Cold Case Solved, Memories Flood Back

Diana Peterson

On December 21, 2007, a man was charged in a nearly 33-year-old murder.

King County Sheriffs department had a series of detectives assigned to the case for over three decades, and the team had finally cracked it. I love cold case investigations, especially ones like this that are so old. So when I read the original headline in the Seattle-PI – Man Charged in 33-year-old Slaying Case – I thought, “cool…another DNA test has found a killer.”

But this case was different.

As soon as I started reading the article, I realized there was more to the story. More that somehow involved me, but the reason was unclear. Why did she look familiar, I asked myself? Something about her picture in the article really caught my attention, like I had seen it before. When I read that the murder had occurred in unincorporated King County – now Shoreline – on February 15th 1975, I was stunned.

The victim looked familiar because she had gone to school with my oldest sister.

Diana Peterson’s memorial picture was on the back page of Janice’s 1974-75 Shoreline High School annual. The memory of this case rushed back to me like a tidal wave. It was a picture that I had looked at time and time again, with an 11-year old mind trying to understand why someone this pretty had died. One look at her picture in 2007, and I was suddenly in 5th grade all over again. I remember feeling sadness and confusion back that year, listening to Jim Croce and looking through Jan’s annual – lingering long on the picture of Diana Peterson. I guess I didn’t really know why at the time, and I now find it interesting that over three decades later I still remembered once I saw the picture.

After I read the article I called Janice.

“Do you have your annuals handy?” She did. “Do you remember someone in your class being killed?” She didn’t, but started looking through her annuals – only to find Diana Peterson’s picture in one of them. Jan was just as shocked about the incident as me, and just as relieved that the crime appeared to be solved. While talking to Jan about it, I actually started getting choked up. 33 years later, and I still had feelings about it inside. The Peterson family also has a huge sense of relief now that they know something has broken free in the case.

The trial in a Shoreline 1975 cold case started May 13, 2009. It drew out as a story of love, lust, anger, jealousy, a hunting knife, death-bed testimony, and 30+ years of denial. It was also a case that was within three miles of my home growing up. I followed the case and the trial. I even did a search of court records to find out what was going on. Why?

Because I couldn’t help it.

Diana Peterson’s picture kept haunting me. I was the only one in my family who remembered her face. Not long after I posted this originally back in 2007, my Mom commented about it. “Your dad and I earlier read today’s article and agreed we had no recall of the event,” she admitted. “[Yet] you have carried that picture in your mind all this time. You were so often ‘wise beyond your years.’ Well done.”

I find it interesting that I remembered this story on the anniversary of her death.

The accused received a sentence of 16 years to life, under statutes that were in place when the murder occurred. While Diana is no longer with us, the horror of that night is over and those who cared about her now know justice has been served. Kudos to the King County Sheriff’s office for their determination to bring closure to a case that spanned four decades.

Rest In Peace, Diana.

12/21/2007 – Seattle-PI Article
12/22/2007 – Seattle Times Article
5/13/2009 – Trial Proceedings
6/9/2009 – Guilty verdict
7/24/2009 – Sentence of 16 years to Life
7/24/2009 – Interview – Defendant says he didn’t kill classmate

Originally published in four posts on Blogger – 2007 to 2009. Combined and posted to Intersect on Feb 15, 2011.


Miracles Through Determination

David Fun Dips July 2011

On July 3rd 2011, David asked for candy all day long.

Never mind that we had candy; he wanted nothing to do with the sweets that the stunning Mrs. Clark had packed for our camping trip. No, his request was specific: Fun Dips – the candy sticks that you lick and then dip in pure sugar.

He badgered us all afternoon, but never got his Fun Dips.

Later in the day Sherry noticed an Easter Egg under the tree next to our tent at the camp site; the KOA conducts egg hunts at Easter time so it’s not a surprise to see a few stragglers. David picked up the egg and inside he found a dollar. My thought is that he would have packed it away, but David had a better idea.

He headed to the clubhouse and got Fun Dips.

He wore a green sticky sugar smile for some time afterwards. There is something to be said for determination!

Replacing The Sky

E9 Final

Located in Deer Lodge Montana, this EMD E9 was a locomotive that pulled passenger trains for the once-mighty Milwaukee Road.

Bankrupt in 1985 and ultimately absorbed into the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Milwaukee left behind the legacy of a scrappy continental railroad that chose to do things their own way – along with miles of artifacts across the Western landscape. Depending on who you talk with, the demise of the Milwaukee Road was due to bad management or changing times.

Probably a lot of both.

In 2012 I read a blog post about editing interesting photos that had uninteresting elements (tried to find the article again but no luck). The case in point was a picture that the writer had taken of the Cyclone Roller Coaster on Coney Island; it had an interesting perspective, but because of overall lighting the sky was mostly blown out and had no detail. In the post he talked about how he could edit out the sky and replace it with something with more character, like dramatic clouds. The project got me thinking that in my archives there had to be a few shots that could be edited in the same way.

And the E9 shot was the first one I thought of.

The reason was this: the original photo was well exposed on the nose of the locomotive, but suffered from a very bright sky behind it. Not surprising, since the photo was taken with my camera phone. In any case it seemed like a good candidate to merge a couple of photos and make a good one. Adding to the fire was a fundraising campaign being conducted by the Cascade Rail Foundation, to bring a historic Milwaukee Road locomotive to their restored railroad depot in South Cle Elum WA.

