by Virginia McCullough

Why were there three defendants charged in the Nunez case in Contra Costa County and why were only two tried for hiding Anna and Emily "underground" for over six months?  By all accounts, including but not limited to Senior Inspector Mark Ernst's reports, the single individual who planned, aided and abetted the removal of the two little girls from the court's control and from their father was Richard Harry Peterson.  According to Ernst's report dated September 24, 2002 Peterson lived at 4473 Silverberry Court, Concord, California in a home owned by The Helen Peterson Trust at the time the girls went missing.  His date of birth is July 21, 1936 and it is noted he is 5'9" and weighs 165 pounds.  His California driver's license is CDL #D0309979 and his occupation is listed as retired.

Inspector Ernst notes the following in his report dated May 16, 2002:  

On May 9, 2002 at 0725 hours I met with Richard Peterson on Silverberry Court in Concord.  He agreed to speak with me and asked if he could record our conversation.  I told him that I had no objection to that, and I also recorded the conversation.  The following is a synopsis of our conversation.  Peterson is a founding member of "Fathers/Parents for Children's Rights".  He describes the group as a parent support group that helps abused children.  I explained that I had a custody order for Anna and Emily Nunez and I asked his help in locating them.  He asked me which judge had signed the order.  I told him that Judge Craddick had signed the order.  Peterson then said the order was invalid.  He explained that Judge Craddick doesn't have the authority to sign such an order because she never took the proper oath of office when she became a judge.

Peterson said the father of the children was abusing them.  He then showed me several pictures of bruises on one of the girls.  The pictures were dated 1999.  I explained to him that it was a big step from seeing an injury, to accusing someone of inflicting the injury.  I asked if he had any independent knowledge of abuse toward either of the children.  He said he did not.  The only information he had is what was told to him by Kelli.

I asked Peterson about the abduction of the girls and what part he played in it.  He told me that on that day Kelli had called him and asked for a ride.  He had no knowledge of what she was doing.  He drove her to the day care center where they picked up the girls.  Peterson has not seen them since that day and does not know where the girls are staying.

The entire last paragraph will later be proven to be a lie.

On May 16, 2002 Mark Ernst report notes that mother Kelli Nunez had applied for a United States post office box on April 23, 2002 and she had placed her mother, Judy De La Rosa, and an individual named Richard Peterson on the box so that they might also have access to Kelli's mail.

In inspector Ernst's September 24, 2002 report Ernst cites a deposition dated May 29, 2002 with a friend of Kelli Nunez named Janice Levinson and the following is an excerpt from that dialogue:

Q.    Okay.  And are you a member of an organization called "Mom's for Justice"?

A.    I don't recall.  I don't know of an organization called "Mom's for Justice".

Q.    You never received any literature for such a group?

A.    I don't recall.

Q.    Okay.  Have you ever even heard that name before?

A.    I don't remember.  I don't remember a name called "Mom's for Justice, that I recall.

Q.    Okay.  Did Kelli Nunez ever tell you that she was a member of "Mom's for Justice"?

A.    I don't recall her saying anything about anything called that.

Q.    Okay.  Are you a member of an organization or group called "Clout for Kids"?

A.    I've never heard that name.

Q.    Okay.  Do you know Richard Peterson?

A.    I - I'm trying to think if that name sounds somewhat familiar, yeah.

Q.    Do you know Helen Peterson?    Do you believe you've met Richard Peterson?

A.    I've met Richard Peterson, I think, quite a while ago possibly once.  

On July 29, 2002,  Levinson made corrections in regard to her knowledge of Richard Peterson now stating "Rich, in the San Jose group, told me that Kelli was going to be in court and suggested that we should go for support."

According to another friend of Kelli's, Valerie Blackmore, it was Richard Peterson who was driving the vehicle when Kelli and her oldest  daughter picked up the two little girls from their day care center.

Inspector Ernst also notes that "while looking into Richard Peterson's involvement in this case, the name Lana Hescock came up"  it was Ms. Hescock who was paid $100 by Richard Peterson to take the girls from their mother when she returned from the East Coast and take them into hiding in Santa Clara County.

During questioning of Hank De La Rosa, Kelli Nunez's step father, Inspector Ernst was told, "I think that Rich (Peterson) is the only one who knows.  He's the one that placed them, I guess, or something like that....and he purposely didn't tell Kelli where they were at is what I heard, so that she couldn't say where they were at."

In his September 24, 2002 report Inspector Ernst notes:

The one name that keeps coming up in every aspect of this investigation in Richard Peterson.  He was with Kelli when she appeared in court before the abduction; he helped Kelli prepare the UCC1; he drove the vehicle that was used to abduct the children; he filed motions on her behalf while she was out of state; it appears he made arrangements to hide the children when they returned to San Francisco; and he continues to be Kelli's contact while she is in jail.

Again quoting from Inspector Ernst's September 24, 2002 report:

On Monday, September 23, 2002 Peterson went to the offices of Childquest International and spoke with Allison Kelley.  She is the investigator handling the Nunez investigation.  Peterson told her that he did not know where the children were and he was not involved in their abduction.  He explained that Kelli had come to him for advice in February 2002.  He also told her that he visited Kelli in jail each Saturday.  Peterson commented that Danny would not negotiate for the return of the children.  Allison told him that she would share with Danny any proposal he wished to make regarding the return of the children.  Peterson then rambled on about how the DA and the judges were not doing proper investigations.

That paragraph sums up the importance of Richard Peterson to the case of the Nunez children.  He was the planner, the legal advisor, the controller, the get away car driver, and he directed who would have access to the girls throughout their months in hiding.  He would also visit them often according to their caretakers during the period they were missing.  A woman in San Jose who cared for the girls from September 18, 2002 when they were brought to her home by Kathy Bettencourt until Bettencourt picked them up at about 0100 hours on November 4, 2002 stated, "All of her contact about the children was with Peterson."

Why are the courts in Contra Costa County protecting this man by allowing him to act out in court and then rewarding him by continually delaying his trial in the Nunez case?  What else has Richard Harry Peterson been up to that the courts would bend over backward to protect him?

Could it have something to do with what was found in his home when Inspector Mark Ernst and Sergeant Crosthwait when they searched it on Tuesday, October 15, 2002.  The following paragraph comes directly out of Ernst's October 23, 2002 report:

During the search of Peterson's home we located several photos of a small boy bound with gray duct tape.  I asked Peterson about these photo's and he said they were not my concern.  I told him that they were and that I needed to know who the boy was and the story behind the pictures.  He told me the pictures were another example of a child abuse case that the District Attorney's Office refused to file charges on.  I asked the name of the child and he refused to tell me.  He did say that the incident occurred in Antioch approximately 1 to 1 1/2 years.  According to Peterson the case was brought to our office and we declined to prosecute.

Could it be that, as Mark Ernst concludes, "The investigation continues."  Are there many skeletons in Richard Peterson's closet and could rattling those bones point right back at the district attorney's office?

Virginia McCullough © 7-3-03

THE KELLI NUNEZ STORY:  Click.  [Part 9]  Click. [Part 8] CLICK. [Part 7] CLICK. [Part 6] CLICK. [Part 5] CLICK. [Part 4]
CLICK.  [Part 3] CLICK.  [Part 2] CLICK  [Part 1]