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Prosecution: Computers Map Out Petrick's Plan To Kill Wife

Posted November 14, 2005
Updated December 10, 2006

— A forensic computer investigator testified Tuesday in the Robert Petrick murder trial about Web sites found on the computers seized from the defendant's home that prosecutors claim map how Petrick planned to kill his wife and get rid of her body.

Forensic computer investigator Ryan Johnson, with the Durham Police Department, told jurors about a Web site that had been saved as a bookmark on a computer less than two months before Janine Sutphen disappeared.

"It reads '22 Ways to Kill a Man With Your Bare Hands,'" Johnson said.

The prosecution is arguing that Petrick strangled Sutphen and Garrell hopes to convince jurors it was a planned killing.

Garrell also questioned Johnson about other evidence found on the computers, including a Google search for the words "neck," "snap" and "break."

In January 2003, investigators searched the couple's home for days and seized evidence that included nearly a dozen computers. Then, in May, Sutphen's body was found floating in Falls Lake.

The prosecution Monday pointed to extensive research done on those computers four days before Petrick reported Sutphen missing. They told jurors that investigators found at least 10 Web sites about the water levels and currents at Falls Lake.

Johnson also testified about finding a link to another Web site called Bloodfest 666 on Petrick's computer.

In cross examination, Petrick, who is representing himself during his trial, reminded jurors that his wife had martial arts training and suggested she could have been the one looking at some of those Web sites.

Petrick also got the computer expert to admit that although the sites and searches were found on Petrick's computers, they cannot specifically say who was on the computer at the time.

Jurors also heard testimony about a stun gun that Petrick ordered off the Internet just months before his wife disappeared.

Outside the presence of the jury, Assistant District Attorney Mitch Garrell told Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson that a witness would testify that Petrick used the Taser gun on Sutphen.

Jurors are expected to hear testimony Tuesday from an Atlanta woman whom Petrick was seeing during his marriage to Sutphen and with whom he went through pre-marital counseling and had already set a wedding date. A priest who counseled the two is also expected to testify.

Petrick is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for fraud that investigators said is related to Sutphen's death and disappearance. In July, he pleaded no contest to charges of creating a fake check for $48,000 on his computer.

Prosecutors contend that Petrick had wiped out Sutphen's bank account and was trying to cover it up when she found out about it. They say financial problems and marital problems were Petrick's motive for killing his wife.

The prosecution is expected to rest its case by Wednesday.

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