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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Dismemberment - The body was never found
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: April 12, 1988
Date of arrest: January 13, 2010
Date of birth: March 20, 1964
Victim profile: Scott Coville, 26 (her first husband)
Method of murder: Shooting (.357 Magnum handgun)
Location: Sitka, Alaska, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to 36 years in prison on March 3, 2011

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Former Oswego woman gets 36 years in Alaska murder

SITKA, ALASKA — A former Oswego woman who killed her husband and disposed of his body 23 years ago in Alaska was sentenced Thursday to 36 years in prison.

Jane Reth, 46, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last November in the 1988 death of her husband Scott Coville. Reth was known as Jane Limm while living in the Fox Valley, before her arrest by Kendall County sheriff’s deputies at her Oswego apartment in January 2010.

Prosecutor Jean Seaton asked Judge David George Thursday to sentence Reth to 70 years, citing the seriousness of the offense, the grisly dismemberment and disposal of Coville’s body, and Reth’s continued deception of Coville’s friends and family immediately following the murder.

The sentencing followed several hours of testimony by an Alaska state trooper cold case investigator and three members of the victim’s family, as well as arguments by attorneys for the state and the defendant. One of Reth’s co-workers in the Chicago area testified on her behalf, describing her as a caring, service-minded person who donated to various charities.

Kane County Court records show Reth worked for the Geneva School District at one time, although her position with the district is unclear.

Reth’s attorney asked for a sentence of 15 years, saying Reth was seeking “redemption” for her crime, through good works in the Oswego area, and mission work abroad for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

In her remarks to the court before sentencing, Reth said:

“I don’t know that I could say anything that would make anything better. I do know I’m very sorry for what I’ve done. I thought about it for a very, very long time, and I’ve thought about what I could say today. There isn’t a whole lot I could say ... ”

Reth said she wished she had taken opportunities to get help when she was having problems in her marriage with Coville, and cited her lack of maturity at the time.

In handing down the sentence, George said he found no evidence that domestic violence was a factor, and that this murder was among the more serious types of its kind.

He said Reth showed a level of calculation and callousness by chopping up Coville’s body with an ax, putting body parts into garbage bags and disposing of them in several bins in Sitka.

“You did nothing to relieve the anguish of friends and family,” George said.

The judge cited Reth’s lies about Coville’s whereabouts to his family, and the fact that she sent a Mother’s Day card to Coville’s mother a few weeks after the murder, signing it “Scott and Jane.” George also took note that Reth later sent a multi-page letter to Reta Coville, blaming Scott for problems in the marriage, partly due to his use of marijuana.

The murder case came to light in 2007 when Christopher Reth, Reth’s second husband, was attempting to have his marriage annulled by the Roman Catholic Church.

Christopher and Jane Reth married in 2000 and were divorced in 2005, according to Kane County Court records. The couple lived together in Maple Park. When they separated, Christopher Reth moved to California.

During the annulment process, Christopher Reth told a church investigator that his wife had told him about murdering Scott Coville in Sitka. The investigator in turn notified Alaskan authorities, who opened the cold case investigation.

Troopers also obtained evidence with the cooperation of Christopher Reth. He allowed a phone conversation with his estranged wife, in which she admitted the murder, to be tape-recorded for use as evidence against her, prosecutors said.

Reth was arrested by Kendall County deputies in January 2010 at her apartment in the 2500 block of Light Road in Oswego.

Prosecutors said she confessed to shooting Coville with a .357 Magnum handgun as he slept in their bedroom. She said she chopped up the body on the bed with “a long-handled ax.” In her statement to the troopers she said she disposed of the body parts, and the bloody mattress, in trash bins.


Mother in cold case describes years wondering about her son

Son's wife confesses to murdering him.

By Casey Grove -

November 27, 2010

The mother of a man murdered in Sitka almost 23 years ago says she's thankful to the determined cold case detectives who caught her son's killer and for bringing the family closure after two decades of mystery surrounding his disappearance.

The Covilles thought it was unlikely that their son Scott had decided to disappear in 1988 without contacting them, but they still wondered if each ringing phone was Scott trying to call, and they did double takes when they saw men who looked like Scott, Reta Coville, his mother, said in a recent interview.

Now that Scott's wife, Jane Reth, has confessed to the murder, Reta can stop worrying about what happened to her son.

"In one aspect, it's less painful to have the knowledge that they didn't cease loving you," she said.

Reth, 45, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Sitka Superior Court on Monday. Reth entered the plea by telephone from Lemon Creek Correctional Center, where she's been since troopers extradited her from Oswego, Ill.

Sometime around her 24th birthday, Reth shot her husband while he was lying in bed in their trailer in Sitka. She admitted to that and to cutting the body into pieces, stuffing the pieces into bags and disposing of the pieces, said Assistant District Attorney Jane Seaton.

