BESSEMER — To have the cup, or not have the cup. That is the question.
That was the theme of Monday’s trial against Kenneth Wayne Peters, 50, of Bessemer. Peters is on trial for allegedly murdering his 79-year-old wife Ethel Grzena-Peters in August 2012.
Peters continued to be cross examined by prosecuting attorney Richard Adams about his actions leading up the his wife’s disappearance on Aug. 4, 2012.
According to a previous testimony from Tiffany Youngberg, Peters was drinking gin from a purple and black cup the day before Grzena-Peters went missing. She said that he drank from the cup in her car when they went to run errands.
In addition to that, Rebecca Risley, a friend of Peters and his wife, who also found Grzena-Peters’ body, testified that she had found a purple and black cup near a fire pit at her and her boyfriend’s cabin in Watersmeet Township, not far from where Grzena-Peters’ body was found.
However, Risley said that the cup was thrown out, not realizing that it had anything to do with Grzena-Peters disappearance.
According to Peters however, the chances of both of them recognizing the cup were suspicious.
“I don’t know how the cup was brought up before Ethel was found,” Peters said.
Adams asked Peters if he believed there was a conspiracy between Youngberg and Risley’s testimonies.
“They spoke to each other before Ethel was found,” Peters said. “They could have dreamed this up.”
But Adams, didn’t buy it.
“Why would someone cook that up?” Adams said. “Why would anyone, before knowing it’s importance, make this cup significant? So you’re telling me that the whole purple cup might be a figment of Rebecca Risley’s imagination?”
Peters said, “Well, do you guys have the cup?”
However, Adams called Sargent Carol Maki, of the Lac Vieux Desert Tribal Police, to testify in rebuttal about a conversation that she had with Risley the night that Grzena-Peters’ body was found.
“I was assigned to be a caretaker from Rebecca Risley, including bringing her for bathroom breaks,” Maki said. “She said something to the affect of ‘I should have known someone was here, because I found a purple cup by the fire pit,’” Maki said.
In cross-examination, defense attorney Rudy Perhalla asked Maki what she told Risley when she made that statement.
“I told her about us assisting the Gogebic County Sheriff’s Department and Michigan State Police and that they would speak to her at a later time about all of this,” Maki said.
Rides and letters
In his original testimony, Peters said that he and his wife took a ride to Wakefield to look at different nursing homes as a possibility for her future, on Aug. 3.
However, despite his testimony, Adams questioned why it hadn’t been mentioned before.
“How many times did you tell a different story?” Adams said. “You never told officers about your nursing home tour despite numerous interviews.”
Peters said, “No I never told them.”
When asked why, Peters said he didn’t know.
Adams then asked about the drive, and the numerous stops that Peters and his wife took on Aug. 3. In his testimony, Peters said that he and Grzena-Peters left the house and stopped at Stempihar’s BP Station in Bessemer to switch drivers.
The couple then continued to Wakefield where they drove by Keen Ager’s Assisted Living Facility and Gogebic Medical Care Facility. At Gogebic Medical Care Facility, they stopped to switch drivers again, before heading back home to Bessemer.
Once they arrived in Bessemer, Peters said he and his wife realized they didn’t get gas, and decided to head to the Citgo in Ironwood to get gas, cigarettes and beer. When the finally arrived home, Peters said that he put his wife in her chair and headed out to the Black River to go camping.
Adams questioned this, asking why they went to tour nursing homes, despite previous testimony that Grzena-Peters was “terrified” of going to a nursing home. He also questioned why they went to Ironwood instead of Bessemer for gas.
Adams then turned to the letters that Peters admitting to writing while incarcerated at the Gogebic County Jail, something Peters called “stupid and desperate” on his own part. Two full letters and one partial set of notes were given to officers by a former cell mate of Peters.
The letters were from an “anonymous” person, claiming to have brought Grzena-Peters to Watersmeet after finding her “confused” at Citgo in Bessemer. According to “anonymous,” Grzena-Peters claimed that her husband was camping in Watersmeet and that she needed to see him.
The second letter was from “anonymous,” to Peters, saying how “sorry” they were for putting him in his predicament.
The page of notes described the clothes that Grzena-Peters was wearing the night of her disappearance, as well as what she was carrying.
“I wrote these letters, because I was scared,” Peters said.
Adams also asked Peters about a letter that he and his wife both wrote to one of Grzena-Peters’ daughters. According to the letter, Grzena-Peters was upset with her daughter about not taking her name off of the deed to the house. Peters told Adams that his wife dictated it while he wrote it, and that the letter was not only supposed to be sent to the one daughter, but all of his wife’s children.
Peters read the letter in court which said that Grzena-Peters was going to give her half of the house to Peters, with all of the contents inside willed to him as well. Grzena-Peters also supposedly said that her daughter’s selfishness was the reason none of her siblings were getting anything.
“I had to coax the meanness out of her, because she wasn’t used to writing mean letters,” Peters said.
Adams then questioned why.
“You originally testified that you didn’t care about who got the house, or that you didn’t want to get involved with family matters,” Adams said. “Why did you help ‘coax the meanness’ out of her?”
Adams then questioned Peters about why he created the letters in jail from the anonymous person. Peters said that it was because police “fabricated evidence” against him.
According to Peters, the police told him in interviews that they had a witness who positively identified him at Risley’s boyfriends’ cabin in Watersmeet the night before Grzena-Peters was reported missing, that he was on video in Watersmeet and that they had his purple cup.
“How you you know what evidence that they had from being disclosed?” Adams said. “You didn’t have any police reports yet, because on Aug. 25, when you wrote the letters, it was only two days after you had been arrested. My point is, you wouldn’t have known there wasn’t a cup out there.”
Adams also questioned Peters responses to other evidence that officers used against him interviews. According to Adams and reports, when an officer would mention Peters being caught on video with his wife at Stempihar’s BP, the night of Aug. 3, he would deny it.
“You would say, ‘The video is a lie. That is not me,’” Adams said. “You continued with that response every time they mentioned that video, didn’t you.”
“Yes I did,” Peters said.
In conclusion, Adams also asked Peters about previous remarks he made to other witnesses who testified. According to other witnesses, Peters made remarks about leaving dead bodies in holes, quarries, ditches, ravines and the woods.
Adams asked if he would make those references.
“When talking about a body, no,” Peters said.
“So any person who testified about these supposed comments were all mistaken?” Adams said.
“Yes,” Peters said.