by Aaron Leaf
On December 27th. 1986 20 year old, SDSU college student Cara Knott was travelling southbound on Interstate 15. Cara was on her way home from an evening at her boyfriends home in Escondido to her parents home in El Cajon. Craig Peyer, on duty CHP patrol officer, flashed lights at Knott to pull off the freeway to an isolated off ramp. It is thought the situation with Knott became physical when, she threatened to report Peyers behavior. Peyer beat her with his flash-light, and strangled her with rope from his patrol car. He then disposed of her body by throwing her off an abandoned bridge into the brush below.
Two days after the murder Peyer was featured on a KCST- interview ride along for a segment related to self protection for female drivers. Peyers face had scratches on it during the interview. Following the broadcast several calls by other female drivers were received by the authorities. A new picture of Patrolman Peyer began to emerge. Peyer had a reputation of following female drivers and pulling them over in the same secluded location as Cara. Though most of the callers insisted Peyer was nice and non threatening, they felt an uneasy creepiness about him. All of the woman were of approximate age and physical characteristics to Cara. Several other patrolman (and woman), became suspicious of Peyer as many of them knew Peyer had a tendency to make tickets at the secluded off ramp. On one early morning briefing a colleague joked with Peyer asking if he had killed Cara Knott. The room became quiet, and Peyer began acting odd. It was then that suspicion became outright and open.
Officer Peyer was arrested 21 days later in connection with Cara Knott’s death. The 1st trial ended in a hung jury. Upon retrial, the first-ever conviction of murder by an on duty CHP officer. In 1988 Peyer was sentenced to 25 years to life. As tragic as this these events were the story of Cara Knott was far from over.
The location near where Knott was found is home to a memorial garden of oak trees to honor her and other victims of violent crime the result of efforts spearheaded by her father. Sam Knott became a nonstop advocate for crime victims following his daughters murder. He campaigned tirelessly for local and state law enforcement agencies to install technology that would allow them to monitor the whereabouts of their officers at all times. He also pressed law enforcement to ease the standard 48-hour waiting period before issuing a missing-persons bulletin to officers in the field. The loss of Cara plagued Sam and many persons attribute Peyer to Sams early death as well. Sam died within feet of where Cara’s body was recovered. His heart simply gave way, and he died of a heart attack.
Peyer is serving a life prison sentence at the California Men’s Colony at San Luis Obispo.
With the recent arrest of San Diego police Officer Christopher Hays after sexual assault accusations and the conviction of SDPD officer Anthony Arevalos two years ago, the family is upset that these types of cases can and still are happening within the San Diego Law Enforcement ranks.
“I’m so outraged,” said Cynthia Knott, Cara’s sister. “It’s egregious to think this could happen in this day and age. It makes me relive my sister Cara’s murder all over again.”
Cynthia said she and her mother were sickened and disgusted by the recent news events and cannot believe this is happening.
Joyce Knott wrote to 10News:
“I just don’t want our family to appear that we are against the police. We have the utmost respect for the department and the majority of the officers. It just seems that after all these years there should be a better way to identify the bad ones. Thank goodness times have changed and at least some of the women who are harassed or taken advantage of do come forward and report these incidents. When there is a pattern of behavior of controlling women through sexual advances, there is the chance that the actions may escalate and another person’s life might be in danger. I want to encourage any woman who finds herself in such a situation to speak up and report it. By doing so, she may save the life of another innocent young woman. It would have saved Cara’s.”