Internet Purchases, Digital Footprints Examined In Murder Trial

The trial of a computer consultant accused of killing his wife and dumping her body in a lake continued to focus on computer records Monday.

November 15, 2005

2 Min Read
Network Computing logo

The trial of a computer consultant accused of killing his wife and dumping her body in a lake continued to focus on computer records Monday.

Robert Petrick tried to poke holes in evidence that prosecutors allege shows he plotted his wife's murderon computers seized from his home.

Prosecutors discovered a Google search for the words: "neck snap break" and "hold" and a record of access to instructions entitled "22 Ways to Kill a Man With Your Bare Hands." They also claimed someone used a computer in his home to research the depths of the Raleigh-area lake where his wife's body was found.

Monday, they produced a computer forensics expert who claimed Petrick purchased a stun gun through a site called "" before his wife, concert cellist Janine Sutphin disappeared in January 2003.

Petrick, a Mac specialist, coaxed experts into admitting they hadn't linked a user to the computer activity. He also stated that his deceased wife had been involved in martial arts and asked whether she could have searched the terms on Google.The police computer expert, Ryan Johnson, said that without standing over anyone's shoulder he could not say who accessed the information.

Experts said they searched about 100 keywords and retrieved the information from Internet histories, document files and caches. They said there were about 200 hits for the word "lake," whether alone or within other words like "flake."

Petrick also asked whether the searches relating to lake depths could have been performed by someone who enjoyed fishing or sailing. Durham Prosecutor Mitch Garrell cross-examined Johnson about whether any other documents would support the theory that someone with an in interest in fishing had been browsing on the computers.

"No, no Web sites like that were visited with the exception of the one about the topography," Johnson said. "We have histories that go back to early 2002 and there are no searches for fishing or anything like that."Prosecutors claimed that Petrick, who stands out in his Christian North Carolina community as a self-professed Pagan, also visited to a site called bloodfest666. They also have evidence of e-mails to women they said Petrick was having affairs. One, who was engaged to Petrick while he was married and his wife was alive, is expected travel from Atlanta to testify Tuesday.Petrick, who is in prison on fraud charges brought against him around the time his wife's body was discovered, could not be reached. A lawyer who acted on his behalf until Petrick decided to represent himself said the inmate is not allowed phone contact.

More computer forensics information is expected to come up before the case goes to the jury. WRAL has been carrying live streaming coverage of0

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights