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Mistrial Declared in Murder Case Against Husband

A lack of physical evidence blocks jury in the trial of businessman Bruce Koklich.

March 25, 2003|Jose Cardenas | Times Staff Writer

A judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case of Bruce Koklich, accused of killing his wife, after jurors deadlocked over the lack of physical evidence.

When deliberations began in Los Angeles County Superior Court in Norwalk, the jury unanimously believed that Koklich, 43, had killed Jana Carpenter-Koklich, 41, several jurors said after Judge Robert J. Higa dismissed them Monday. But as the panel began to examine the evidence, some jurors thought they could not find Koklich guilty of first-degree murder based on the circumstantial evidence.

The body of Carpenter-Koklich, the daughter of former state Sen. Paul Carpenter (D-Cypress), was never found.

After nearly seven days of deliberation, the jury voted 7 to 5 in favor of a guilty verdict.

Defense attorney Henry Salcido had argued that circumstantial evidence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Long Beach real estate businessman killed his wife.

Juror Becki Brune said afterward: "We could not find him guilty because of what the law said."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Eleanor Hunter said she will retry the case. She was encouraged by the fact that all the jurors initially believed Koklich was guilty, she said.

"It's always difficult when you don't have a body," she said, adding that the law doesn't require the prosecution to produce one.

Carpenter-Koklich's mother, Janeth Carpenter, said she was "disappointed that we didn't get a verdict this time, but we have another chance."

Koklich remains free on $1-million bail.

Koklich and his wife lived in Lakewood. They owned a real estate and a computer software company in Long Beach.

On a Friday evening in August 2001, Carpenter-Koklich went to a concert at Staples Center and returned home about midnight, but missed several weekend commitments.

Hunter told jurors that Koklich had killed his wife by 7 a.m. Saturday. According to the prosecution, he had told his wife that he didn't want to adopt a child. She was threatening to divorce him, Hunter told the jury, and to take at least 50% of each of their companies.

Hunter argued that Koklich did not grieve normally after he reported his wife missing that Monday, and that he began soliciting women for sex, including his 18-year-old niece.

The prosecutor contended that Koklich parked his wife's Nissan Pathfinder with her blood in it in a crime-plagued neighborhood of Long Beach.

Their housekeeper told investigators about sheets and a towel that were missing from the couple's bedroom, where Koklich-Carpenter's blood was later found.

The defense attorney maintained that the couple had a strong marriage and two successful businesses. He told the jury that the couple stayed home and did not return phone calls that weekend because they wanted to spend time together. And he argued that the prosecution never answered the question of how Carpenter-Koklich was killed.

Juror Carlene Murphy, who voted for a guilty verdict, said that some jurors could not get past the issue of motive, since no witness testified that Carpenter-Koklich was unhappily married.

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