The Warren E. Peterson Story!
An Avalanche of Loss, a Flood of Love!
People say, “I lost it all.” I didn’t. I lost a lot more than most, but I did not lose it all. In fifteen months, I lost my mother, my job, my marriage, my only child, my home, my dog, and finally my freedom, in about that order. I was lucky, I did not lose it all, and I gained something in return. After 18 years in prison, I look back, and I know I kept three things, and these are the most important in life.
First, I retain my health, both physical and mental, though I have plenty of aches and pains, and see a wrinkled, older form in the mirror; and I regained, and maintain, my sanity, though my mental health counselor might add a proviso here.
Second, I retained the love and support of a few family and friends, and I love them back, deeply and thankfully.
Finally, I sustain a hope, through my faith in our creator, the Supreme Being we call “God”. My faith is far from perfect, and that is an understatement. I’ve read the Bible front to back, four times. The King James, the NWT, and the NIV twice, and still I am confused. Why would a loving, all powerful God allow so much suffering in the world? I would make a terrible Job. I know many have anguished more than I, but to what purpose? The question is bewildering, perhaps beyond the wisdom of man, certainly of this man.
I do, however, know the three things that I proffer here:
1) We must never stop LOVING and CARING.
2) We must CHERISH and RETAIN our HEALTH.
3) We must give our lives HOPE and MEANING through the dedicated pursuit of WORTHY ENDEAVORS and BELIEFS.
It took me years of tragedy, guilt, self-pity, anger, and introspection, to learn this bit of wisdom. The narrative which follows reflects in some part, these philosophical learning’s, and the path that brought me here.
On the freezing, dark night of March 18, 1999, I committed my crime. At nearly 42 years of age, it was by far the craziest, most desperate act of my life. Why? What led a former altar boy, youth group leader, scholar, athlete, and dedicated father and husband, to that point?
The Bible Says that to tell a Half Truth is the Same as Telling a Lie. “Yes” or “No” answers do not always tell the whole truth. “Yes” or “No” can be perjury, and often in court, the question asked is “Yes?” or “No?” when the true answer is neither.
Here is my truth:
I was living the American Dream. I had a healthy little boy, an attractive, highly educated wife, good health, great friends, and a devoted German Shepherd dog I had raised from a pup. We lived in a 3600 sq. ft. super insulated, custom contemporary post and beam home, which I designed and built before meeting my wife, Kathleen. I have a Master’s degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and was employed as a Marketing Executive at a leading computer company. I was living the good life.
Then the dream began to crumble. 1998, the year preceding my crime, became, for me, an avalanche of loss, suffering, and depression. I lost my mother; The woman who raised me from the age of 7,died of lung cancer. Having struggled for months beforehand to be supportive to my family during this crisis, I was exhausted, deeply saddened, and depressed.
Marital difficulties heightened my depression.
My employer, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), was bought by the Intel Corporation. Soon thereafter, I was told to plan a phase-out of my product line-my job.
I was called by the Salem Police and asked to come down to pick up a restraining order taken out by Kathleen, my wife. With only a moments notice, I was evicted from my home, and separated from my little boy Connor.
Kathleen agreed to allow me to return to our home and see my little boy if I signed over to her my Charles Schwab Investments account; about $57,000. Her attorney had already prepared the stipulation. I gave her the money.
My new employer, Intel, began massive layoffs at my plant, Many of my associates were discharged.
I arrived home early that day and discovered a large moving truck in my driveway. I was surprised to see Kathleen moving out. She was angry at being discovered. She called the police and tried to get me arrested. They arrived but had no reason to arrest me. Then the moving manager complained it was taking too long, and Kathleen began to cry. I paid the man cash so she could take her time, and agreed to let her take whatever she wanted. Kathleen took our son Connor and moved to Exeter, NH, 20 miles in the opposite direction of my work. Previously my commute to the DEC/Intel Marlboro, MA plant was 50 miles each way. I began driving 90 miles one way, three days each week, so I could have Connor for two overnights a week. It became a two-hour commute one way, since I had to leave work early, or arrive late because the new daycare provider would not extend her hours.
