SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Former highway patrolman Craig Peyer's penchant for long talks with young women drivers ended in murder on the night he met Cara Knott, a prosecutor said in final arguments Tuesday.

Deputy District Attorney Joe Van Orshoven told a jury that Peyer's practice of pulling women over on the Mercy Road exit of Interstate 15, then talking to them for an hour or more, led to the woman's death.

Knott was strangled with a rope, the prosecution contended.

''We know that Craig Allen Peyer had a custom, a habit, a practice,'' Van Orshoven said of the traffic stops.

On Dec. 27, 1986, when Knott died, ''something went wrong. She wasn't like these other youngsters,'' Orshoven said.

She became anxious and scratched her assailant's face, Orshoven said.

The prosecutor showed the jury a family photo of the vivacious Knott, and then three coroner's photos of the dead woman, with strangulation marks on her neck and bruises on her face.

The prosecution's witnesses included 22 women who said they had been pulled over by Peyer at the Mercy Road exit, and that he had kept them talking for an hour or more about highway safety and other innocuous topics. None claimed that Peyer made advances or attempted to harm her.

In his final arguments, defense attorney Robert Grimes contended that some of those witnesses had lied.

Peyer, 37, has already been fired by the California Highway Patrol, which concluded that he killed Knott without justification. He is appealing his dismissal.

Knott's body was found the day after her murder below a bridge on a frontage road on Interstate 15, the highway Peyer was assigned to patrol the night of the killing. Peyer, a 13-year CHP veteran, was arrested 18 days later.

Testimony in the trial ended Feb. 9, but closing arguments were postponed last week after a prosecutor broke a tooth at breakfast and was unable to deliver his summation.

The prosecution's case rest largely rests on blood samples, microscopic fibers and testimony of witnesses about Peyer's behavior during prior traffic stops and his comments to colleagues.

Fiber experts testified that microscopic fibers found on Peyer and Knott matched threads found in each other's clothing. A rope found in Peyer's patrol car also was said to match marks on the victim's neck.

There was testimony that blood found on the victim matched Peyer's type, but the jury was instructed to disregard that.

Witnesses testified that Peyer had three scratches on his face the night of the murder. He told other officers he fell while pumping gas and hurt himself on a chain-link fence.

A CHP officer testified that Peyer once pointed out the Mercy Road offramp and noted that it would be a good place to dump a body.

Peyer did not take the stand, but defense witnesses have attacked the credibility of prosecution witnesses and praised the veteran officer's professional performance.