I thought maybe I could create something to donate, so they could sell and benefit from the proceeds.

The biggest hurdle I had was trying to get rid of the old sky. Initially I first tried by changing the sky color to one hue and then setting the color to transparency; that didn’t work, mainly because it only made the locomotive transparent while preserving the color I wanted to remoe. I also watched a tutorial video on Youtube, where the person used the equivalent of an eraser to get rid of the stuff he didn’t want. That technique seemed to work for him but didn’t allow me enough control around the edges between the sky and the locomotive. I tried different file types and two different editors. Each tool had a different hurdle to overcome. Help Files for each program – GIMP and Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 – weren’t much help at all. I was either using the wrong verbage to search solutions, or didn’t know what I was doing.

But I sure knew what I wanted.

In the end – after nearly a full afternoon of trial and error – I was finally successful with the following steps:

  1. Change sky in train picture to a single color
  2. Open the cloud picture in GIMP
  3. Open train picture as a “Layer” over the cloud picture
  4. Use the GIMP “Fuzzy Selection Tool” to select the entire sky in the train picture.
  5. Choose “Color To Alpha” to remove the color from the train picture.
  6. “Flatten” image to merge the two layers together

After that I converted the photo to black and white using Pixlr-O-Matic, using one of the filters with extra contrast. The resulting image was then saved as a JPEG file at 360 dots per inch (dpi) to allow for larger prints.

Sure, if someone looks really close at the outline of the locomotive, a trace can be seen between the train and the sky. I mentioned it to a couple of people; one person said, “I see it, and notice that kind of thing in edited photos, but yours doesn’t bug me.” Phew. In a later revision I went in and softened the line.

16x20s of this improved train picture were ordered and looked great!

He Just Wanted To Be Alone [1985]


1985 was an incredibly difficult year.

In fact, that time in the mid-1980s was awful. Things weren’t going well, and whatever dreams I had after high school for happiness or success were long gone. Relationships were sporadic, and usually filled with drama that I didn’t need. In the end, I was left with a trail of low-end jobs and a worn-out 1976 Chevy Vega to get me there.

One day that year is one I consider to be the lowest part of my life.

I awoke that morning with a bad mood that I couldn’t shake, and through the day the darkness never lifted. I even dressed in my finest clothes – a trick to feel better taught to me by my high school band teacher – but even nice threads didn’t make a difference. By the end of the day my head was a complete mess; for some reason I called my sister, and broke down by the second sentence in our conversation. She insisted that I come over, and that evening I just remember talking and talking. She listened and listened. It was the closest I ever got to the notion that ending it all was an option. Thankfully I didn’t do that; the next morning I felt different and uplifted; life seemed to improve from that day forward.

This poem – found in the archives recently – is evidence that 1985 was filled with trouble.

Not only did I write about my darkest feelings on relationships and depression, I even dated the work – October 17th. From what I recall the poem was written around the time of my lowest day, while the pain was fresh in my mind. It was never intended to have an audience – only me – so I let loose and wrote exactly what I felt. The message says, “You know what? I don’t care anymore. Just get it over with.” It’s a call from a man who felt trapped in whatever situation kept him down. While it is hard to read today, I’m glad I wrote it; the poem is like a life marker by which I can compare my current experience.

It’s definitely better now.

He Just Wanted to Be Alone

As the boiling point was achieved
Feelings exploded, and true meanings were obscured by jealousy
He was angry
Failure was not something he cared to deal with
Nor was it something that he was ready for
He wanted neither self-pity or compassion

He just wanted to be alone

Life bothered him, almost to an intolerable extent
People bothered him, the regularity of the human race knocked him off balance
The woman in his life was gone, shoulding some other guy’s feelings
He watched her walk out the door, and into someone else’s life
And he watched the sorrow turn to tears
He wanted to neither end his life, or start over fresh

He just wanted to be alone

Lately, life had been tackling him head-on
And, although fighting fairly, he was losing
He lit a cigarette and got back into the game
Only to be pushed back and crushed
He wanted neither a crisp, new view of life, or a biased look into the future.

He just wanted to be alone.

Poem Entry #5 – Ode To A Twinkie [1987]

4/3/87 Entry #5

I stared intently at the Twinkie held in my hand.

It was one more bite’s worth. The cream-filled middle oozed from its sponge-cake cave, calling “Kurt! Here I am! Calories, calories!”

I could smell rthe sponge cake, the whipped cream, the sugar. I could see the Twinkie’s plastic wrapper on the table where I had set it. The wrapper unraveled itself from the ball I had rolled it into and sent Twinkie shockwaves through the room.

Before I knew it, the remnants of my Twinkie were right in front of my mouth.

Mesmerized by the smell of my caloric nirvana, I hadn’t realized that my hand had moved the Twinkie closer to my face. The aroma attacked my nose, like gasoline dopes when I overfill my tank.

It was an obviously sweet odor, dripping with sugar and only a hint of nutrition.

My sight became a cream-filled haze, and my tastebuds began to water. I could taste it in my mind, feel it in my fingers, and regret it in my stomach. The Twinkie had become a legend in my hand.

Closer, closer my hand moved to my mouth. The remnants of the Twinkie were within an inch of my teeth. My jaw lowered itself, exposing my tongue and watering tastebuds.

With a flick of my index finger, I popped the Twinkie into my mouth and began chewing with satisfaction.