Craig Peyer Sentence: 25 to life

On December 27, 1986, 20-year-old Cara Knott was driving home from her boyfriend’s house in Escondido to her parent’s home in El Cajon. She never made it.  Her body was found the next morning in some brush.  She had been strangled and dumped off an isolated bridge near Rancho Peñasquitos.  Tire tracks from a law enforcement vehicle, citizen’s reports of a patrol car at the scene and female motorists’ complaints of bizarre encounters with a uniformed officer were among the clues that led to the arrest of California Highway patrol Officer Craig Peyer just 19 days later.

Other incriminating evidence included videotape of Peyer talking to a television reporter about personal safety for women just two days after the murder.  Peyer’s face had scratch marks on it.  The case sparked a wave of fear among women in the region who were now anxious about how to handle a routine traffic stop.  Police were likewise concerned about motorists who might now be carrying firearms in a perceived attempt to protect themselves.

Peyer’s first trial ended with the jury deadlocked seven to five for conviction.  District Attorney Paul Pfingst, who was a Deputy D.A. at the time prosecuted during the second trial.  Peyer was found guilty of first-degree murder.

Peyer is the first CHP officer ever convicted of committing a murder while on duty.  Peyer is serving his time in a medium security prison in Central California and will be eligible for parole on January 2, 2005.