Local News

Durham Police: Petrick Seemed Nervous About Wife's Disappearance

Posted November 9, 2005
Updated December 10, 2006

— Nearly a dozen Durham police officers testified Tuesday that they felt Robert Petrick's behavior was strange the day he reported his wife missing.

In Day 2 of testimony, several officers said Petrick seemed unusually nervous when he called police. One officer said he remembered that Petrick had also given more details about his wife's disappearance than most people do in that type of situation.

Petrick reported Sutphen, 57, a cellist with the Durham Symphony, missing on Jan. 22, 2003 after she failed to show up for a rehearsal. Police later found her car, along with her keys and cello, inside a downtown Durham parking garage across the street from where rehearsal had been held.

Police later charged Petrick when two fishermen found Sutphen's body floating in Raleigh's Falls Lake, where she Was wrapped in a tarp and tied in duct tape.

By late Tuesday afternoon, the prosecution used one of Sutphen's sons and a neighbor to back up those police claims.

"Dec. 22, 2002 was the last time that I saw my mother alive," said Janine Sutphen's 25-year-old son Christopher Sutphen.

Christopher Sutphen, who lives in Texas, said he was close to his mother and that they sent e-mail to each other everyday. In early 2003, Sutphen said he sensed something was wrong when he did not hear from his mother for weeks.

"Every time I wanted to talk to my mom, (Petrick) said she was either too sick to come to the phone or that she was asleep -- or in the later stages, he said she was too depressed to get out of bed," Sutphen said.

Neighbor Eleanor Hennessy testified that she also got some of the same type of answers from Petrick about his wife.

"Every time I had called, (Janine) was in the shower or she was sick, or something, and I hadn't got to speak to her for a couple of weeks," Hennessy said.

Hennessy then told jurors that the marriage between Petrick and Sutphen had been strained in the months leading up to Sutphen's disappearance, citing one occurrence when Petrick allegedly attacked his wife while she was exercising on a trampoline.

"She was jumping on the trampoline and Rob was in his office," Hennessy said. "And she said it was unprovoked -- he just came over and tackled her and she felt that he was trying to crush her. She said that if she had not been able to hold her body in a certain way, the air would have been crushed out of her."

Christopher Sutphen also testified that from the moment he found out about his mother's disappearance that he and his other brothers suspected that Petrick may have had something to do with it.

Another of Sutphen's sons is expected to testify Wednesday.
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