Koklich Denies Killing His Wife

Times Staff Writer

A Lakewood man accused of killing his wife, the daughter of a former state senator, testified at his trial Thursday that he had had numerous sexual encounters, but said they occurred years before her disappearance.

Bruce Koklich, taking the stand in his own defense, said he and Jana Carpenter-Koklich had two successful businesses and a loving relationship of almost 20 years.

"There's nobody that I loved more," Koklich said.

Koklich, 43, is charged with killing Carpenter-Koklich, 41, daughter of former state Sen. Paul D. Carpenter (D-Cypress).

The case traces back to a weekend in mid-August of 2001.

Carpenter-Koklich attended a concert that Friday at Staples Center with a friend. She returned to the couple's Lakewood home about midnight. Then she missed numerous personal commitments over the weekend.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Eleanor Hunter told jurors in opening arguments that Koklich was the last one to see his wife alive.

The prosecutor argued that Koklich killed his wife for financial gain, including a $1-million life insurance policy, as their marriage and real estate business in Long Beach were deteriorating.

The body of Koklich-Carpenter, whose blood was discovered in the couple's bedroom, was never found.

Defense attorney Henry Salcido on Thursday showed the jury numerous pictures and cards that suggested an affectionate relationship between his client and Koklich-Carpenter.

Koklich told the jury in detail about the in-vitro fertilization process the couple used to try to have a child. He denied that he told his wife, who wanted children, that he did not want to adopt.

Regarding his sexual encounters, some at massage parlors, Koklich testified that they were not "love interests." He said the last one occurred years before her disappearance.

Asked by Salcido whether he killed his wife, Koklich replied: "No."

Attempting to discredit the prosecution's assertion that the couple were having financial troubles, Koklich testified that they borrowed several thousand dollars from his wife's mother because it was mutually beneficial. The couple, he said, would be paying a lower interest rate, and his mother-in-law, Janeth Carpenter, would be receiving a higher interest rate than at the bank.

Prosecutor Hunter confronted Koklich with tax documents that showed the couple were operating numerous rental properties at a loss.

She also suggested that he did not grieve normally and that he solicited sex from women, including his 18-year-old niece, soon after he reported his wife missing.

Koklich admitted that he brought the young woman from out of town to stay with him without telling any family members -- even the girl's father -- but denied that he asked her explicitly for sex.

"If that [sex] happened, it would be OK," Koklich said.

Hunter also suggested Koklich lied to investigators early on. For example, when they asked him whether he had had affairs, "You knew that would make you look suspicious to them, correct?" she said.

"I didn't feel that I lied," Koklich said. "They were not love interests in my life."

Hunter pointed out that Koklich hired a lawyer and an investigator the day after reporting his wife missing and she said he began working on a defense rather than finding his wife.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World