Note: After writing and sending this letter at the request of the Knott family, but before hitting publish on my blog, I read that the San Diego District Attorney had confirmed that Craig Peyer is not on the list of those eligible for early release from prison due to COVID-19. Huge sigh of relief! I’m choosing to publish this letter here because Cara’s murder was one of the most significant events of my life, and to this day influences my suspicion of those in positions of power too easily abused. It has shaped my belief that leadership in any position is more important than power, and that the best leaders recognize their responsibility to serve their followers. I’m certain that, if she could, Cara would continually urge us toward kindness—her own kindness was one of her most lovable traits—and she would also remind us to seek justice on behalf of those who cannot seek it for themselves.
31 August 2020
Dear Governor Newsom,
I’m writing to urge you to keep Craig Allen Peyer, Inmate CDCR Number D93018, behind bars where he belongs for the rest of his life. On December 27, 1986, Peyer brutally murdered my neighbor and friend, Cara Evelyn Knott, while on duty and in uniform as a California Highway Patrolman.
I am dismayed to hear that Peyer is even being considered as a candidate for early release due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At his last parole hearing in 2012, the Parole Board gave him the maximum fifteen years until the next hearing because of his threat to public safety; his next parole readiness hearing is scheduled for January 2027. He has never admitted his guilt nor has he expressed any remorse for Cara’s untimely death. Peyer is a violent criminal who should never again walk free.
Cara was 20 years old and a student at San Diego State University on the night she died, just two days after Christmas. Before leaving her boyfriend’s home that evening, Cara called her parents so they would know when to expect her; obviously she never arrived. Officer Peyer pulled Cara over and directed her to drive down the isolated Mercy Road dead-end off-ramp. The facts of the case show that he struck her with his police issue flashlight, breaking her eye orbit. He then strangled her with a rope from his car, put her body on the grate on the front of his police car, and drove to the old Mercy Road bridge where he dumped her broken body. Officer Peyer showed Cara no mercy.
When Cara died, I was a seventeen-year-old high school senior. Cara and I grew up across the street from each other in El Cajon, California, in San Diego County. As young girls we made daisy chains and necklaces from the wrappers of Juicy Fruit bubble gum. When she got her driver’s license, she carpooled us to school. Cara was a role model: a good student, artistic, athletic, and a kind and well-respected human being. When we shared the dance floor at her sister’s wedding, she confided that she hoped her boyfriend might propose sometime soon.
Needless to say, I was devastated—my whole family, our whole community, was devastated—to learn that Cara had suffered such a violent death. The devastation deepened when we discovered that her murderer had been an on-duty CHP officer. A reporter interviewed my then-twelve-year-old sister as we crossed the street to share time and support with Cara’s family; as tears streaked her face, my sister cried into the camera, “Who can we trust if we can’t trust the police?”
Obviously that question reverberates with new and different nuances today. Who can we trust…? Calls for police and judicial reform must be heeded. Understandably during a pandemic, non-violent offenders might be considered for early release. However, Peyer committed an atrocious crime taking the life of an innocent and beautiful young woman who had so much to offer. I would like to believe that we can trust you, Governor Newsom, along with the state of California to uphold the will of the people and hold Peyer accountable, in prison for life.
You can read the Wikipedia entry about Cara’s murder here.