HILLSBORO, Oregon – A Washington County man accused of fatally stabbing his former girlfriend while on temporary release from a halfway house now faces a possible death penalty.
Eric Christopher Petersen previously pleaded not guilty to murder for the August 28 killing of 24-year-old Aimee Zdrantan, mother of their 2-year-old daughter.
Zdrantan and Petersen had a turbulent relationship that included allegations of prior abuse, prompting Zdrantan to seek a restraining order against Petersen. Court documents also indicate that Petersen is accused of unauthorized departure, violating a restraining order and a parole violation, court records show. He is scheduled to appear in Washington County Circuit Court on Oct. 1.
On Aug. 29, 2014, Zdrantan's father discovered his daughter's body inside her unit at the Minter Bridge Square Apartments in Hillsboro. According to court records, her body was face down on the floor, with a butcher knife sticking out from her neck. She had been beaten before being stabbed, records say, while the couple's 2-year-old daughter was just inside another room.
Her father called police and named Petersen as the presumed killer. Two days later, police caught up with Petersen in Clark County and arrested him.
Police named Petersen a person of interest in the killing the following day and he was later arrested near La Center, Wash., on an outstanding Oregon warrant for unauthorized departure, authorities said. The warrant was issued after Petersen violated orders to return to the Washington County Community Corrections Facility in Hillsboro on Aug. 28.
A judge ordered Petersen to report to the Community Corrections Center. On on Aug. 28, he was allowed to leave the center from 9:45 a.m. to noon for a job search service in Hillsboro. He called supervisors just before noon and told them he went to Clackamas Town Center without permission, and never returned to the Hillsboro facility when told to do so.
Hillsboro police Lt. Mike Rouches said Thursday that investigators say Zdrantan was killed on Aug. 28 between noon and 4 p.m.
Petersen was booked into the Washington County jail earlier Thursday after being extradited from Clark County Jail.
A Hillsboro police detective found Petersen at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center soon after he was arrested by Clark County deputies near La Center, Wash. Petersen was being treated for a broken hand and later told the detective to make sure "he spends the rest of his life in prison," the affidavit said.
Petersen told police that he and Zdrantan got into an argument at the apartment, that he broke his hand when he punched Zdrantan in the face then smashed a coffee cup over Zdrantan's head. Court documents say he then took a plaque off the wall and used it to hit her in the head.
Petersen said he put a shirt in Zdrantan's face to silence her, then put a plastic bag over her head. He said he then put their crying daughter in the bedroom and then returned to Zdrantan, who was still conscious and moaning. She asked for help and asked Petersen why he was attacking her as he tried putting another shirt in her face to muffle what she was saying, the affidavit said.
According to the court document, Petersen got a large butcher knife, told Zdrantan to pray and stabbed her in the neck.
The Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office said Zdrantan died in the apartment and that the knife had cut part of Zdrantan's spinal cord.
Zdrantan's neighbor told police that Petersen came to her apartment between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Aug. 28 with the toddler and asked the neighbor to watch the girl until Zdrantan came back from work, the affidavit said. He claimed there had been a family emergency.
The child was picked up by Zdrantan's father the next day and he later discovered his daughter in the apartment.
At the time of the killing, he was serving 60 days in a minimum-security transitional facility in Hillsboro and had a day pass to go to a job search service.