CHP Officer Craig Peyer was ordered to stand trial Monday for murder in the strangulation of San Diego State University student Cara Knott, whose body was thrown off a bridge.
In binding Peyer over for trial, Municipal Court Judge Frederic L. Link said: "The court finds a strong suspicion that (Peyer) committed the crime."
Peyer, 37, and a 13-year California Highway Patrol veteran, showed no emotion. He is on paid administrative leave and is free on $1 million bail.
CHP Has No Comment
CHP spokeswoman Susan Cowan-Scott said CHP officials have no comment on Link's ruling. She said Peyer will continue to draw his $33,000-a-year salary until he is served with the findings of an internal investigation and has a chance to respond.
Peyer is expected to be served "within a matter of days," Cowan-Scott said, and will have five days to contest the department's findings. She would not say what the department had concluded.
Knott, 20, was strangled on the old U.S. 395 bridge on the night of Dec. 27 in an isolated area near Interstate 15 and the Mercy Road off-ramp. Police said she was killed between 9 and 10 p.m. and her body thrown 65 feet into a dry creek bed, where it was discovered the next morning.
An autopsy report said Knott was killed before she was thrown from the bridge and had not been sexually assaulted. However, she suffered massive internal injuries as a result of the long fall.
Monday's hearing featured a final witness for the prosecution and four witnesses for the defense. Deputy Dist. Atty. Joseph van Orshoven called 57 witnesses during the five-day preliminary hearing, including a blood-typing expert who said Monday that Peyer's blood type matches a small blood spot found on Knott's blood-soaked sweat shirt.
Gary Harmor, a serologist with the Serological Research Institute in the San Francisco Bay Area, said he found the blood at the top of the left sleeve of Knott's sweat shirt.
"It was on the surface of the sweat shirt . . . fairly diffused, spotty," Harmor said. "The stain was approximately 1 inches by three-quarter inches."
Harmor said that he used a complex and sophisticated scientific test called "absorption inhibition" to match the so-called genetic markers derived from the blood spot on the sweat shirt to genetic qualities found in a sample of Peyer's blood. The process uses commercially produced antibodies and matches them to specific antigens (enzymes) found in red blood cells.
The absorption inhibition process is so high-tech that only five laboratories in the United States, including the SRI lab in the Bay Area and another in Los Angeles County, are capable of conducting this type of test, Harmor said. The test uses designates for serum protein called KM and GM markers to match blood samples.
Unique Blood Markers
KM and GM markers have unique genetic identifying characteristics. The more KM and GM markers that can be tested, the greater the probability of identifying the source of a blood sample, said Harmor. In matching the single blood stain on Knott's sweat shirt to Peyer's blood type, Harmor said that he tested two KM and six GM factors found in the spot.
Though Harmor did not say that the blood spot on the sweat shirt definitely came from Peyer, he said that only 1.33% of the world's population has similar genetic markers in their blood. This percentage amounts to one in every 75 Caucasians and not at all in non-Caucasians, Harmor said.
The blood stain on the sweat shirt could not have come from Knott, Harmor said, adding that the tests concluded that the donor of the stain has blood Type A. Knott was Type O. Harmor and San Diego police serologist Walter K.W. Fung testified that Peyer has Type A.
Harmor said that he received Knott's sweat shirt and three other articles of clothing from San Diego police on Jan. 22, a week after Peyer's arrest. Testing on the clothing continued until the first week in March, he said.
Diane Campbell, a defense attorney for Peyer, argued unsuccessfully against allowing Harmor to testify. Campbell objected to Harmor's testimony on grounds that the testing method he used is "novel and new," but Link turned down her argument.
Serologists have matched Peyer's blood type to two articles of clothing worn by Knott on the night she died. Fung testified last week that he found a "crusty" blood spot in a crease of Knott's left boot that matched Peyer's Type-A blood.
Scratches Become Issue
On Monday, the controversy over scratches that some witnesses saw on Peyer's face the night of the killing was raised anew. Several witnesses, including some CHP officers, testified that they noticed scratches and blood on Peyer's face after the time that Knott was strangled.