Jury selection starts Monday for Petterson

Posted: Friday, July 16, 2004

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in Kenai Superior Court in the case of a 29-year-old Kenai man charged with four counts of second-degree murder in the 2002 head-on collision that left an Anchorage couple dead.

Erwin J. "Jamie" Petterson Jr. stands charged with causing the deaths of Robert Weiser, 60, and Donna Weiser, 56, in a fiery crash near Mile 65.5 of the Seward Highway on Oct. 12, 2002.

Petterson is charged with four counts of second-degree murder, because the law allows for two separate charges for each victim.

Petterson pleaded not guilty to the charges on May 13, 2003, and has been free on bail since shortly after entering the plea.

According to an Alaska State Trooper report, the collision occurred when Petterson was traveling north on the highway in a 2002 Ford F150 pickup and his vehicle crossed double yellow lines into oncoming traffic.

The pickup struck the Weisers' 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was traveling south on the highway.

The Jeep caught fire and witnesses were able to pull Donna Weiser's body out, but were unable to recover Robert Weiser's body before the vehicle became engulfed in flames.

The trooper report said Petterson and a passenger were watching a digital videodisc movie at the time of the crash.

Petterson and his passenger were taken to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. Petterson had a broken ankle and broken ribs and the passenger was treated for minor injuries and released.

In the initial trooper report, Petterson reportedly told investigators he "took his eyes off the road to grab a soda" when the accident occurred.

One set of charges against Petterson alleges that he knew his "conduct was substantially certain to cause the death" of the couple and did cause their deaths; essentially, that he knew his actions would cause the victims to die and did. The other charges claim Petterson "knowingly engaged in conduct that resulted in the deaths under circumstances manifesting ex-treme indifference to the value of human life," or that his actions displayed an indifference to the value of the couple's lives and resulted in their deaths.

Occupants of both vehicles were wearing seat belts and no alcohol was involved, the report said.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in Judge Charles K. Cranston's courtroom.

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