SAN DIEGO — Bail was doubled to $1 million Tuesday for Craig Peyer after a judge heard new evidence against the California Highway Patrol officer who is accused of murdering a San Diego State University student last month while he was on duty.
Peyer, a 13-year CHP veteran, is charged with strangling 20-year-old Cara Evelyn Knott after pulling her over near an isolated Interstate 15 off-ramp. He was arrested on Jan. 15 and was being held on $500,000 bail until it was doubled by Municipal Judge Herbert J. Exarhos at the request of Deputy Dist. Atty. Joseph Van Orshoven. Defense attorney Robert Grimes had asked Exarhos to reduce the bail to $300,000.
Van Orshoven, Exarhos and Grimes met in chambers before the hearing to discuss new evidence believed to have been uncovered last week by district attorney's investigators. Van Orshoven cited the new information and prosecution witnesses' expressions of concern about Peyer's release to argue for a bail increase. He declined to elaborate on the new evidence.
"This information was not in our possession when the defendant was last in court," Van Orshoven said. "But it represents certain factual information that persuaded the judge to double the bail. There has also been anxiety expressed by witnesses having to do with the release of Mr. Peyer into the community."
Grimes, who also declined to discuss the evidence presented in chambers, argued that it was insignificant and not enough to warrant an increase in bail.
"The district attorney argued that there was new evidence. However, I don't think it was anything significant. . . . It was nothing dramatic enough to justify an increase in bail."
Grimes said that Peyer's wife, Karen, is "very unhappy" about the bail increase. Peyer's friends and neighbors are unable to post enough in securities to obtain Peyer's release on bail, Grimes said.
"One million dollars is too high. A lot of people have put up the equity on their properties. We have about $600,000 in equity that we can pledge but, of course, that is not nearly enough," said Grimes.
According to state law, Peyer's friends would have to post $2 million in property in order to to meet the $1-million bail.
"The bail is excessive, and we don't feel that it's warranted," said Peyer's father, Harold. "Craig is not a threat to flee or a threat to the community. I can tell you this based on his exemplary record as a youth and during his 13-year career with the CHP."
Cara Knott's parents, Samuel and Joyce Knott, attended the hearing and issued a brief written statement after the hearing but declined to answer reporters' questions.
" . . . We believe in justice and fairness, and we believe in the legal system. We urge you not to ask us to speculate on this case, for we want justice to be done," the statement says.