The mother of a man murdered in Sitka, Alaska, 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.
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