Victims of the State

Wise County, VA

Merry Pease

Nov 18, 1993 (Exeter)

Merry Pease was convicted of murdering her husband, Dennis Pease. Merry maintains her husband shot her, after which he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. Merry was prosecuted on the theory that she shot her husband, and then shot herself to cover-up her crime. The case prosecutor withheld evidence at trial such as a medical examiner's report that ruled her husband's death a suicide. Merry's conviction has been overturned twice, but the Virginia Supreme Court reinstated her second conviction. Merry was paroled in 2006.  (Bristol Herald Courier) (American Justice)  [12/05]

Wayne County, MI 

Walter A. Pecho

June 9, 1954 (Detroit)

“Walter A. Pecho [an Oldsmobile plant worker] was wrongly accused and convicted of murdering his wife [Eleanor] after he called police to report that she had committed suicide by shooting herself with a shotgun. He was convicted on the testimony of the prosecution's pathologist erroneous conclusion that Pecho's wife didn't commit suicide. In 1950 he was pardoned by Michigan [Governor] Mennen Williams and freed after 6 years imprisonment when his wife's ring fingerprint was found on the trigger guard of the shotgun.” – FJDB  (Time)

 Polk County, FL

Anthony Ray Peek

May 22, 1977

Anthony Ray Peek was convicted of raping and murdering Erna Carlson, a 65-year-old nurse, in her Winter Haven home. He was sentenced to death. The prosecution presented evidence that Peek's fingerprints were on the victim's car, and his hair, semen, and blood were generally consistent with the evidence found at the crime scene. Peek admitted ransacking the glove compartment of the victim's car after it was abandoned, but denied any knowledge of, or involvement in, the crimes committed upon the victim. It was later shown that the prosecution's expert witness had lied about test results and that the hair found at the scene did not match Peek's hair. Upon a second retrial, Peek was acquitted of all charges and released in 1987.  (FLCC)  [7/05]

Shannon County, SD 

Leonard Peltier

June 26, 1975 (Oglala)

(Federal Case)  In Feb. 1973, 200 American Indian Movement (AIM) activists launched a 72-day occupation of Wounded Knee, SD (Site of an 1890 American Indian massacre) to protest living conditions at the Pine Ridge reservation. During the next three years, the FBI carried out intensive local surveillance, as well as the repeated arrests, harassment, and bad-faith legal proceedings against AIM leaders and supporters. In 1975, two FBI agents entered the reservation and with tensions being high managed to provoke a firefight between themselves and local Indians. Both FBI agents as well as Indians were killed. To avenge the death of the two agents, the government issued arrest warrants against four men, including Leonard Peltier. It dropped charges against one and tried two, but during the trial a key prosecution witness admitted that he had been threatened by the FBI and as a result had changed his testimony upon the agents' instructions, so as to support the government's position. The two defendants were acquitted.

Peltier was in Canada and to get him extradited the government submitted an affidavit from a mentally unstable woman who claimed to have been Peltier's girlfriend, and to have been present during the shootout, and to have witnessed the murders. In fact, she did not know Peltier, nor was she present at the time of the shooting. She later confessed she had given the false statement after being pressured and terrorized by FBI agents. At Peltier's trial, the government withheld thousands of documents. It presented coerced witnesses; though none placed Peltier at the murder scene before the murders occurred or claimed Peltier shot the two agents. Peltier was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences.

Peltier's case is detailed in In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, a 1983 bestseller, and in Incident at Oglala, a documentary produced by Robert Redford.  ( (AJ) (Famous Trials)  [6/05]

Columbia County, OR

Arthur Pender

Sept 3, 1911

John Arthur Pender was convicted of the murders of Mrs. Daisy Wehrman and her four-year-old son, Harold. The murders happened at a rural hamlet known as Schnitzerville, which was five or six miles west of Scappoose, OR. Suspicion may have been placed on Pender by a neighbor, G. H. Sierkes, who had disputes with Pender and whose wife had reported the murders. Evidence indicated the Sierkes family had a good idea who the actual culprit was. The jury at Pender's first trial could not agree on a verdict, but he was convicted at his second trial. The evidence against him consisted of speculation about how he could have committed the murders. Pender was initially sentenced to death.

