Conflicting alibis lands murder suspect in jail

Sometime on Sept. 8, a Sunday, Shawn Peterson allegedly told his ex-girlfriend he was going to kill her, according to court documents. Three days later she and two of her adult children — one of whom Peterson fathered — were found dead.

On Sept. 12, after police named him a person of interest in the deaths of Christine George, 39, Leonard George, 18, and Trisa George, 20, Peterson met with detectives. They released him that afternoon.

On Wednesday evening, however, detectives asked him to return to police headquarters. He showed up and was booked with three counts of first-degree murder.

Alibis that Peterson gave investigators during their first meeting led them to conclude he was the gunman, Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said when he announced the arrest.

Court documents claim Peterson, 41, gave conflicting reports about events before the slayings and made statements that did not align with the chronology established by the investigation. Technology also seemed to help detectives poke holes in his story.

Christine George and her children were shot to death just after 11 p.m. Sept. 11 in the garage of their home in the 4400 block of Jeanne Marie Place in Gentilly.

Peterson is the father of Leonard George and the former boyfriend of Christine George, a New Orleans Police Department dispatcher. Peterson had been living at the Gentilly home with Christine George and her children until recently, when she booted him out for unknown reasons, though the couple had a history of disputes recorded in court documents.

Serpas said the slayings were domestic in nature.

Peterson told detectives that he and another person were at a hotel outside the city limits when the shooting happened and that one of the victims called his cellphone moments before the gunfire.

Peterson also said that his mother called him within an hour of the killings to tell him that his image had flashed across her TV screen identifying him as a person of interest. Police, however, did not alert media of their interest in Peterson until 4:47 a.m. Sept. 12, nearly five hours later than when he said his mother saw his picture.

Police obtained a search warrant for Christine George’s car and found her cellphone in the vehicle.

The call log showed Peterson called George three times minutes before she was shot. George did not answer any of the calls, according to court documents.

“This was in direct conflict with Mr. Peterson’s account that the victim called him moments prior to the murder,” homicide Detective Darrell Doucette wrote in his report.

Detectives found the woman whom Peterson said he was with when George and her children were killed, but she told them she last saw Peterson about two hours before the slayings.

She denied being with him at any hotels this month and said she had never been to the hotel where Peterson had claimed they were.

The manager of that hotel said neither Peterson nor the woman had ever rented a room there.

The woman said Peterson called her about 7:30 on the night of the shooting and asked for 9 mm bullets. The woman told him she had none and asked why he would need them, since he was not supposed to be in possession of a gun because he was on probation.

“Mr. Peterson did not give a response; he just hung up the phone,” Doucette wrote.

Peterson also told detectives that he was driving in New Orleans East, after leaving the hotel, when the slayings happened. But when Doucette examined Peterson’s cellphone records, they showed his phone made a call at 10:59 p.m. Sept. 11, making use of a cellphone tower located six-tenths of a mile from the death scene.

Detectives also found a surveillance camera near the death scene with footage that showed a man matching Peterson’s physical description running away “immediately” after the killings, according to court documents.

A witness who knows Peterson and was asked to watch the footage said he had no doubt who the figure was. “That’s Shawn, that’s Shawn,” the person said, according to court documents.

Peterson had been out on parole since April on a previous attempted-murder charge.

He was booked in July 1989 with attempted first-degree murder. That charge was dropped, but he pleaded guilty in September 1992 to conspiracy to commit second-degree murder and accepted a five-year sentence as part of a plea deal.

Freed by October 1994, he was again arrested and pleaded guilty in 1995 to attempted murder. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and was released on parole in January 2005.

In 2008 he was booked with five counts of aggravated assault and being a felon in possession of a firearm. While prosecutors dropped the assault charges, he was given a seven-year sentence on the gun charge.

Days before he was hauled in on that charge, he faced police two days in a row.

On June 28, 2008, officers responded to a complaint from his then-fianc ée that during an argument he knocked her to the floor and punched her in the face several times, according to an affidavit filed at Orleans Parish Municipal Court.

Police returned the next day. “The victim stated the subject threatened to kill her because she notified the police when he struck her days earlier,” the affidavit reads.

Peterson remained jailed Thursday without bond.