For the court attorney in Guadeloupe, the burden of defending Hans Peterson is heavy and somewhat tricky. The first trips to the visiting room in the Basse-Terre jail look more like short progressive taming sessions. The murderer is not talkative. He is autistic, and his distinctive features are: Lack of communication with people. Reasoning intelligence and good writing qualities, including self-analysis.
A champion of « on line » poker on the Internet, the year the crime was committed, he has 130,000 dollars in his account. Therefore he did not kill for money. “A rational gambler typically knows the expected payoff and loss, as well as the probabilities of winning and losing”, he says.
From now on, his brain, locked into a prison cell, is going to remain shut away inside the prison, like a snail inside its shell. A young French-American borderline individual, coming to take refuge on a French island to avoid the risk of a lethal injection, his trial will probably take place within 2 years. Who is he and why did he kill?
Hans Peterson’s four aces, his “game of bluff” could be Asperger’s syndrome. It is normal to think of the film Rain Man (1988), inspired by Kim Peek’s personality. The famous Canadian piano player Glenn Gould was autistic. Autistic persons have an enormous obsessive will power, but they are not murderers.
Hans Peterson did not return to Dr. Cornbleet’s office with the objective of killing him, he only wanted to “give him a lesson”, to take revenge, as witnessed by Charly Salerno, his flat-mate in New York.
His main goal – four years after the first consultation – was not (he said) the death of his executioner, only mutilation… Of course, for all his patients David Cornbleet is everything but an executioner. But Hans is locked within the delirium of his paranoid delusion, controlled by the injustice he feels as a victim.
The diabolical murderer chose as a target and subject of his revenge the man who – so he believes – destroyed his life in April 2002, having made him sexually flat, impotent, no libido: Satan lives in him!
An eye for an eye, It is now up to the families to handle the tragedy…
To carry out his demented mutilation operation, he buys a small blowtorch with gas cartridges, special pliers to “slash the dermatologist with”, a hacksaw, some rope, plus his knife… before the fateful appointment of 24 October 2006. Faced with Dr. Cornbleet, he uses as an excuse a blemish on his buttock and the consultation takes place normally.
Then, as he was about to leave empty-handed, he pretends to the dermatologist that he also has a blemish on his leg to show him. And then the cold-blooded attack begins, releasing a drive to kill pent up since April 2002.
His diabolical delirium (a Dibbuk, as Dr. David Cornbleet’s Ashkenazi ancestors used to say) materialized in the persecution feeling which has been haunting him, eating at him inside his body and soul for the past four years. But in a broken up family context, he does not talk about it. Therefore there is no outside critical mind that could go against the negative deviance of his intimate thoughts. No meeting, no advice, no feed-back from his father, his mother or his sister Stephanie.
He feels perfectly normal and totally logical to punish his persecutor by slashing at his hands and feet so that he may no longer carry out his profession. A fiendish plan, including cauterizing the wounds with the blowtorch!
Under the threat of torture, the physician defended himself, hitting the aggressor with the knife. Then he becomes relentless, with no visible emotion, until he finally finishes him off with the thrust of the knife in the heart of his executioner having become an expiatory victim until his last breath. Leaving the office with warm blood stains, he told someone there to call for an ambulance quickly. On exiting the building, he conceals his face in front of the video cameras.
Leaving the April 2002 consultation (he was 24 years old) the devastating effect of 2 tablets of 80 mg of Accutane violently released the storm inside his brain! A chemical cocktail kneading the nervous cells of the hormonal brain of a young adult previously treated by a psychiatrist. The effects were scrupulously recorded by Hans Peterson himself, on 16 June 2002.
In late April, I went to see a dermatologist for my very mild, but persistent acne. He was an unethical old man who suggested accutane. He said that it was a very safe and popular drug with no serious side effects. I was never given a blood test. He never showed me the consent forms that he is required by law to make me sign. I was started on 80 mg per day. (I weigh around 190) He said that I could take the entire day’s dose at once.
When I picked up my prescription, the pharmacist conveniently forgot to give me the FDA required medication guide. When I picked up the medication, I was under the impression that accutane was an extremely safe drug.
I took it for 2 days. Then I got a bad headache and read about the side effects. I stopped right away. I thought that I was safe having only taken a few pills. However, about 5 days later, I got really depressed and couldn’t sleep.
My ears started to ring around this time, and a lot of hair around my hairline began to fall out. (The roots of these follicles were black, normally they’re white.) My appetite went away around this time as well.
A couple of days after this, my libido vanished and I lost virtually all sexual sensation. Since then, I have gotten an audiogram, on the OAE section of the audiogram it was discovered that my cochlear hair follicles are unresponsive at high frequencies. Apparently, they never grow back. This would commonly result in tinnitus.
It has been over a month and a half since my very brief experience with accutane and most of these effects have not improved at all. (I sleep a little better as I am starting to get used to the ear ringing, but that is about it.) Am I permanently affected from taking an acne medicine for 2 days ?
Hans goes first to his father’s, an osteopath, in Oregon. For seven weeks he remained in a state of collapse, without speaking, with incessant ringing in his ears. A silent agony, to be sure. A disturbing psycho-chemical process, it is obvious.
A broken fate taking other people in his downward fall, this is tragedy. He loves his father, but does not communicate with him. Hans & Thomas Peterson are not at all like Jonathan & David Cornbleet, no picture together, one hand resting on the shoulder. Then he remained four months with his mother, near Roseburg, his native town, before going on vacation together in France, in St Lo with his mother’s family.
Roseburg/ Rosebud ( Citizen Kane). Childhood secrets, the synopsis of a lifetime. His autistic behaviour is not inherited. This is “the house where I grew up in the middle of nowhere”, beyond a “dead-end road”. This is what he says as introduction to the incredible document of self-analysis of 4 February 2007 on Google.
A true exhibit that opens an inescapable explanatory trail for anyone wondering about the murderer’s mental health. I am not excusing the crime; I am trying to understand why he violated the major commandment of the Tablets of the Law: Thou shall not kill!
In Chicago, Jonathan Cornbleet did everything to unmask his father’s murderer, and then try to obtain his extradition. A first year of mourning without letting up, a daily fight among the unavoidable gears of politics and the medias, to keep his father’s image alive and fulfil the solemn promise he made at his grave site, when he was being buried.
But he does not know that in the country of eaters of onion soup, frogs and snails, and abolition of the death penalty, a murder trial is not seen live on TV. Video monitoring in the hallway of the building where the crime was committed in Chicago: yes. But the eye of a camera in a French court: no. A frustration impossible to accept, hurting the victims uselessly.
In this French-American case, for want of an extradition, it would be logical if the future trial could be filmed to be seen on TV in Chicago, the place of the crime. Accutane and Roche Laboratory are being charged and the FDA is involved.
On a TV channel video TV Chicago , Dr. Thomas Peterson (not a very communicative person) spoke out after his son’s murderous act: he accuses Accutane, talks about psychosis and prepares to go to Guadeloupe to visit him, escorted by a TV channel. Like everybody (except perhaps his ex-wife) he found out about the crime only after the confession on the island of St Martin.
He was not able to see – or guess – his son’s smile, when the policemen, after six hours of a quiet confession, locked the double steel bracelet on his wrists.
Gilbert BLUM alias JABIRU ©
French Travel Writer Photographer