Crime, Epic Adventures, Mystery

The Wolf

There are things I remember vividly about her. How she would occasionally tug the creases of her thin lips into an awkward smile. The sway of black hair when the October sun made it look auburn, as if it had been dipped in warm honey.

Her voice was soft and tender but she was fiercely opinionated. When my mom meet Jane, the woman was sitting in a church pew with her fingers interlaced across her lap. They shook hands as a round of introductions were made. Meanwhile, I fidgeted impatiently at my mom’s side, attempting to ignore the ache in my stomach with anticipation of our afternoon potluck.

Her husband was a pilot. A handsome man with a charming demeanor and ice blue eyes. Yet when he opened his mouth, his jokes fell flat. People around us forced a laughed to make the silence more tolerable but the words lingered out of place… even though the suit and tie fit right in with the rest of us. Phone numbers were exchanged along with an invitation to our house for dinner. My mom was queen bee of making newcomers feel welcome.

When I look back with an adult perspective, I can see things I failed to notice as a teenager. An inferno boiling below the surface. A valuable lesson in choosing who to trust with expert precision.

As the seasons changed, my mom and Jane struck up a casual friendship. Jane began writing a healthy eating column for the church bulletin and since my mom loved to cook, the two of them swapped recipes. She was invited to walk the neighborhood with us when my mom became determined to lose weight. I listened intently to the conversations between adults and watched as Jane pulled a gray cardigan taut when frost descended once more.

I would hear my mom correct her over Bible verse interpretations. She would twist the words to fit an internal narrative as she held those around her to a higher standard than she held herself. After catching a church member in the act of something she deemed unhealthy, Jane would go out of her way to bring it to light for all to see by writing about it in the church column. Jane became obsessive. Yet on more than one occasion members would be invited to join her at a seedy bar in town.

Jane’s husband and my step-father struck up conversations of their own. In no time the two of them were standing over a grill, a cold beer in one hand and a plate of steak to bring to the table secured in the other. Yet as steaming bowls of potatoes and vegetarian options were passed to our friends meal after meal, the air between the adults had grown cold and distant. Tension hung like a guillotine.

When a good person does something terrible, it eats away at them. Nights become exhausting as sleep is lost. An attempt is made at justifying their actions but they live in a prison of hell. Self-sabotage is a pleasure they seek to lighten the burden of guilt that weighs heavy on their hearts. Yet truly evil people… feel absolutely nothing.

Which one was she? As I think back to sitting next to Jane at the dinner table, passing a plate of snapped peas from my hand to hers… I can’t help wondering if she thought about what she had done. When someone smiled at her over a glass of deep red sparkling grape juice, did she flash back to all the blood she had to clean up in that tiny trailer in Alaska?

When the pastor held communion and said “Eat this bread as a symbol of my body” did Jane Reth think back to the moment when a firearm weighed heavy in her hand and she decided to pull the trigger? When she wrote the column for church members, did it conjure up a memory of the card she sent to his mother the first mother’s day after his death? Did she criticize others because she was riddled with guilt or did she do such things because she felt nothing at all?

Jane Reth is a murderer.” My step-father announced to my mom.

She waved a hand in front of her face and laughed it off. Jane hardly weighed one hundred pounds. She was pretty in an understated sort-of way. While she was at times, a little strange and off-putting… she devoted a huge portion of her time to the service of others.

Why would you even think such a thing?” My mom questioned.

Because her husband told me she killed her first husband.” He said quietly.

Maybe he was joking? Maybe he was so terrible, she joked about killing him?” My mom suggested.

Maybe… but I kind-of believe him.” He stated tentatively.

A heated discussion over religion brewed between my parents. One claiming to be agnostic and the other, deeply rooted in faith. Neither refusing to give an inch while causing both of them to feel unbalanced. My step-father never wanted our family to practice Christianity and my mom couldn’t live life without God in it. A consistent war to tip the scale was ever present in the house I called home.

Scott Coville was an only child who disappeared out of his family’s life in 1988. It took Reta (Scott’s mother) over twenty years to find out what happened to her son. In that time, Scott’s father passed on having never received the closure he justly deserved. It broke both of his parent’s hearts.