The Sierkes had a son, John G. H. Sierkes, age 20 at the time of the murders, who was a mental defective with homicidal tendencies. He had made attempts to kill his father and different members of his family when he was thwarted or angry. John Sierkes later confessed to the murders, then repudiated his confession after his family threatened to disown him. He then reconfessed and there is much evidence to indicate that he did, in fact, commit the murders. Oregon Governor Olcott pardoned Pender in 1920.  (Why Some Men Kill or Murder Mysteries Revealed) (MOJ) (Photos)  [8/09]

 Cook County, IL

Marlon Pendleton

Oct 3, 1992

Marlon Pendleton was convicted of raping and robbing a woman who was abducted as she walked to work near 74th St. and Maryland Ave. The victim estimated her attacker weighed 170 lbs., about 15 lbs. less than herself and said that if he had not been armed, “I'd kick his butt.” Pendleton weighed 135 lbs., but the victim identified him in a suggestive lineup. She also identified him in court, saying, “I looked him in his face and ... at that point his face was etched in my mind.” Following his conviction, Pendleton demanded that DNA tests be performed on the evidence, but Chicago police crime lab analyst Pamela Fish said that there was insufficient evidence to be tested, according to her report. Brian Wraxall, the expert who eventually conducted a test in 2006, said that he believes that there was enough material at the time. The test exonerated Pendleton, and shortly thereafter the state's attorney's office began reviewing his case.  (Chicago Tribune) (IP)  [12/06]

 Australia (SA)

Michael Penney

Oct 30, 1995

Michael Penney was convicted of the attempted murder of his wife. Penney allegedly set fire to the trunk of his wife's car right before she drove away.  (NetK)

Carlos Pereiras - See Walsham Three

U.S. Federal Case (NY) 

Duarnis Perez

Convicted 2000

Duarnis Perez became a U.S. citizen in 1988. He was later convicted of a drug related offense and sentenced to prison. On his release in 1994 he was deported to the Dominican Republic. In 2000, he was arrested in the U.S. for illegally entering the country following his deportation. He was convicted and served a three and a half year sentence. On his release in 2004 the Immigration Service again attempted to deport him. Perez contested the deportation and won. A federal judge overturned his illegal entry conviction in 2006.  (FJDB)  [10/07]

Quiante Perrin - See Lex Street Innocents

 Australia (SA)

Emily Perry

1978, 1979

Emily Perry was convicted of two counts of attempting to murder her third husband Ken Perry. She allegedly tried to poison him in 1978 and again in 1979. Emily's conviction was based in part on three suspicious deaths of people she was close to that occurred in 1961, 1962, and 1970. She was never charged in these deaths.  (NetK)

Oakland County, MI 

James Perry

Oct 2005 (Oak Park)

James Perry, a kindergarten teacher at Key Elementary School in Oak Park, was convicted of sexually assaulting two boys, ages 4 and 5 based on the boys' testimony. The complaint began when the mother of the 5-year-old complained her son had been “tea-bagged” – slang for oral sex. She also said her son had been the victim of a similar assault in Chicago. Under questioning, the 5-year-old identified Perry and said he was only fondled, but said another boy, the 4-year-old, had been “tea-bagged.” The 4-year-old initially denied being assaulted.

At trial, the boys claimed to have been pulled from a lunch line and assaulted in an empty Special Education classroom during lunchtime. However, post-conviction interviews with school personnel indicate that the classroom always contained students who do not go out for lunch, and at least one teacher to watch over them.

Because of the discrepancies, which were reported in the Detroit Free Press, Perry's conviction was overturned and he was retried in Mar. 2008. The trial resulted in a mistrial with 11 jurors favoring acquittal and one juror holding out for a conviction. Charges against Perry were dropped in Aug. 2008.  (DFP 2008)  [3/07]


Perry Family

Aug 16, 1660

William Harrison, the manager of a wealthy estate, went out to collect rent money from tenants. When he did not return at his usual time, his servant, John Perry, was sent to look for him. Harrison's hat and comb were found and had been slashed. Harrison's collar band was also found with bloodstains. Harrison was presumed murdered and searches were made for his body, but it was never found.

