Craig Peyer, the California Highway Patrol officer accused in the slaying of a young woman near a deserted stretch of San Diego highway, apparently changed the time on a ticket he issued later the same night to show it had been written about the time of the killing.
Jean-Pierre Gulli, a 17-year-old San Diego high school student, said Saturday that Peyer pulled him over and gave him the ticket about 10 p.m. Dec. 27. He said the officer originally wrote 10:30 p.m. on the ticket then changed it to 9:20 p.m.
"I thought maybe he just had made a mistake," Gulli said, recalling how he noticed the alteration while examining the ticket the next morning. "But now I don't know. He could have been just changing the time to cover up."
That possibility occurred to Gulli three days after the incident when a San Diego Police Department homicide detective arrived at his home and asked him about the ticket. Other detectives have questioned him twice since, always dwelling on the ticket, Gulli said.
Neither police investigators nor senior CHP officers could be reached Saturday to comment on the significance of the changes made in the citation. However, Deputy Dist. Atty. Joseph Van Orshoven, the prosecutor on the case, reportedly said Friday that the ticket would be a key piece of evidence.
Peyer, 36, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of murder in the slaying of Cara Evelyn Knott, 20, during a traffic stop along Interstate 15. Investigators have said the young woman was strangled and her body dumped from an old bridge next to the highway.
Knott had called her parents shortly before 9 p.m. to say she was leaving her boyfriend's house in Escondido and heading home to El Cajon. The last time she was seen alive was at 9 p.m. at a Chevron gas station just east of Interstate 15 on Via Rancho Parkway
The most direct route home would have taken her south on Interstate 15.
Gulli said in an interview Saturday that he and his twin brother had left their sister's house in Mira Mesa about 9:30 the same night. Shortly after, on California 163 in San Diego, Peyer pulled Gulli over and issued him a citation for a non-functioning taillight.
"He was kind of in a hurry," said Gulli, recalling the time of the encounter to have been about 10 p.m. "He did my ticket really quick and went back to his car pretty quick and tried to get going."
Gulli said Peyer sped ahead of him.
California 163 intersects Interstate 15 just north of the Kearny Villa Road on-ramp, where Gulli said he was stopped in the southbound lanes. Knott's 1968 Volkswagen and her body were found near Mercy Road, about 10 miles north of where Gulli was stopped.
Gulli said Peyer "was very nice and polite" and "told me the date I had to get the taillights fixed." Only the next morning, re-checking the date on the ticket, did Gulli notice that the time of issuance had been changed.
"The next morning, I just saw it was scratched out, and he had another time put on there," Gulli said. "I just wanted to see the date again to make sure. I didn't really think anything of it."
About three days later, a detective arrived at Gulli's Clairemont home and said he was "doing a check on all of the vehicles that were stopped on the road that night," Gulli said, adding that the detective asked about the time of the incident and whether Gulli had noticed any scratches on Peyer's face.
(Among the evidence reportedly leading to Peyer's arrest were scratches that investigators noticed on Peyer's face in videotape of a ride-along with a television reporter Dec. 28. On the videotape, Peyer offered advice on how women could protect themselves on the road.)
Several days later, two other detectives arrived at Clairemont High School, where Gulli is a student, and again questioned him about the ticket. Several days later, one of them returned to the school and asked Gulli to select the officer from a photo lineup, Gulli said.
"It's weird because I might have been the first person (Peyer encountered) right after" Knott was slain, Gulli said Saturday. "That kind of freaked me out."