Details of Disappearance
Jana was last seen by her friends after an Eric Clapton concert on August 17, 2001. Her husband, Bruce Koklich, told authorities that his wife returned to their home in the 2200 block of Lewis Street in Lakewood, California late that evening. A photo of Bruce is posted with this case summary. Jana's friends stated that she did not drink alcohol during the concert, as she had an early morning appointment with her personal trainer on August 18.
Jana's trainer said that she never called to cancel the appointment and never arrived as scheduled. She had not missed an appointment with her trainer in two years. Her mother said that she called Jana during the day on August 18 and left several messages on her answering machine at home, but Jana never returned the calls, which was very uncharacteristic of her.
Jana and Bruce worked together as realtors with RE/MAX International Inc.'s Seal Beach Office in California. Bruce claimed that Jana was extremely busy from August 18 - 20 and overlooked the calls and appointment with her trainer. He said that he last saw his wife when he departed from their residence between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m. on August 20.
Bruce said he looked at several properties and arrived at their office in the 3900 block of Atlantic Avenue at approximately 8:30 a.m. He said he attended a funeral from 9:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. when he returned to the office.
Bruce stated he became concerned about Jana when she did not arrive at work by 11:00 a.m. and called her cellular phone, which she normally kept turned off, and their residence. He drove to their home after she failed to answer his call; a coworker insisted on accompanying them and noticed Bruce had to deactivate the burglar alarm before going inside. They realized Jana was missing.
Bruce said he summoned an unidentified friend from the Long Beach Police Department and called the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department at approximately 3:00 p.m.
An extensive search produced no evidence as to Jana's whereabouts. Her white 1996 Nissan Pathfinder SUV remained missing until August 27, when authorities discovered it was parked in a vacant garage in the 2400 block of California Avenue in the Signal Hill area of Long Beach, California, approximately four miles from the Kokliches' residence, in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. The backseat of the vehicle was soaked in her blood.
A group of teenagers said they found the SUV unlocked and abandoned at approximately 8:00 a.m. on August 20, with the front windows rolled down and Jana's purse, cellular phone, keys, and a gun lying in plain sight. They took it for a joyride and also rifled through Jana's personal belongings in the vehicle, including her cellular phone, purse and wallet.
The teens threw Jana's purse and phone on top of an apartment building; both were later recovered. They sold the gun. They did not realize the SUV was involved in a possible murder investigation until a week later, when they came forward with their evidence.
A local minister advertised for the return of the gun, no questions asked, for a $100 reward, and someone gave it to him anonymously. He turned it over to the police.
Bruce and Jana's employees stated that they did not believe Bruce was connected to Jana's case. They described the the couple's marriage as a good relationship and said he would never have harmed his wife.
Bruce said a group of his co-workers searched the surrounding areas for signs of Jana on August 20 and spoke to a witness who claimed to have seen a woman in the back of an SUV earlier in the day. Authorities said they were unable to locate the witness for questioning. Bruce also stated that he believed Jana may have been the victim of a possible carjacking, a scenario investigators dismissed.
Bruce had two polygraph examinations scheduled with authorities, but he never arrived for either appointment. He stated that his attorney and friends in law enforcement recommended he avoid the lie detector tests, calling them unreliable.
Jana's family said that it's extremely uncharacteristic of her to leave without warning. Her father, former California Democratic state senator Paul Carpenter, was ill with prostate cancer and died in late January 2002.
Jana was very close to both of her parents, who were divorced; she was their only child. Jana's stepmother said that she and Jana's father believed that Jana had been murdered sometime after August 17. They pretended to support Bruce publicly until December 2001 in the hopes that he would divulge information concerning Jana's whereabouts.
Carpenter told reporters in 2001 that he believed Bruce murdered Jana because she wanted a divorce and he did not want to split their marital assets. He would have lost 51% of their jointly owned business in a divorce. He had also taken out a $1 million insurance policy on her life.
Bruce was arrested and charged with Jana's murder on January 31, 2002. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in court in early February 2002. Authorities said that a small amount of Jana's blood was discovered in the bedroom of the couple's residence, and a pillow and sheet were missing; they believe Bruce shot her there.
According to prosecutors, Bruce had visited prostitutes throughout his marriage and didn't support Jana's wish to adopt a child. After her disappearance he solicited several female acquaintances for sex, including his own eighteen-year-old niece; he asked her to model Jana's underwear and invited her to live with him.
The trial began in February 2003, but the jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared in March. A new trial began and Bruce was convicted of second-degree murder in October 2003. He was sentenced to fifteen years to life in prison.
Jana's body has never been located, and authorities said that they have not located any evidence to suggest that it ever will be. Foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.