Letter to the Parole Board: Keep the Monster Behind Bars

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.

Respectfully,

Siv Ricketts
Moraga, California

You can read the Wikipedia entry about Cara’s murder here.

Cover image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Garage

“Mom, I’m okay, I wasn’t involved, but the police want you to come pick me up.”

My heart races at this rush of words through the telephone.

Teen and two other boys had permission to spend a summer night at another friend’s house. He has a game room and they wanted to play late into the night.

Teen neglected to tell us parents would not be home; we goofed and didn’t check.

Someone invited someone who invited someone else who did something stupid to attract police attention before arriving at the now-party. Police ran a license plate, called parents, and eventually discovered unsupervised minors, some of whom were still obliviously playing games.

Guy went to get him while I stayed home and prayed. Obviously the car ride home involved a conversation about trust and a now-depleted, in fact negatively balanced, Trust Account.

Teen has never been a big gamer. He is a health-conscious athlete and mostly a likable, good kid. He gets in trouble because he acts impulsively, the tell-tale symptom of his ADHD which inclines him to risk-taking. Honest to God, I’m grateful his risk in this situation was relatively low.

Teen barely knew the kid for whom the cops arrived and he easily recognized the stupidity of the kid’s actions. He never argued about being grounded. He understood that the situation could quickly have become So Much Worse. He learned something.

A summer week without friends might be a rough kid-consequence, but his parents enjoyed hanging out with our Teen. He won’t say it, but he might have had some fun with his family, too.

This is the reason we spent our not-truly-a-staycation cleaning out and reorganizing our garage (aka storage-unit) into a hang-out space. Not in response, as we’d already begun the process before the incident, but because we want our house to be a place Teen wants to bring friends.

Teen’s tendency has been to go out rather than invite friends in. Understandably, as our smallish house lacked a space with sufficient separation from Family Life. Almost simultaneously, Teen bought a PS3 + games from a friend who had moved on to a newer system, and friends offered us their sectional couch and rug. We saw an opportunity.

garage

Purging in process

garage 2

Prepping for sanding/painting

Parents did most of the purging; Teen put on his work clothes to move furniture, to sand and paint. He offered input on where things should go (he pushed us to purge even more) and what else might be needed (mini fridge, space warmer for cold nights). He even reorganized games into attractive storage boxes.

It’s still a garage – bikes and sports equipment, tools and laundry, no cars (we live in California) – but thankfully, the renovation worked. Over the last three months, Teen has stayed home more than he might have AND he has invited friends in. Goal! It has also given Guy a new opportunity to bond and play with his boys and provided another comfortable hang out space.

Our garage-pantry makes for easy snack access; cat = happy, too!

Our garage-pantry makes for easy snack access; cat = happy, too!

No perfect solution, the Man Cave has also created new problems. Teen hears the siren call of video games so much louder than our reminders to get homework done first. It has become a too-frequent escape when he’d prefer not to engage with family. And the three guys enjoying the space so much sometimes leaves Mama out. As families do, we negotiate as we go.

We listened with ears, eyes, heart, and our love for Teen led us to a Labor of Love: a garage hang-out space. He receives love best through Time and Gifts, and I’ve seen it in his eyes – he understands that we spent significant Time to create a Gift of space for him.

I asked him again today: “Are you grateful we worked so hard to create this space for you?”

He responded, “No, Mom. Seriously, are you really asking me that? Yes, I’m grateful.”

Sarcasm aside, he is grateful. He received the love. I’ll take it.