Local News

Petrick, Prosecutors Give Opening Statements After Slow Start

Posted November 7, 2005

— During opening statements in his own murder trial, Robert Petrick said Monday afternon that he did not kill his wife and that he had been waiting nearly three years to separate fact from fiction in the case.

"When you hear all the evidence, you're probably going to make a judgment about me, that I'm not the kind of person you'd want to bring home for dinner," Petrick, who is serving as his own counsel, told jurors. "I think in the end, you'll hear all the evidence and you'll have to find me not guilty."

But prosecutors in the case argued that Petrick killed his wife, Durham Symphony cellist Janine Sutphen, and dumped her body in Raleigh's Falls Lake. She was found tied up in chains, wrapped in blankets and bound with duct tape in May 2003, four months after Petrick reported her missing.

Assistant District Attorney Mitch Garrell described Sutphen as one who loved life, who loved her husband and trusted him.

"And when she realized she could trust him no longer, she confronted him," Garrell said.

According to prosecutors, investigators also found evidence that Petrick was having both financial problems and an affair.

"A wedding date had been set; they had been to counseling with a priest," Garrell told the jury "That woman learned of Janine Sutphen's existence and her disappearance at the very same time."

Scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., opening statements were delayed until about 2:30 p.m. after much of the morning was spent haggling over questions and motions on which Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson had already ruled -- including one concerning evidence found by a cadaver dog that Petrick argued should not be brought to trial.

Afterward, Hudson suggested Petrick's legal inexperience was to blame for the confusion. In July, Petrick fired his attorney, Mark Edwards, who by law must be in the courtroom during the trial as a stand-by attorney.

Petrick is currently serving an 11-year sentence for fraud that investigators said was related to the first-degree murder charge. If convicted, Petrick could be sentenced to life in prison.

Testimony resumes Tuesday; the trial is expected to last two or three weeks.


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