LANCASTER — A 38-year-old postal worker pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he killed his wife, a Neighborhood Watch activist whose death he initially blamed on an intruder who was angry about her crime-fighting work.
After a brief arraignment, Antelope Municipal Court Judge Ian R. Grant ordered that Jeffrey D. Peitz of Palmdale continue to be held without bail. Grant scheduled the next court hearing in the case Aug. 30.
Peitz, dressed in yellow county jail clothes, said little more than "Yes, your honor," during the hearing. His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Felicia Grant, declined to comment on the case.
Meanwhile, sheriff's investigators continued to compile evidence Tuesday to support their belief that Peitz--and not a home intruder upset about the family's crime-fighting work--shot Teri Lynn Peitz, 37, to death Aug. 12.
"We didn't buy into the Neighborhood Watch thing," said Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. John A. Portillo.
He said sheriff's investigators were looking into reports that Jeffrey Peitz was romantically involved with a co-worker and was anxious to collect insurance money stemming from his wife's death.
Although Peitz told investigators and reporters that he had a happy marriage, "there is evidence that there was substantial discord in that house," the prosecutor said.
In addition, Portillo said, crime lab technicians were running tests on a homemade silencer recovered from the family's home to determine whether it had been used in the slaying. The silencer, made from a tennis ball slit open on one side, was designed to be placed over the barrel of a rifle to muffle the sound, the prosecutor said.
He added that it has two holes on the other side that may have been caused by gunshots.
Portillo said gun residue tests conducted on Jeffrey Peitz's hands came back negative, but said the tests are not effective if a suspect washes his hands after a shooting or wears gloves.
The prosecutor also said several discrepancies have surfaced in Peitz's initial account of the shooting.
Peitz told deputies that he was upstairs folding clothes, and that his wife had just tuned in the "Cops" show on television downstairs when he heard popping sounds. He said he went downstairs and saw a man running out the screen door.
He gave deputies the man's name, saying he, his wife and other Neighborhood Watch members had confronted the man for being an illegal squatter in a local house. But investigators said the man named by Peitz produced proof that he had flown to Michigan before the shooting occurred.
Peitz said the shooting happened just after "Cops" began at 9 p.m., but 911 records show that he did not call for help until 9:34 p.m., Portillo said. That would have given him about half an hour to remove evidence from the crime scene, the prosecutor said.
According to court records, Peitz denied to deputies that he was having an extramarital affair.
In an interview last week with a reporter, he also dismissed the insurance money as a motive, pointing out that many couples have such policies. "It would have been smarter if she had killed me," Peitz quipped. "I have better insurance."
Times staff writer Sam Enriquez contributed to this story.