Cindy Martin, Brenda Krch, Diane Mandonca, Christine Milam, Francis Myres and Jan Reynolds-Gage, all of whom were either friends, neighbors or acquaintances of the Kovacich family and each of whom provided key pieces of evidence.
The 15th award recipient connected to the Kovacich case was honored posthumously.
Dave Milam, late husband of Christine Milam, was a retired Placer County Sheriff’s deputy who volunteered to help investigate the Kovacich case when it was reopened by the Auburn Police Department in the early 2000s.
Gazzaniga said the effort to bring justice for so many people in the Kovacich case ‘could not have been successful without citizens of courage and dedication and who time and time again did the right thing.’
The other three winners of Citizen Recognition Award certificates were not connected to the Kovacich case.
They included Anthony Faught, Dr. Chad Morton and Joanne Sandman.
Faught, a Penryn resident, captured a suspect who had led law enforcement officers in a high-speed vehicle pursuit. After the suspect hit two vehicles, he jumped out of his car and tried to run away.
Faught, a passenger in one of the vehicles that was struck, jumped out of the vehicle and tackled the fleeing man, who was later convicted of felony charges of driving under the influence and evading officers. The defendant was sentenced to two years in state prison.
Dr. Morton, a pharmacologist from Sacramento, was a volunteer who agreed to testify for the District Attorney’s Office in several DUI cases that involved prescription drugs.
Prosecutors said Morton took vacation days to come to court and testify.
Morton also received an award from the Sacramento chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving during today’s ceremony.
Sandman, a Citrus Heights resident, was walking her dog when she came upon an injured woman lying in the bushes. The woman had been severely beaten by her husband.
Sandman took the woman to her own apartment and telephoned for help. All the while, the woman’s husband was knocking on Sandman’s door, trying to get into the apartment.
Three weeks later, the beating victim died of a pre-existing health condition, but Sandman’s testimony helped prosecutors get a conviction against the husband, who was found guilty by a jury of battery on a spouse and resisting an officer.