I have witnessed first hand the rage that can blossom out of the rot where love once bloomed. Money and power are the most common motives for murder. Yet, nothing says I loved you quite like a brutal, premeditated end to someone’s life.

In a small fishing town called Sitka nestled near the state capitol of Alaska, collage sweethearts Jane and Scott decided to begin their lives together. Scott made money for his little family through work he picked up while fishing and canning and Jane felt she found the love of her life. It didn’t take long for the honeymoon phase to come to a screeching halt.

The endless disagreements became too much for Scott to handle, so he reached out to his mother in Fairbanks for support. The couple made strides to seek out church counseling yet it left the pastor feeling increasingly uneasy about the well-being of this match. As Scott began discussing divorce, something toxic ruptured inside of Jane.

If you’re wearing your Sabbath best, with your shoes shined and white blouse freshly pressed. Even though your hands are covered in red… do you sound like a sheep, or howl like a rabid wolf instead? As Scott slept in their bed, Jane shot her husband with a 357 magnum point blank in the head.

Petite Jane cut Scott’s body into pieces. She parked his car at the airport nearby and meticulously cleaned the home they had once shared together. Since Sitka was a fishing town, garbage was incinerated rather than taken to a landfill. Scott was picked up with the trash and never found again.

Grown men are allowed to leave their wives and travel elsewhere. Jane and Scott had been married for only a few months. His mother Reta had lost all hope of finding her son but she suspected Jane all along.

A three page letter was written to Reta by Jane explaining how the marriage went wrong. She fabricated details about choosing to go separate ways and moving on with their lives. Yet the first mother’s day after Scott had been murdered, Jane sent Reta a card in her handwriting and signed Scott’s name next to hers.

In 2007 Jane’s second husband provided a tip to police in regard’s to the disappearance. She wasn’t officially arrested until 2010. 20 Years had gone by since Reta reported her son as a missing person. Through taped phone calls, detectives were able to get Jane to admit what she had done on record. Without evidence of a body, the majority of the prosecution rested on obtaining a confession.

A video of Jane’s interview with police can be found on YouTube or by watching the episode created by the popular TV show called Snapped. Reth finally took responsibility for what she had done. While various versions of this story can be found online, I believe that I am able to add a unique perspective because I personally knew her. She wasn’t just a murderer, she was a friend.

When Mr. Reth told my step-father about the murder… it was long before the Reth’s had gotten divorced. The police had not yet become more involved in the case. It seemed too fanatical to be factual, especially when we had no knowledge of Jane being married to anyone other than the husband she had introduced us to. It was for that reason we never told anyone or gave it a second thought.

The police didn’t find any evidence of drug abuse between Jane or Scott with the exception of recreational marijuana. She had no criminal history before or after the murder of her husband. A passing rumor was overheard about a plea for self defense, but it wasn’t supported by the evidence.

Only Jane could attest to her state of mind. The district attorney motioned to charge Jane with first-degree murder. When she decided to plead guilty, the charges were reduced to second-degree murder. She is currently serving thirty-six years behind bars which will lessen to Twenty-four years with good behavior.

When news of Jane’s arrest and transport back to Alaska was released to the press, my mom made a call to her childhood best friend. Joy Wiebe was a petite woman of faith who shared her life as an ice road trucker with a significant number of followers on Instagram. When she wasn’t risking her life, she was working on her farm… in Fairbanks, Alaska. To our shock, Joy was close friend’s with Reta and her son Scott.

Joy described the Coville’s as a kind and loving family. She was enraged over the devastation Jane’s presence had inflicted upon them, while my mom (having known Reth) remained skeptical. Yet the question lingers ever present in my mind… if you’re wearing your Sabbath best, with your shoes shined and white blouse freshly pressed. Even though your hands are covered in red… are you a sheep, or a wolf instead?

Notes from the Author:

When Autumn leaves are dropping, I love curling up with a spine tingling mystery and a hot cup of tea… don’t you? This true story was written from my own perspective. I have painstakingly gathered research to share this final product with all of you. Names were removed to obscure identities. The only sources I’ll be sharing are the ones I discovered online. If you enjoy a good mystery, it may shock you to know more than one murder occurred within the church I attended. I can’t wait to write about the other one.

