Approximately 23 witnesses have testified so far against Petersen, 50, charged with premeditated attempted murder of Ronald Fletcher, 51, and Steven Dowdy, 54, in their La Jolla homes on Sept. 18, 2013.
Because the final prosecution witness wasn’t available until March 10, San Diego Superior Court Judge Leo Valentine Jr. allowed defense attorneys to put on several witnesses out of order March 9. The attorneys also plan to call two of Petersen’s doctors who prescribed him medications.
Jeanne Henry, a clinical psychologist in University City, told the six-woman, six-man jury on Monday she met Petersen at a Christmas party in 2012 and said he moved into her home in January of 2013. Petersen was in divorce proceedings at the time.
Henry, who said Petersen is not her patient, said she and Petersen had a close relationship. When asked by defense attorney Jessica McHarrie to describe their current status, Henry answered, “We’re friends.” McHarrie asked Henry if Petersen being “in jail” limited them. Henry said yes.
Henry said the night before the shootings, she and Petersen had dinner in La Jolla with friends and then came home at 10 p.m. She testified Petersen stayed up until 2 a.m. on his computer. Henry testified she woke up at 3:55 a.m. and noticed Petersen and his car was gone.
Bernadette Ziegler said she was Petersen’s ex-girlfriend of seven years before “I left him for someone else” in 1998. Ziegler said Petersen suffered from brain seizures she had witnessed, although she had no medical training to describe them. She said he was never violent.
The jury saw a security camera video March 5 of Petersen allegedly lunging at Fletcher, a La Jolla real estate agent, shortly after he allegedly shot him in the stomach at 6:30 a.m. Petersen allegedly broke inside the Cottontail Lane home through a glass door.
Petersen’s attorney, Marc Carlos, said his client was seen pointing his index finger at Fletcher 48 times and lecturing him. Petersen was seen ranting over Fletcher as three San Diego police officers entered the home and pointed guns at both men.
Police officer Phillip Worthington testified he found a box of bullets in Petersen’s jacket along with a wrench. Worthington said Petersen smelled of alcohol and screamed profanities to them after he was handcuffed.
Fletcher’s two daughters, 11 and 12 years old, were in a locked back bedroom and “were obviously shaken up,” said police detective Meryl Bernstein. One of them called 911 after seeing Petersen break inside.
Bernstein was investigating the 3 a.m. shooting at the La Jolla home of Dowdy, a UCSD medical professor, when she got the call about Fletcher’s shooting. Dowdy, a former neighbor to Petersen who hired him as the CEO of a biotech company, was shot in the torso.
Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund told jurors March 4 that Petersen was “on a murder mission” to kill both men and Dowdy’s wife. Petersen was fired from the biotech company in 2010, and he blamed Fletcher for the 2012 breakup of his marriage and business reversals.
Lisa Dowdy was the first witness, describing the neighboring Petersen's behavior as “increasingly hostile.” She said her husband banned him from their property in 2009.
Steven Dowdy testified he heard a backyard gate open and footsteps approaching outside his bedroom at 3 a.m. He said the glass French doors “exploded” with the first gunshot and was shot in the torso when he stood up. Other bullets hit a dresser and his wife was not injured.
Michael Nielsen, an emergency room physician, testified March 5 that he was driving home from work around 5 a.m. when he saw a shadowy figure on Ravenswood Road in La Jolla on Sept. 18. Nielsen said he noticed the man tried to hide behind a tree, so he made a U-turn and shined his headlights at the tree.
The man came out and pointed a gun at him, Nielsen said, and Nielsen quickly drove away. Nielsen identified Petersen in court as that man. Petersen is charged with exhibiting a weapon in a threatening manner to Nielsen.
Officer Erich Bennett testified Petersen’s blue BMW was found parked on La Jolla Rancho Road, close to where Nielsen said he saw Petersen. A partial box of ammunition was found under a seat.
Carlos told jurors March 4 he did not contest the basic facts of the case and conceded that Petersen shot both men. However, he said a 1987 skydiving accident caused a brain injury to Petersen and that his medications affected his actions.
“The issue is what is his state of mind,” said Carlos.
Carlos said Petersen developed a seizure disorder in his brain and that the effects of the accident plus certain medications affected his thinking.
Petersen has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail on $5 million bail. If he’s convicted, he faces multiple life terms plus 40 years for using firearms in a violent crime.