"At that time garbage disposal was by incinerator, so no trace (of the victim) was ever found," Seaton said in a report by local radio station KCAW-FM.

Reth avoided the original charges -- first-degree murder and a felony charge of tampering with evidence -- by taking the second-degree murder plea.

She had been married to Scott Coville for a few months, Reta said. Investigators said Reth told them Scott threatened to divorce her, and that's why Reth killed him, Reta said.

"Realistically, I would rather have her plead guilty rather than go to trial because there was no body, and there never will be, because she disposed so thoroughly of my son's body," Reta said.

There's a definite sense of resolution for the Coville family now that Reth has admitted to killing Scott, the family's only child, Reta said.

"The alternatives we were faced with all these years were he's dead, he was murdered, or he's just completely blown off his entire family, which was maybe harder to deal with," Reta said. "These were the two scenarios we were left with, and neither one of them were tolerable."

Knowing that he was murdered at least means she knows something about what happened to her son, Reta said.

Started with a tip in 2007

The cold case first started to thaw after investigators got a tip in 2007, troopers said. Troopers wouldn't elaborate on the tip.

The Alaska State Troopers' Cold Case Unit, prosecutor Pat Gullufsen and detective James Gallen with the Alaska Bureau of Investigations started putting together evidence about 20 years after Reta Coville made the first reports that her son was missing.

It was April 1988, Reta said, when she had called to wish a happy 26th birthday to her son, who had worked in Alaska for a couple years fishing and in a cannery. But the newly married couple's phone just rang and rang, she said.

Then, for Mother's Day, Reta got a card signed "love Jane and Scott," but it was in Jane's handwriting and postmarked from San Bernardino, Calif., Reta said.

Reth, who also went by Limm, had family near San Bernardino in Glendale, so Reta thought maybe they'd made a trip there. That, too, didn't make much sense because the Covilles also lived in California and hadn't heard about the trip. But Reta said she didn't always know what was going on in Scott's life.

Some kids tell their parents about everything in their lives, and some don't, Reta said. Scott didn't have a bad relationship with his parents, but he "was more of a picker and a chooser," she said.

Reta personally ruled out substance abuse as a possible explanation for Scott's disappearance. Scott didn't do drugs, Reta said. He didn't drink in excess that Reta knew of, and he had smoked pot on occasion, she said.

"I kept calling, maybe once a week, but nobody answered," Reta said. A check she sent Scott for his birthday had not been cashed months later. Finally, when a phone call got a recording that the number had been disconnected, Reta called the Sitka police.

By then, Reth had moved on. The police could only tell Reta that Alaska was often a temporary destination for people in Scott's line of work, and that they didn't know where he'd gone, nor did they know where to find Jane Limm.

The family heard from Jane once, through a friend, about six months later, Reta said. The friend said Jane wanted something she'd left at the Covilles' house, but she never showed up to get it, Reta said.

Life went on, Reta said.

"After about 10 years, you stop crying about it," Reta said. "Takes a long time, I discovered."

In the meantime, Reta figured, at least 10 members of the Coville family died without knowing what happened to Scott, she said. That included Scott's father, who passed away in 2004, she said.

'She ruined so many lives'

The Alaska investigators who contacted Reta were very kind, she said. As the investigation picked up, they told her they had taped conversations with Reth, Reta said. At one point, they also obtained physical evidence, she said.

"Some of the evidence, it couldn't have caught her 10 years before because the science wasn't there," she said.

Reta said she wasn't comfortable trying to explain the technology that was involved. Cold case investigators did not return requests to comment for this story.

Asked how she felt toward Reth for killing her only son, Reta said she hated Reth for about 10 years after Scott vanished.

"Then I said, 'You know what? Hating someone doesn't do any good,' " Reta said. "I said, 'You know what, God? Deal with it. If she's guilty, I hope you don't give her a day's peace."

"As to how I feel about her now, I don't really have any feelings toward her at all. It's just, what's the word? Apathy toward her," she said.

Reta described Scott and Jane's relationship as "hot and cold," and she wouldn't have been surprised if he asked for a divorce, she said.

"(It's) tragic that she ruined so many lives for something so pointless because she wanted her way," Reta said. "Whole families are totally disrupted. Our family. Her family."

The final closure will come when Reth is sentenced in March, said Reta, who plans to testify.

"Hopefully she's incarcerated for a long time," she said. "Scott deserves that. He can't speak for himself. The least I can do is be there for him and ask that she gets the harshest sentence.


Ex-Oswego woman pleads guilty to murder in Alaska

SITKA, ALASKA — A former Oswego woman accused of murdering her husband and disposing of his body while the couple lived in Alaska more than 20 years ago, pleaded guilty this week to a charge of second-degree murder.

Jane Reth, 46, admitted in court that she killed her husband Scott Coville and disposed of his body on or about April 12, 1988, his 26th birthday.

