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.