If you’re wondering where I’ve been while my blog has remained dormant, I sincerely apologize. I agonized over being gone for so long! An early frost arrived on our little farm that set into motion a long to-do list. Farm work will forever take priority. So what have I been up to? Mending fences, building a greenhouse, planting lots (and lots) of bulbs, washing buckets and blankets, buying and storing feed, taking care of my kid, mucking out and preparing stalls for winter, going trick-or-treating, hiring a new farrier to trim hooves, and attempting to balance normal house work and appointments.

Whew! I’m trying to get back on schedule, bare with me. For now, I’ll be thrilled to post once a week even if it doesn’t fall on a Tuesday. Next to spring, Autumn is the busiest time of the year for us. We’re preparing garden beds so our farm is overflowing with blooms. On a positive note, I snagged three AMAZING frosted windows for the greenhouse build… they came out of a mansion! I am DYING (figuratively) to walk you through it on video when it’s all finished. Once winter rolls in… I’ll be spending almost all of my free time avoiding the cold by writing blogs in front of our wood burning stove. Don’t give up on me yet!


Cover Image of the Joker: Makeup was done by Kayla @FacesByGremlina, Photography was done by yours truly.

Epic Adventures

The Great Race

I belong to a family of travelers. Midnight drives across the United States, watching sunbeams dance over a dew logged windshield as morning light graces the horizon. Waking up sometimes at two AM because our rickety car was bouncing across uneven roadways… it was a big part of my childhood.

My mom or my grandfather would turn to look at me as I rubbed sleep from my eyes. Attempting to make sense of where I had laid my head previously and trying to comprehend my new reality. Surrounding scenery engulfed in darkness at times.

My mom would say something like “Oh good! You’re up! Guess where we’re going?”

She would toss her head back to laugh over my confusion. Yet it was all so enchanting not knowing what was to come. My childhood of travel is why Nikolai has crossed so many states off his list. It makes coming home sweeter instead of being taken for granted. In his (now) young seven years of life… he has been to at least 25 States.

While browsing news articles one evening, I read about a magical balloon race starting in Helen Georgia and reaching all the way to the Atlantic. At two hundred and twenty five miles it was deemed as being one of the best long distance balloon races in America. When I laid eyes on the advertisement I knew Nikolai needed to experience it for himself.

Late one Wednesday evening in May, I booked a hotel, packed our vehicle, and buckled four-year-old Nikolai into his seat. I slid my body behind the wheel and smiled back at him. His sweet little face was full of confusion. His eyes asking questions his lips hadn’t caught up to.

Guess where we’re going?” I asked with a giggle

He hadn’t a clue. Just my boy and I set off to see spectacular things. We lugged belongings into our assigned hotel room with bags of snacks spilling out onto the red carpeted floor. I tucked him into bed, kissed his forehead with a promise of adventures to come in the morning. We skipped winding down over a glowing television screen for going to bed early and yet we barely slept a wink. Our exhaustion was evident when we missed our first wake-up alarm. Yet before the sun, we rose to greet the day. Slipped our shoes on and grabbed breakfast to take on the road. Nikolai’s little legs did a jig all the way to his surprise encounter.

Our car weaved around mountains. Patches of gold and pink fog billowing into the valley as I asked him which items he would take if he were setting out on a hot air balloon trek rather than watching it. Water, Snacks, binoculars, a picture of daddy (since he was working), and mommy would come with of course! My camera nestled into the passenger seat nearly slid to the floor as an idea for a photograph blossomed in my head.

We walked a winding blacktop following crowds of visitors. Birds fluttering about, having been disrupted of their routine. A nature path through woodlands opened to a grassy field full of baskets. Tipped balloons were graced with fire breathing contraptions. Nikolai’s eyes were wide in anticipation of lift off. Children held hands and ran through the meadow careful to stay out of the way. Pick-nick blankets covered fresh earth where families sat cross legged together. The scene similar to something I saw in film somewhere.

