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Friday, July 30, 2004
Alaska DVD-murder case may be first of its kind

When a pickup truck crossed the double yellow line along Seward Highway and killed two occupants of a Jeep Grand Cherokee, police initially thought the accident was another tragic mistake by a momentarily distracted driver. Then they spotted the dashboard DVD player...

In what may be the first trial of its kind in the nation, prosecutors have accused the pickup truck's driver of second-degree murder for watching a movie instead of the road when he crashed head-on into the Jeep.

The pickup's driver, Erwin J. Petterson Jr., denies using the DVD player as he drove north on October 12, 2002 and contends he was only listening to music from a compact disc, said his attorney, Chuck Robinson.

"It's an excessive charge for what happened here," he said. "This was not a murder. Even the state medical examiner said during cross-examination that the manner of death for the people in the other car was accidental."

Petterson, 29, is accused of killing Robert Weiser, 60, and his wife Donna Weiser, 56, of Anchorage, while on a three-hour drive between Kenai and Anchorage. In his truck was the equivalent of a home entertainment system -- a DVD player, speakers and a Sony PlayStation 2.

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