'Not my mind,' Petersen testifies in dual shooting trial
Published - 03/12/15 - 08:45 AM | 3715 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“I’m sure it was my body but not my mind… This body did this. This mind never could.”

That’s what Hans Petersen told a jury March 11 as he tried to explain what happened when he allegedly shot a former neighbor and his former brother-in-law in separate incidents in La Jolla in 2013.

Petersen, 50, of University City, insisted that he blacked out during both shootings and does not recall anything until being struck in the head with his own gun by Ronald Fletcher around 6:45 a.m. on Sept. 18, 2013.

The former CEO of several biotech companies was asked if he recalled any details from the 3 a.m. shooting of Steven Dowdy or of wounding Fletcher in the stomach, but Petersen said he didn’t remember anything.

The only clear memory he has, he testified, is waking up on the carpeted floor of Fletcher’s home on Cottontail Lane under arrest and with his head bleeding. Before that, Petersen said he only remembered going to bed that night and taking prescription medication.

Petersen is charged with three counts of premeditated attempted murder of Steven and Lisa Dowdy and Fletcher and firing into an occupied dwelling. He is also accused of displaying a firearm in a threatening manner to Michael Nielsen, an emergency room physician, on his way home at 5 a.m. on Ravenswood Road in La Jolla.

Petersen was to conclude his testimony March 12 before the six-man, six-woman jury and San Diego Superior Court Judge Leo Valentine Jr.

Steven Dowdy, a UCSD professor, hired Petersen to be CEO of a biotech company he founded in 2006, but Petersen was fired in 2010. Fletcher’s sister was Petersen’s wife for many years, but they divorced in 2012. Fletcher, 51, is a real estate agent in La Jolla.

Petersen testified in detail about his history of seizures and medications taken to lessen them. He also said he took tranquilizers, anti-depressants, alcohol and other prescription drugs. He told the jury several times one anti-seizure medication was “a horrible drug.”

Fletcher’s surveillance video camera captured a struggle between the two men in a family room after Fletcher was wounded. He was asked if he remembered the fight, the attempt to destroy Fletcher’s phone and his repeated lecturing him. Petersen said he only recalled being hit in the head by Fletcher with his gun.

Under cross-examination by Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund, Petersen said, “I’m saying I have no memory until I’m in Ron Fletcher’s home.”

Maund cited details, such as Steven Dowdy recalling that he heard the back gate open, and that after several shots were fired Dowdy saw a person wearing a hoodie and with a gun. Petersen said he had “no memory of that entire event.”

“I don’t know how I managed to get there. Whatever they say I did, it must be true,” said Petersen. “I don’t know what I was doing with the hoodie on.”

“You shot into the Dowdy home, didn’t you?” asked Maund.

“Apparently, yes,” replied Petersen, adding that he had no intent to kill.

“This mind was not there at this crime scene. I wasn’t there. This mind wasn’t there,” said Petersen. “I hate that person in the (Fletcher) video,” he added, referring to himself.

Maund held up the large rock used to break into Fletcher’s home and asked him where he got it. “I’ve never held that rock; at least my mind hasn’t. The evidence shows I did, but I have no recollection of what I did,” said Petersen.

“You wanted Ron Fletcher to die, didn’t you?” asked Maund.

“I don’t want Ron Fletcher to die,” replied Petersen.

Maund asked Petersen if he recalled telling the intake nurse in jail that he had not suffered any seizures in years, but Petersen said he doesn’t remember saying that. He told jurors that the medications he had taken had “ruined my life.”

Petersen's attorney, Marc Carlos, told jurors in his opening statement that they must determine what Petersen’s state of mind was during the shootings. Carlos said the medications affected his conduct and that a brain injury in 1987 started with him suffering seizures.

Petersen said he purchased the .45 semi-automatic pistol in April of 2013, when he was temporarily living in Washington. He said he never fired it before. Maund showed him his receipt, which said it was purchased for $949. He remembered buying the gun, noting there was a waiting period in Washington.

Watching the trial over two days were students from Torrey Pines High School.

Petersen has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces three life terms plus 25 years on each gun allegation. He remains in jail on $5 million bail.

-- Neal Putnam
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