Tiny pests were waved away from morning meals in frustration and people of all nationalities held their breath. When the first balloon lifted, cheers erupted. Loud clapping and well wishes echoed through the forest. As I am terrified of heights, my fingers laced into sweaty fists. I couldn’t imagine seeing beautiful things from their advantage but I also couldn’t grasp how to avoid falling out of such a flimsy restraint.

I pictured myself dropping out of the blue sky and landing on someone’s house while mentally adding a parachute to my own personal list. If I was setting out on such an epic adventure, I would take my camera, my journal, chocolate (to calm a panic attack), several parachutes, my husband (someone has to help make flight repairs), and of course… my son. I’d also low-key kidnap (but later return) a therapist and pocket a large bottle of Xanax to swallow with my bottled water.

I doubt all of those things would even fit. Where would we go pee? While I love adventures, I am happiest watching ones that involve great heights from somewhere on the ground while cheering for those who are braver than myself. I couldn’t imagine getting caught at the mercy of a storm. Thunder and lightening wouldn’t make very good neighbors. I prefer to enjoy them from a location of safety.

We stayed until the last balloon lifted to the heavens. I sighed in contentment and folded our throw blanket over my arm. Nikolai put his tiny hand in mine, and I traced his fingers as we walked to our car. We got to see the balloons suspended over German architecture. We enjoyed cobble stone streets, listened to a rushing river, and grabbed lunch at a nearby cafe.

I ordered a hot cup of tea while Nikolai pocketed rocks he found along the way. When my husband and I visit Helen by ourselves, we sit along the river and look for heart shaped rocks to bring home to our boy. Nikolai likes to set them in odd places around our farm and throughout his bedroom. It’s a little tradition we do almost anywhere we go (but especially when visiting Helen).

When I asked my husband what he would bring if he came with us, he conveniently left out bringing any kind of tools what-so-ever. We had an amazing conversation about plunging to our deaths, hoping for the best, and panicking afterwards. He’s forever the rock when everything is on fire but quickly falls apart when life is back to some sense of normalcy again. I think it has a lot to do with his time spent as a soldier. That therapist on board would sure come in handy.

When we pulled into our driveway at home, Nikolai ran to his room to dig through his toy box. He grabbed his flight jacket, his flight goggles, and his pilot’s hat. Maps were drawn out of crayons, Moose (our farm dog) was forced into being a copilot, and together they flew past chickens who clucked their intense disapproval.

A long pink tongue rolled out of Moose’s mouth, but there was joy found in her eyes. Doodles (short for Doodle Bug, also known as Nikolai) was so worn out from the day’s activities he fell asleep early. Long lashes against soft peach skin and cupid bowed lips were slightly agape as he rested in a heap of blankets. A pilot’s hat still pulled down over his face and one arm draped over Moose’s belly.

Name 5 must-have essentials you might take on a long hot air balloon race! Are you adventurous? Do heights freak you out too? Could you guess what your spouse might bring? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

This image was shot in sections and blended together. The background was shot with a GoPro at sunset, the balloons were shot on race day individually, and Nikolai was photographed at home on our farm.
Nikolai & Moose
Two best friends ❤️

Epic Adventures

An Impossible Task

Other than the white noise of Rob and Nikolai snoring, it was rather quiet inside our vehicle. Tallulah had her wet nose pushed against the glass so she could keep an eye on untrustworthy strangers. I could see the reflection of the flashing crimson sign from the “Come and Go” gas station lighting up her peripheral. We had laid all the seats down and blown up the air mattress in the back of the SUV with the hopes of re-balancing our sleep schedule.

Despite the exhaustion, it was the smell of equine sweat clinging to the breeze that woke me. It felt out of place within the truck stop’s parking lot until I realized that there was a farm nearby. We popped the trunk open for better airflow and let our tangled feet dangle out the back. The temperature was near perfection but It’s hard to sleep when there is an undertow of excitement crashing over your psyche. A crack of thunder strangled the peace. Darkness danced with lightening, and the anticipation of damp earth hung like a curtain in the atmosphere.

My stomach lurched with electricity, not from the storm but from the adventure of it all. The ability to witness firsts with my family, to see things that I saw as a child with the eyes and humility of an adult. I wanted to etch every detail to memory. Thirty-one hours of driving just to get to our first destination and that didn’t include the trip back or the stops we planned to take along the way. My friends thought we were crazy but, in my opinion, the best way to enjoy the mountains… is to get lost in them.

