Man accused of traffic murder denies watching DVD

Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) The 28-year-old Kenai man charged with murder in the vehicular deaths of a husband and wife on the Seward Highway last fall said Wednesday that he was not watching a movie on a DVD player in his pickup when the accident occurred.

That was the only detail about the fiery wreck that Erwin ''Jamie'' Petterson Jr. would reveal in a brief telephone interview with the Anchorage Daily News. He referred all other questions to his lawyer.

''There's a million things I'd like to say that I can't,'' Petterson said. ''All I know is, the truth will come out.''

Petterson's trial on second-degree murder charges is scheduled for August.

Troopers say that on the afternoon of Oct. 12, Petterson was watching ''Road Trip'' on a DVD player in his Ford F-150 and speeding when he crossed the double yellow line near Mile 65.5 Seward Highway and smashed into a Jeep Grand Cherokee occupied by Robert and Donna Weiser, ages 60 and 56. Both vehicles took evasive action but smashed head on, troopers said.

Initial trooper reports said Petterson took his eyes off the road to grab a soda. Troopers later said their investigation revealed he was watching a DVD movie.

Petterson broke his back and nose in the wreck and his foot and shoulder were fractured, he said. He spent about a week in the hospital and then weeks in a back brace at home, he said.

Petterson's passenger, Jon Douglas, also of Kenai, was treated for minor injuries, troopers said.

Petterson said his lawyer discussed the possibility of murder charges.

''He didn't believe they were warranted and I don't either,'' he said. ''It was an accident. I get to live with this for the rest of my life, regardless of what happens. It haunts me.''

The Weisers' two grown sons have said they are satisfied with the charges.

Many residents in Kenai, where Petterson grew up, have rallied around him since his indictment, said Petterson's close friend Mike Silba.

''He's a man of high morals and good standing in the community,'' he said. ''We just can't sit by and act like this was an intentional thing, because it wasn't.''

A committee has organized events such as yard sales and a teen dance to raise money for Petterson's defense, Silba said. They've even launched a Web site.

So far, the group has raised about $15,000, Silba said.

''We support Jamie and our individual rights,'' Silba said. ''Four counts of murder for an accident is just way too severe.''

Petterson's case has gained national attention. Josh Paris, an associate producer in the West Coast bureau of ''Inside Edition,'' said his agency is sending a crew to Alaska next week to work on the story.

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