I was served with divorce papers. As my depression worsened, I couldnt sleep, I couldnt think, and my performance at work deteriorated.
July and August
Kathleen and I have been politely exchanging Connor every Sunday morning. Monday mornings I drove the 20 miles to drop Connor off at day care, then the 70 miles to work.
I gave up my German Shepherd “Laufen” for adoption. I could not bring her to work, and I was gone most of the day with my extended commute and the extra hours I worked to make up for the days I left early or arrived late to pick up or drop off Connor. Essentially I had to decide between parenting Connor or keeping Laufen. The guilt and anguish of that decision pains me to this day. I loved that dog.
Time with my son, Connor, remained the highlight of my life.
I was picking up Connor at Kathleen’s new home, when she invited me into her ante-room to fix a flat tire on Connor’s new bicycle. Afterwards, Kathleen invited me into her kitchen to wash the grease off of my hands. She seemed relaxed and genuinely appreciative.
This was our initial divorce hearing. Kathleen immediately asked for a one-year restraining order against me, swearing as required by law that she feared an immediate and present danger of abuse from me. I was dumbstruck! We had met and communicated in private over a dozen times throughout the summer, without incident. The restraining order placed an onerous additional barrier between Connor and me.
I asked to share physical custody of our son at this hearing, which was essentially what we had been doing. The judge replied, “A child belongs with its mother, OK? And my sense for you is the word ‘Visitation.’ “
These words, spoken with the power of the court, could not have hurt more. As the father, I was relegated to the position of lesser parent, and ordered to begin paying $1,479.50 a month for child support to Kathleen, plus pay for Connor’s insurance.
My employer gave me a formal performance warning and a choice: Complete the phase out of my product line within 12 weeks, or rResign and get 12 weeks severance pay.
I resigned, knowing I desperately needed a reprieve from the stress of 12 hour work days and 2-3 hour commutes. I resigned, knowing if I stayed, my job would be obsolete in 12 weeks. I was told that since the formal reprimand Intel could fire me at any time without severance pay. I resigned knowing I needed to focus on finding a new job and that the 12 week severance pay would help pay my bills until I did. I believed my first priority was to be a real father to my son, and that the first and foremost meant continuing to spend quality time teaching, guiding and nurturing him. I knew I could not do that as a burned out unemployed shell. Accepting the 12 week severance pay was the only logical choice.
I had an accident with my car. Suicidal, I called my MD for help and ended up in Holy Family Psychiatric Ward for a 3-day evaluation. When Kathleen found out, she suspended my parenting time with Connor, an action which added greatly to my sadness and depression.
Second divorce hearing: Kathleen again went on the offensive. She alleged that I let Connor’s insurance expire. I had not (see attached checks from December 1998 and February 1999). She alleged that I had not paid child support after receiving my severance pay on 10/9/98. I had, in fact, paid her $900.00 in late October (see attached check), and $900.00 in late November (see attached check), and I had paid her $600.00 in child support in September (see attached check), before the order existed, and I had just begun an IRA College Fund for Connor by depositing $500.00 into that account (see attached statement). Kathleen alleged that I left my job on purpose, and also alleged that I was not looking for a new job. The Truth was that I had been working with a professional high tech job placement agency since October and had already interviewed several times (see attached letter) None of these incriminations were true, but the family court judge took them as truth, and gave my attorney no chance to respond.
Kathleen asked, and the judge continued my child support obligation in full, even though I was then unemployed and Kathleen was fully employed. He also maintained the suspension of my visitation with Connor.
Third divorce hearing: I was still unemployed and about two months behind on child support. I had prepared documents and evidence to demonstrate my dire financial situation, my assiduous efforts to find a new job, and proof that Connor was continuously insured by me. The judge gave me no chance. He asked if I were up to date on child support, then immediately ordered my arrest on contempt. Several days later, my father paid my $8,600 bail, but my visitation with Connor remained suspended.
