Woman who blamed innocent man for murder charged in same case

EVERETT — A woman whose lies about witnessing a May murder led to an innocent man’s arrest is now charged with the killing after detectives recovered a damaged knife she allegedly tossed into a river.

Tammie Jo Peterson, 54, was charged Friday with first-degree murder in the May 24 death of Deborah A. Jeanneret.

The victim, 50, died from blood loss caused by an estimated 40 stab wounds, mostly to her head and neck, according to the Snohomish County Superior Court papers. The tip of a knife blade, apparently broken off during the attack, was found embedded in her skull.

It was a “brutal, prolonged and depraved murder of an unarmed victim,” deputy prosecutor Chris Dickinson said in an affidavit seeking $1 million bail for Peterson.

The knife, found in the Snohomish River, reportedly was missing its tip. Court papers are silent about whether the knife and the piece of broken blade are believed to be a forensic match.

“Many items of evidence are currently being examined by the state crime laboratory,” Dickinson wrote.

Court papers detail how Peterson reportedly attempted to implicate others, first a former boyfriend, then a man who shared the apartment where Jeanneret’s body was discovered.

Peterson is known by at least five different names and court papers list addresses in Arlington, Everett, Mount Vernon and Ocean Shores. She has four felony convictions, including for forgery and fraud.

She’d been living in Alaska until about a week before moving into the south Everett apartment that Jeanneret also shared with a former boyfriend, Dickinson wrote.

That man called 911 to report that he had discovered the victim’s body in her bedroom after smelling a foul odor for a couple of days.

Peterson was gone, and so was Jeanneret’s car, cellphone and credit cards.

Detectives determined Peterson used the credit cards to make several purchases, the prosecutor wrote. They tracked her down to Marysville.

That’s when she blamed a former boyfriend, claiming that he’d killed Jeanneret while high on methamphetamine and forced Peterson to help clean up after the crime, court papers say.

The Marysville man was arrested and ordered held for investigation of murder. But Peterson’s story quickly collapsed after Everett attorney Anna Goykhman connected detectives with people who provided her client with a “rock solid alibi,” demonstrating he wasn’t in the area at the time of the killing.

Peterson was held for investigation of rendering criminal assistance. After her former boyfriend’s release from jail, she contacted homicide detectives and admitted that she’d lied, Dickinson wrote. She instead blamed the killing on the man who reported finding Jeanneret’s body.

“Detectives investigated this new claim and found it not to be credible,” the prosecutor wrote. Peterson’s former roommate was cooperative with investigators, including agreeing to undergo a polygraph examination, which he reportedly passed.

A key break in the case came when a man contacted detectives and said that Peterson had asked his help getting rid of a large knife.

“The witness told the police that he accompanied the defendant to the banks of the Snohomish River in Everett where the defendant threw the knife, wrapped inside a grocery bag, into the water,” Dickinson wrote.

The man took detectives to the location and a police diver found a knife in a grocery bag.

The blade was missing its tip and had stains investigators think may be blood. It also was wrapped in a long, dark hair, Dickinson said.

Peterson has similar hair. So does Jeanneret, and an autopsy found a long, dark hair entwined in her fingers, the prosecutor said.

When arrested, Peterson had an injury to one of her fingers. The men she had tried to blame for Jeanneret’s killing did not, according to court papers.

“Such a cut would be expected when engaging in a violent assault with a knife,” Dickinson wrote.

Peterson remained jailed Friday. She was expected to make a first appearance on the murder charge early next week.

Scott North: 425-339-3431; north@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snorthnews.

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