Witness Says He Saw CHP Car Near Site of Murder

Times Staff Writer

A surprise prosecution witness in the trial of a veteran California Highway Patrol officer charged with killing a San Diego college student testified Friday that he saw a CHP cruiser stop a light-colored Volkswagen Beetle on the Mercy Road off-ramp on the night that the young woman was murdered.

In testimony Friday, Robert Calderwood, a milkman and Amway distributor, said that he saw the southbound CHP patrol car stop the Volkswagen at approximately 8:30 p.m., shortly after the time that police said 20-year-old student Cara Knott left Escondido for her parents' El Cajon home after purchasing gasoline. The style and color of the vehicle fits the description of the murder victim's car, a white Volkswagen Beetle.

On his way home to Fallbrook about an hour later, Calderwood, who had gone to San Diego on business, said he again saw a CHP car on the east side of the freeway driving fast in a southeasterly direction, toward Mercy Road and away from the site where Miss Knott was killed.

Craig Peyer, a 13-year CHP veteran, is charged with killing Miss Knott on Dec. 27, 1986. Police said she was killed after a struggle on the old U.S. 395 bridge near Interstate 15 and the Mercy Road off-ramp between 9 and 10 p.m. Her body was thrown 65 feet into a dry creek bed, where it was discovered by San Diego police the next morning.

Calderwood's testimony appeared to stun defense attorney Robert Grimes, who made it clear in his questioning of Calderwood that he was having trouble believing his account of things.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Joseph Van Orshoven said that prosecutors met with Calderwood for the first time one week ago. When asked by both attorneys why he waited more than a year to step forward, Calderwood said he knew he would have to testify sooner or later but waited to contact authorities because he was afraid for his family's safety.

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