Mystery of Murder Victim Jana Carpenter
From Issue: Volume XX - Number 16
By Steve Propes
The existence of a corpse is generally required to justify a homicide investigation, thus a successful prosecution of a so-called “no-body” homicide is rare in law enforcement circles.
In fact, Long Beach resident and retired L.A. County Sheriff Homicide Captain Ray Peavy was involved in a successful prosecution of four “no-body” homicide cases, two of which were of a husband killing his wife or ex and as of this writing, permanently concealing or destroying the victim’s body. “Four convictions is pretty high, some departments never get one,” said Peavy.
Add to this crime the element of a cushy lifestyle and apparent wealth, control and ambition, it becomes a story worthy of a cable true crime show, in this case, Behind Mansion Walls.
An Australian TV producer got in touch with Peavy who had led the investigation of 42-year-old Long Beach real estate agent Bruce Koklich, whose wife Jana Carpenter Koklich, 41, was reported missing in 2001.
“Now he’s convicted and I don’t have bosses anymore,” said Peavy, who pulled no verbal punches about the case. “I had to be careful about what I said. During the investigation, I had to choose my words, didn’t want to compromise the case, or trip up my bosses. I didn’t have to call him Mr. Koklich, I might have called him ‘the killer.’ It depends on how they edit it.”
“Ninety percent of the time, it’s the person closest to the victim that did it or had it done.” During the investigation, certain facts worked against Koklich’s story. “It’s like anything else, my detectives locked him into statements, like they always do.”
The facts of the case involved Jana being dropped off on a Friday night by a friend after attending an Eric Clapton concert. On the following Monday, Bruce Koklich reported her missing, “saying he’d left for a funeral at 6:30 that morning, that Jana hadn’t yet gotten up and ‘we were going to meet later in the office.’”
When Bruce got to the office and she hadn’t shown up, he told co-workers he was returning home. “He didn’t count on a co-worker going with him to see him disengage the burglar alarm when he went in to look for her, since an intruder wouldn’t set the alarm after he kidnapped her.”
Bruce claimed his wife’s SUV was missing, but according to Peavy, Koklich left it in central Long Beach, hoping someone would steal it, get pulled over by local police and get caught with blood evidence on the back deck.
“Bruce had such a great story, but he didn’t count on a woman who lived there seeing him leave the car, who told the local teenagers, ‘stay away from that car, it’s a set up.’ He might as well have left a ‘steal me’ sign on her car” Peavy recalled. “Later we had this lady seeing him leave this auto soaked with her blood an hour after he said he left her.”
To this day, the mystery of the location of Jana’s body persists. “He should tell us where the body is,” Peavy insisted. “At the time, they were building homes up in Signal Hill. Being in the real estate business, Bruce knew where the upcoming homes were. Bruce knew everything about Signal Hill, Long Beach and Lakewood and that was his job. During the course of construction, he could take her body there and put it underneath a new building. She could be buried under some big box store.
“His plans were a lot better than plans where people got away with murder, but it didn’t pan out,” said Peavy. “If things had broken that way, he could’ve gotten away with it and could’ve told where the body was through an informant.
As to a possible motive, Peavy recalled, “Jana was very subservient to Bruce during her life. He ran the show, she wanted to have a family which he was against. She was getting tired of doing things Bruce’s way. She started working out, looking better, her self-esteem was on the rise. She had the license for the real estate business and he worked under her license. They had five or six million dollars between them. He didn’t want to lose anything.
“He doesn’t need the money where he is now. He got 15 to life, but he could get out. They’ve been appealing from the beginning. Guys like Bruce are never going to give up. His ego will not allow him to do less than that. When they’re in for murder and they come up for parole, the cops go, the family will be there to say, ‘I just want my baby’s body back.’
“If the guy denies he had anything to do with it, they’ll keep him there for life,” Peavy opined. “If he is going to give up where to find the body, it’s not like the truth will set him free.”
The Koklich case will be featured on Behind Mansion Walls on the Investigative Discovery channel on August 30.