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Evidence Mounts Against Highway Patrol Officer In Slaying

May 3, 1987

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ A California Highway Patrol officer accused of strangling a college student on a deserted highway off-ramp often ordered other young women motorists to take the same isolated exit, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing.

Officer Craig Peyer would submit the young women to lengthy personal inquiries, the witnesses testified in a hearing that began last week.

″I rolled the window down just a couple of inches because I felt a little leery,″ 26-year-old Dana Breslow testified.

″He kept asking me questions. I wanted to leave, but felt I should talk to him because he seemed lonely,″ she said. ″I was anxious because I thought the things he was asking weren’t any of his business.″

Eighteen women testified at the hearing to determine if the 37-year-old father of three will stand trial in the slaying of 20-year-old Cara Evelyn Knott.

Prosecutors allege Peyer, on patrol in uniform and in his patrol car, strangled the San Diego State University student with a nylon rope and threw her body from a 65-foot-high bridge into a creek bed on Dec. 27.

Knott’s family searched for her through the night when she did not return home as expected, and her sister and brother-in-law discovered her car near the exit to an unfinished dead-end street. Police found her body the next day.

Peyer, who had a spotless service record, appeared on local television news the next day to give safety tips to women traveling alone at night.

Scratches seen on his face during the telecast, combined with evidence on the body and at the scene and numerous reports of unusual behavior by Peyer at the exit ramp, led investigators to arrest their fellow officer Jan. 15.

CHP officer Linda Alley testified that Peyer once took her to the exit to familiarize her with her new beat and, in what she took as a joke, told her: ″If you ever wanted to dump a body, this would be the place to do it.″

Several witnesses, including some fellow CHP officers, said they saw bloody scratches on Peyer’s face the night Miss Knott was killed. Knott’s relatives testified she had taken a self-defense course that taught eye-gouging.

In addition, blood on one of Miss Knott’s boots matched Peyer’s blood type, and a gold thread on her clothing matched threads taken from the shoulder patch on Peyer’s patrol jacket, experts testified.

Scrapings from the underside of Miss Knott’s fingernails revealed traces of skin and blood, but in amounts too scant to test, investigators said.

Other evidence included a traffic citation Peyer wrote about 10:20 p.m. Dec. 27. According to testimony, Peyer changed the time to 9:20 p.m., providing himself an alibi for the time when prosecutors believe Miss Knott was killed.

Another witness who claimed to have been stranded in a disabled limousine part of the way down the off-ramp reported seeing a police car speed from the area at about the time Miss Knott is believed to have been killed.

Peyer is the second highway patrol officer to be charged with committing murder while on duty. George Gwaltney was convicted of raping and shooting a woman pulled over in a traffic stop in 1982.

After Peyer was charged, his family, friends and neighbors rallied around him, pledging cash and property to raise his $1 million bond.

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