For unknown reasons, John Perry confessed to the murder of Harrison and implicated his brother and mother. Perry later retracted his confession and his brother and mother professed their innocence, but all were convicted of the murder and hanged. Two years after the executions, Harrison turned up alive. He told a story of having been kidnapped and held as a slave in Turkey.  (CWP) (CW) (FJDB)  [12/06]

Los Angeles County, CA

Charles F. Persico

May 29, 1980

Charles F. Persico was charged with the murder of Ann Pontrelli Smith, 41. Smith was shot to death at the beauty shop that she owned in Highland Park. LAPD detectives Neil Westbrook and Richard Crowe zeroed in on Persico after receiving an anonymous tip that he lived in the area and resembled a composite drawing of the murder suspect. Two women who had been in the beauty shop – Smith's mother and a customer – identified him as the gunman. Rather than face trial for murder, Persico pled guilty to manslaughter. Persico served four years in prison and was paroled in 1984. A year after his got out of prison, Persico was ushered into a meeting at the district attorney's office, secretly exonerated and released from parole. Persico did not know how or why he was exonerated. LAPD Officer William E. Leasure was later charged with conspiring with the victim's husband, Arthur Gayle Smith, to murder her. In 1992, Persico was awarded $4.8 million dollars in a lawsuit against detectives Westbrook and Crowe.  (Archives)  [5/08]

Maricopa County, AZ

George Peterson

Oct 18, 1991

During a 16-hour interrogation, Maricopa County sheriffs extracted a confession from George Peterson to the murder of 50-year-old Alice Marie Cameron. Fourteen months later, one of the one of the perpetrators of the Buddhist Temple massacre admitted that he had killed Cameron shortly before being arrested for the Temple murders.  [9/05]

Burlington County, NJ 

Larry Peterson

Aug 24, 1987

Larry Peterson was convicted of raping and murdering Jacqueline Harrison, 25, near a Pemberton Township soybean field. At trial four witnesses testified that he confessed to the murder. An expert testified at his trial that hairs found at the crime scene resembled Peterson's. Peterson, however, had an alibi. In addition, one witness testified that he confessed on his way to work, but work records indicated that he did not work on the day in question. In 2005, DNA tests cleared Peterson and implicated an unknown assailant. Peterson's conviction was vacated in May 2006.  (Trenton Star-Ledger) (IP)  [9/05]

Stanislaus County, CA

Scott Peterson

Dec 24, 2002 (Modesto)

Scott Peterson was sentenced to death for the murders of his pregnant wife, Laci, and his unborn son, Connor. The prosecution argued that Scott killed Laci late on Dec. 23, 2002 or early on the morning of Dec. 24. A neighbor saw Scott in the bed of his truck, which was backed in his driveway, around 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 24. It was alleged that he was loading Laci's body into it. Cell phone records establish that he left his Modesto residence at 523 Covena Ave. around 10:08 a.m. to go to a warehouse at 1027 N. Emerald Ave., where his boat was stored. The warehouse is 9 minutes away.
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New York County, NY

Pezzulich & Sgelirrach

Mar 22, 1919

Frank Pezzulich and Frank Sgelirrach were convicted of armed robbery charges. On Mar. 22, 1919, seven pistol-wielding masked men robbed a rooming house at 36 Beach St. occupied by nine Croatians. The victims were robbed of $1728, $85, $13, and $15. One victim, Mike Zic, followed a group of robbers that went towards Varick St. He caught one of the robbers, Frank Strolich, and held him for police. Strolich denied his participation in the robbery and gave his address as 408 W. 24th St. A detective went to the address, a rooming house, along with Frank Zic, the heaviest loser in the robbery. There they met two Austrians, Frank Pezzulich and Frank Sgelirrach. Zic identified both as robbers. During the robbery two robbers' masks had allegedly slipped, allowing them to be identified. Both Austrians admitted knowing Strolich, but denied being robbers.
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Queens County, NY

