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.

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