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No Clemency for Peyer

Craig Peyer will be in jail for at least another four years


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On January 31, killer cop Craig Peyer admitted guilt for the first time, while trying to convince a California parole board to free him from his 25-to-life prison term, for murdering golden-haired SDSU student Cara Knott.

But the one-time model California Highway Patrolman was only guilty, he told the board, of being so deeply concerned about his duty protecting the motoring public that he neglected his three ex-wives and children.

Of the shocking headline-making murder of 20-year-old Cara, two days after Christmas, 1986, he said, “I have no idea how it happened.” The board didn't buy it, and gave him another four years behind razor-wire and electric fences at California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo. As Cara’s family glared on, with an occasional tear escaping their united front against him, Peyer refused to express any remorse or guilt about his crimes. Or about the dirty power games he used, pulling over vulnerable young women drivers – especially long-haired blondes like Cara – and forcing them into dark stretches of highway, for hours at a time.

While the crime is more than two decades old, its impact remains strong.  As the family noted, it still undermines the public trust in law enforcement.  It’s also fomented a sense of fear in women motorists. Peyer remains the first (and only) CHP officer ever convicted of murder while on duty. At his four-hour parole hearing, he admitted he has done little psychological rehabilitation, beyond reading the self-help book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Twice.

His only remorse came when he choked up about not being able to be freed to go back to work. He’s become an electrician behind bars, a model worker, his lawyer noted. “The only time he felt remorse was for himself,” said John Knott, the youngest of the four Knott children. Sister Cheryl Knott, a professor at Harvard University, read an essay Cara wrote while only 17 about her soaring ambitions to change the world. Cynthia Knott said, "I am the voice of my father, Sam Knott, who fought valiantly to change the system but …died of a broken heart."

Sam Knott died in the remote creek bed where Cara’s body had been left nearly two decades before. His wife, Joyce Knott, suffered heart problems before the hearing and was unable to attend. But San Diego County district attorney Bonnie Dumanis attended “to show support for the family and to send a message to the board of the importance of this case to San Diego County.”

With his second bid for parole denied, Peyer will be eligible for parole again in 2012.

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