I was hired for a new job and was supposed to start Monday, Feb. 15
I loved my son ardently, and missed him immensely. Friday, at 6 PM, I quietly parked about 40 yards from Kathleen’s home, in hopes of seeing my son in the window. After just a few minutes, I realized my stupidity, drove directly home, and cried myself to sleep.
I was awakened and arrested at my home on Saturday at 7 am. I was charged, with stalking my wife; untrue. Five days later, my kind father, again drove the 300 miles to New Hampshire and bailed me out at a cost of several more thousands of dollars. The court required that I return with him to his home in New Jersey. I was supposed to begin a new job in Haverhill, Massachusetts on Feb. 15. Not having shown up, and not having been able to call them until three days later, and having been ordered to New Jersey by the judge, I lost the new job. (Months later, at a trial for this Feb. 13th arrest, the judge said: “There is no crime here,” and dismissed the charge.
The damage and trauma of these false arrests had been done.
- I again had no job.
- My remaining assets were frozen by the family court.
- I had swelling child support arrears, home mortgage, and credit card debts.
- I faced the nearly impossible task of getting another high tech job in a soft market, within commuting distance of my son and home, while living 300 miles away in New Jersey, and while suffering major depression.
- The home I designed, built and lived in for years before my short marriage was stricken with seizure and sale by the family court.
- I was facing a criminal stalking charge and associated legal costs and court hearings.
- I was going through a divorce with a judge deceived and manipulated by my wife’s clever attorney.
- My car and means of getting me to a new job had 185,000 miles on it and was falling apart.
Most anguishing of all, I was kept from my little boy Connor, whom I so passionately loved.
My father and sister checked me into the Carrier Foundation Psychiatric Hospital, in Belle Mead, New Jersey. This was the second such hospitalization of my life! My first had been three months earlier. I was diagnosed with severe major depression, resulting in a nervous breakdown.
I was released due to an insurance hiccup. My psychiatric medication had been changed to Zoloft just two days earlier. Zoloft simply did not work for me. My Dad, a former Police Chief and retired County Sheriff, suffering from Alzheimer’s and alcoholism, again took me home. Two days later, I sat at my dad’s desk. For hours I called friends, pleading for them to beseech Kathleen on my behalf, to allow me a visitation with Connor. Months earlier, at Christmas, I had begged my father-in-law and got permission for a two-hour visit. Idly, I explored the old desk as I waited for call-backs from my friends. My Dad’s old P.D. service revolver and handcuffs were right there. About 6 pm, a final reply of “No, you may not see Connor” came from a friend. Severely depressed and irrational, I thought I was losing my son. Impulsively I took the two police items and left for New Hampshire.
I took my wife at gunpoint, handcuffed her, and drove to a field near her house to talk. I wanted to convince her to allow me to see my son. After we talked for about an hour, she agreed to give me custody of Connor. We were about to leave, but I found that the car was stuck in the snow. I took off my jacket and gave it to her, along with a blanket from the car to keep her warm, and I ran four miles to get my car. I was then able to tow her car out of the snow. We hugged each other, cried together, then said good bye.
Kathleen later reported driving herself home, getting herself ready for work, Connor for pre-school, driving to Dunkin Donuts, dropping Connor off, and then going to work as a guidance counselor. She met with both students and staff before leaving work early to see a friend.
I was arrested for the third time in two months (the third time in my whole life), only this time I deserved it. I was moved to the state secure Psychiatric hospital days later, and held there for 4 1/2 months.
I pled guilty for three reasons. These were:
1) To accept responsibility for my actions.
2) To avoid further sentencing enhancements threatened by the prosecutor, which I now know had been fraudulent and illegal.
3) To relieve Kathleen and my family from the stress of a trial.
I ultimately received a cumulative five times enhanced sentence, a total of 25 to 70 years in prison. A sentence more severe than most murderers would receive.
While I admit my guilt, I believe my punishment is overly harsh, and unjust. My sentence violates double jeopardy multiple ways and is thus illegal. I have now been paroled to release yet the state refuses to release me, further violating their own laws.