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Man Ordered to Pay $11 Million to Daughter in Her Mother's Killing

May 15, 1992|JIM HERRON ZAMORA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 23-year-old woman has been awarded $11 million in damages from her father, a Tarzana explosives expert convicted of trying to kill her and of murdering her mother in the staged crash of a bomb-rigged car to collect on a life insurance policy.

Natasha Peernock Sims was awarded the damages April 30 by San Fernando Superior Court Judge Bruce J. Sottile, but her attorney did not make the award public until this week.

The civil suit follows the September conviction of her father, Robert J. Peernock, 54, who was sentenced in October to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Peernock, a former movie studio pyrotechnical engineer, beat to death his estranged wife, Claire, 45, and also bludgeoned Sims in July, 1987, in order to gain control of community property and life insurance benefits worth an estimated $1.5 million, prosecutors said. Police said the two women were beaten and soaked with gasoline and forced to swallow alcohol, then put in a car that was rigged to explode when it was crashed by Peernock into a utility pole in a remote area of Sun Valley.

The car, however, failed to explode and passersby found Sims unconscious.

During the murder trial, a medical examiner testified that Peernock's wife died of head wounds before the crash.

In the same trial, Sims also testified that her father beat, choked, handcuffed and hogtied her and then force-fed her alcohol.

The same jury also convicted Peernock of trying to hire a fellow inmate in the County Jail to kill Sims and her attorney at the time.

Sims' civil suit accused Peernock of mental and physical abuse, including incidents before the murder attempt.

The damages she was awarded include $1 million for the wrongful death of her mother and $10 million for "numerous beatings and abuse" she received, said her attorney, Harry F. Scolinos.

It remained unclear if she would be able to collect any money.

Scolinos suspects that Peernock stashed away an estimated $1 million before the murder. But Peernock has refused to cooperate with his daughter's attempts to obtain the money, Scolinos said.

At the time of the murder, the Peernocks were involved in divorce proceedings. Scolinos said that Peernock had asked his wife to delay finalizing the divorce in order to hide his assets.

"We know that he had a bunch of money stashed away and we're trying to find out where it's hidden," Scolinos said. "We've been told that it's in some Swiss accounts."

"The Swiss government has said they are willing to cooperate with us. The trouble is that we don't know if we can find it," he said.

The attorney would not reveal any information on Sims.

The woman is living in hiding, Scolinos said, because she fears her father has hired a contract killer who may still be looking for her.

"She's probably going to be hiding out for the rest of her life," Scolinos said. "But someday, we hope, she'll be able to live a normal life where she doesn't have to look over her shoulder."

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