With only a couple hours of sleep in our pocket and first morning light on the horizon, we visited the restrooms and refueled with caffeine. The first fifteen hours of driving had been uneventful but from this moment forward there would be an endless supply of amazement. You can’t (rather you shouldn’t) visit Glacier National Park without stopping by to see things along the way, like the Badlands and Mount Rushmore. There’s even an amazing town from the 1800’s where you can visit the past as beautifully preserved as if it were the present, and you wouldn’t want to miss a little town called Walldrug where you can buy a cup of coffee for a nickel.

My beautiful boy had a history book opened across his lap one day. He was sitting on his bed flipping through the pages when I heard him gasp. His blue eyes wide in wonder as his fingertips graced a picture of some faces that had been carved into stone. His mouth left agape, and his expression full of questions that had me pausing in the threshold to wait for his thoughts to materialize.

“Hey mom? What is this?”

“That would be Mount Rushmore.”

“Is it a real place?”

“It’s very much a real place. In fact, I’ve been there… more than once.”

“YOU’VE BEEN THERE?! CAN I GO TOO?! I want to see it!”

“Not today sweet boy, but I promise that someday, I’ll take you.”

I laughed a little as I walked back to the kitchen. I knew how far away Mount Rushmore was, and I had been making plans with my husband to take Nikolai to see it for a long time. He had been so disappointed that afternoon. You would think the little conversation we had back then would have prepared me for how overwhelmed with emotion he would became when he saw it for himself… but it didn’t. After bounding up the steps towards the mountain cliffs, he threw his arms into the sky and leapt as he whooped for joy.



“LOOK AT IT MOM! It’s so be-woo-di-ful!”

People all around us found his excitement just as intoxicating as my husband and I did. Nikolai’s slight lisp made everything he said that much more enduring. It was demanded of me that I take his picture immediately and explain how and why the president’s faces were carved into stone. I did what was asked of me with gusto. I have a passion for history and lovely places.

Earlier that morning, hours before reaching Rushmore, I could feel my palms turn icy cold with a cool sweat. The sun was skipping off the copper highlights in Nikolai’s hair. He held daddy’s hand tightly as he gazed into the steep canyon of the Badlands. Wind so strong it tugged at the curls in my ponytail and threatened to push me over the embankment.

Every inch my family took towards the edge had Tallulah and I feeling anxious for their safety. She cried out for them, and I was forced to tighten my grip on the black lead that kept her at my side. I’m terrified of heights, and I knew she was picking up on my concern as she had been trained to do. I considered what early Native American’s and settlers must have thought when they saw the Badlands for the first time.

Void of walkways and trails to navigate through it and the extra miles it must have added to their trip in order to go around. Did it feel daunting? An impossible task with the wicked heat of the sun beating on the crown of their heads as blustery hot winds spooked their horses. Did they find a way to work with the land or did they lose loved ones? It was within that moment of staring into the emptiness that I felt myself being restored from my busy life.

I get wrapped up in to-do lists, maintaining my health, and being a partner to my husband as we attempt to make ends meet. I lose my ability to sit quietly, to allow the strong winds of life to soften my rough edges but not to break me. I am horrible at trying to maintain control over events in my life but as I get older, I’m finding a newfound freedom in weathering the storm. In allowing myself to let go of things I cannot control; I have discovered a depth of peace that is unmatched.

We slid back into the car, and I realized that sometimes we all need to slip away in order to see the bigger picture. Two days into a ten-day trip and I was feeling more like myself already. The tension released from my shoulders when I allowed spontaneity to take the lead rather than trying to micromanage our plans. With an audiobook keeping us on our toes, a cup of hot chocolate in my hand, and an empty road kissing day two goodbye… I could hardly wait to see what would come next.

Taken with my cellphone if you can believe that!
My two favorite people in the entire world
Mount Rushmore… look at Nikolai’s face!
Our feet hanging out the trunk at the truck stop
Can you imagine trying to cross this?!
These two sleeping in the back seat
Just us and an empty road at the end of day two.