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Man Is Arrested in Syringe Attacks

Assaults: University student is held after three women report being injected with a tranquilizing drug.

April 10, 2002|JOHN JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA BARBARA — Authorities have arrested a 21-year-old UC San Diego psychology student after a bizarre series of attacks on women that involved injecting them with a tranquilizing drug.

Peter Butcher was arrested over the weekend, said Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Lt. Bill Byrne. Butcher's father, Southern California businessman Andrew Butcher, posted $250,000 bail.

Three women, two in Santa Barbara and one on the ski slopes at Mammoth Lakes, reported being attacked by a man with a syringe between Jan. 11 and Friday, Byrne said.

The women said they resisted but were unable to prevent their attacker from injecting them with a drug that caused dizziness and disorientation. One woman passed out and nearly died, the lieutenant said.

None of the women was sexually assaulted. "This is baffling," Byrne said. "This guy obviously gets feelings of power and control out of this."

Vicki Podberesky, a Santa Monica attorney representing Butcher, said her client had nothing to do with the assaults. "He vehemently denies all the allegations," she said.

Butcher was nowhere near Santa Barbara, where he grew up, at the time of those assaults, said Podberesky. He was at Mammoth when that attack occurred, but was not involved, she said.

The first attack took place at East Beach in Santa Barbara, when a woman was stabbed in the buttocks as she bent over to pick up her watch.

Nine days later, on Jan. 20, a 20-year-old woman skiing at Mammoth was reportedly tackled by a snowboarder, who held her down and injected her. By the time paramedics arrived, she had stopped breathing. She has since recovered.

The last attack occurred Friday morning, when a jogger near the Sandpiper golf course in Goleta was tackled and injected.

Byrne said words were exchanged in the assaults but declined to say what they were. He said all the women fought but quickly became disoriented. Byrne declined to specify what drug was used, beyond saying it had a tranquilizing effect.

"I've been in law enforcement a long time and seen a lot of bizarre behavior," he said. "Can you imagine how frightening this would be? These women had no idea what he was injecting."

Byrne said there was no indication the attacker was intending to render the victims helpless so he could kidnap them. He said the attacker, or attackers, stayed around afterward long enough to see the effect the drugs had on the women.

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