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Man Gets 15 Years to Life in 2000 Slaying

Los Angeles

Judge chides Long Beach man for refusing to disclose location of wife's body. Victim was daughter of late state Sen. Paul Carpenter.

March 27, 2004|Jose Cardenas | Times Staff Writer

Long Beach real estate businessman Bruce Koklich was sentenced Friday to 15 years to life in prison for killing his wife, whose body has not been found.

Norwalk Superior Court Judge Philip H. Hickok chided Koklich, 44, for his lack of remorse and his refusal to disclose where he had hidden the body of Jana Carpenter-Koklich, who disappeared from her Lakewood home more than three years ago.

She was the daughter of the late Democratic state Sen. Paul Carpenter of Cypress.

Before Hickok handed down the sentence, three family members and friends spoke about Carpenter-Koklich, who was 41 when she disappeared.

"There are no words to describe the loneliness I feel without Jana's presence in my life," the victim's mother, Janeth Carpenter, 77, told the judge. "It is especially devastating not to know where her body is, so that we could have the comfort of a final goodbye to her."

Doris Morrow, who was Paul Carpenter's girlfriend, said Carpenter-Koklich's disappearance had devastated the victim's father when he was dying of cancer.

Paul Carpenter had wanted Carpenter-Koklich to be called when he was near death so she could hold his hand, Morrow said.

"After it was evident that he would never see his child again," Morrow said, "he stopped his chemo and gave up his will to live."

Bruce and Jana Koklich owned a real estate business in Long Beach and were about to launch a related Internet company when she disappeared the night of Aug. 18, 2000.

Prosecutors argued during two trials -- the first ended in a hung jury -- that Koklich had cheated on his wife throughout their marriage and that, at the time of her death, he had been unhappy over her desire to adopt a child.

Prosecutors told jurors that Koklich killed his wife after she returned home from a Friday night concert and before 7 a.m. the next day, when she began missing a series of weekend appointments.

Her sport utility vehicle with her blood in the cargo area was found the following Monday in a crime-plagued area of Long Beach. The front windows had been rolled down and her purse and a gun were visible.

At the start of the second trial, prosecutors told jurors they might not be able to prove Koklich's motive. But they pointed out that Koklich had taken out a $1-million life insurance policy before his wife's death and had stood to lose financially because Carpenter-Koklich had threatened to divorce him.

Before the sentencing, defense attorney Edward George Jr. asked for a new trial, saying there was a lack of evidence that Koklich had committed second-degree murder.

George argued that, because prosecutors had not found a body, they had not answered how, where or when she had been killed or whether Koklich had acted with malice aforethought. In denying the motion, Hickok said, "In this case, there's more than sufficient credible evidence."

Addressing the court, the victim's family and friends described Carpenter-Koklich as an only child who had been her parents' pride. Her family said that, when Carpenter-Koklich met Koklich, she had abandoned plans to attend law school so she could help him succeed in his business.

Morrow said Carpenter-Koklich had been content with being in the background doing the hard work while Koklich concentrated on the company's public relations.

"She wanted Bruce to shine," Morrow said.

Outside court, Janeth Carpenter said she still hoped that Koklich would someday disclose the location of her daughter's body.

"I think it's possible that he might, in order to get parole," she said.

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