Prosecutors disclosed grisly details of the decades-old crime for the first time during the brief hearing before Judge David George in Sitka Superior Court.

Reth — who was known as Jane Limm while living in Oswego — faces five to 99 years in prison. The judge set her sentencing for March 2011.

As part of the plea deal, a felony charge of tampering with evidence was dismissed. Reth was also initially charged with first-degree murder, but that count was reduced in exchange for her guilty plea.

Reth participated in the hearing by telephone from Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau, where she has been held since her February arraignment in Sitka.

Prosecuting attorney Jane Seaton said that Reth had told her second husband that she was responsible for Scott Coville’s death in April 1988.

Seaton added that Reth told investigators in 2007 or 2008 that she shot Coville while he was in bed in the couple’s Sitka trailer and cut up his body with an ax. Reth said she put the remains into garbage bags and took them to the city’s solid waste incinerator, Seaton said.

Seaton said corroborating evidence was found by investigators in Sitka when they started looking into the cold case nearly 20 years after the murder. What exactly authorities found here has not been disclosed, and authorities have not suggested a motive for the killing.

The case was cold for nearly two decades, during which time Reth relocated to Oswego.

She married her second husband, Christopher Reth, in 2000 and divorced him in 2005, according to Kane County Court records. The couple lived together in Maple Park, where court records show Limm worked for the Geneva School District. Her position in the district was unclear. When they separated, Limm’s husband moved to California.

Christopher Reth was listed as a witness on the original indictment charging his ex-wife with Coville’s murder.

Alaska state troopers have said they got a break in the case in the spring of 2007. But prior to Monday’s hearing, authorities had said very little about the new evidence that led them to reopen the case. In a previous hearing, prosecutors had mentioned “Glass warrants,” which refer to court-authorized taping of phone conversations that are admissible as evidence in criminal cases.

Reth has been in custody since last January, when Kendall County sheriff’s deputies arrested her outside her apartment in the 2500 block of Light Road in Oswego.


Ex-Sitka resident accused in 1988 murder

State issues warrant for former Sitka resident Jane Limm

January 13, 2010

SITKA - The state has issued a warrant for the arrest of a former Sitka woman accused of killing her husband more than two decades ago.

A Sitka grand jury indicted Jane Limm, also known as Jane Reth and Jane Coville, on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Scott Coville, who disappeared in 1988 at the age of 26.

Limm, now 45, lives out of state. Prosecutors and police declined to name the state until Limm is served with the warrant and is in custody.

Limm is also charged with tampering with evidence - for what she allegedly did with the body that has never been found. Friday's indictment said she "destroyed, mutilated, altered, suppressed, concealed or removed physical evidence, the body or remains of Scott M. Coville."

Sitka Police Lt. Barry Allen said investigators reopened the cold case in June 2007, when new information became available. He said the local department asked the Alaska State Troopers to take over the "resource-intensive" case.

"They picked it up and ran with it," he said of its Cold Case Unit.

State prosecutor Pat Gullufsen told the Daily Sitka Sentinel that Coville moved to Sitka from San Diego, Calif., in 1986, and was joined by Limm in early 1987. The two were married in Sitka in October 1987, and had a formal ceremony in San Diego in February 1988. During their time in Sitka, Coville was employed at the Alaska Pulp Corp. mill, and later by Sitka Sound Seafoods. He also may have fished commercially, Gullufsen said.

Scott Coville's mother reported her son missing in 1988 after she didn't hear from him for several weeks.

"The information provided to us (in 2007) - that allowed a refocus," said Gullufsen, the Alaska senior assistant attorney general. "Then, with the development of more sophisticated DNA technology, there was the capability we hadn't had before to bring us to where we are right now."

Gullufsen said Limm could be in Alaska within weeks if she waives extradition.


Cold Case Unit Nets Arrest of Illinois Woman for 1988 Slaying

January 13, 2010

(OSWEGO, Illinois) – On 01/13/10, Jane Reth, age 45 of Illinois, was arrested for Murder in the First Degree and Tampering with Physical Evidence following a nearly three-year-long investigation by the Alaska State Troopers’ Cold Case Unit. Reth is accused of killing her late-husband, Scott M. Coville in Sitka in April of 1988. Coville was reported missing to the Sitka Police Department by family members because they hadn’t heard from him following his 26th birthday. He was subsequently listed in the State of Alaska Missing Persons Clearinghouse. New leads were developed after a tip was received by the Troopers in the spring of 2007.

A Sitka Grand Jury returned a true bill of indictment against Reth on 01/08/10. Following the indictment, a warrant with the bail amount of 250,000 dollars was issued. Reth was arrested by Kendall County Sherriff’s Office without incident in Oswego, IL. Plans are being made to extradite Reth to Alaska.



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