Paul Pfeffer

Aug 23, 1953

Paul A. Pfeffer was convicted of murdering 22-year-old seaman Edward S. Bates. Bates was found beaten to death in his car which was parked in a Rockaway Beach waterfront lot. Bates initially confessed to the crime, but then repudiated it, saying his confession was the product of coercion. Following Pfeffer's conviction, another man, John Francis Roche, confessed to the Bates murder as well as to a number of other killings. Pfeffer was granted a retrial after passing a series of lie-detector tests. He was subsequently indicted for manslaughter in the killing of Bates, but the indictment was dismissed prior to trial.  (MOJ)  [7/09]

 Ontario, Canada

Romeo Phillion

Aug 9, 1967 (Ottawa)

Romeo Phillion was convicted of the murder of Leopold Roy. Roy, 48, was stabbed to death on Aug. 9, 1967 at the Churchill Court Apartments located at 275 Friel St. in Ottawa. Roy worked for the Ottawa Fire Department and was also superintendent of the apartments. The killer had some claim to have acted in self-defence as Roy had assaulted him merely because his behavior was suspicious.
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Elizabeth City County, VA 

Richard Phillips

Jan 1900 (Phoebus)

Richard Phillips, a negro prizefighter, was indicted along Grant Watts, another negro, for the shooting murder of Joseph New, a white artilleryman. Both Phillips and Watts contended the other had fired the fatal shot. Phillips was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death. Watts was subsequently acquitted of the murder. In 1901 a special jury found that Phillips was insane, consequently he was transferred to a mental asylum and his execution was postponed pending his recovery. Following Phillips' transfer, his attorney learned that the fatal shot could not have been fired from Phillips' weapon and that Watts was indeed the murderer. However, the attorney believed that Phillips was hopelessly insane and made no effort to correct the record. In 1930, the attorney, then a state attorney, was contacted by Phillips' sister. The attorney then informed the state governor of the case facts. A month later the governor released Phillips from his asylum after an examination found he had no traces of insanity. (Afro American) (Daily Star) (MOJ)  [1/10]  (Note: Elizabeth City County merged with the City of Hampton in 1952.)

 Dallas County, TX

Steven Phillips

May 14, 1982

Steven Charles Phillips was convicted of raping a woman and sexually assaulting two others during a burglary. The assailant's face was partially covered during the attacks. However, the rape victim identified Phillips and spoke at length about her assailant's “striking blue eyes.” Other women also told authorities that they remembered the assailant's blue eyes. However, Phillips' eyes are green. Phillips also pleaded guilty to eight additional charges for sex crimes that police said were committed by the same man who committed the rape. A defense attorney said that after being convicted of the initial charges, Phillips gave up and pleaded to the additional charges.

In 2007, DNA evidence has cleared him of the charges for which he was tried, making him the 14th person in Dallas County to be exonerated by DNA testing. A court will have to decide if the same evidence also clears him of the other charges that he pleaded to.  (DMN) (IP)  [10/07]

Allegheny County, PA

Anthony Piano

Mar 1937 (Pittsburgh)

Anthony Piano was convicted of participating in the robbery of a retired mailman named George Fleet. Piano was convicted after being identified by Fleet. Months later Fleet identified another man, Charles Pampana, as the assailant he thought was Piano. Piano was released from prison and exonerated after serving 7 months of imprisonment.  (Not Guilty)  [7/09]

Brown County, WI 

Mike Piaskowski

Nov 21, 1992

Mike Piaskowski was convicted in 1995 of participating with five other men in the 1992 beating murder of Tom Monfils. Monfils disappeared on the job at a Green Bay paper mill. His mangled body was found the next day at the bottom of a two-story vat of wood pulp with a fifty pound weight tied to his neck. A District Court Judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support Piaskowski's conviction, and on July 10, 2001, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision saying, “The record is devoid of any direct evidence that Piaskowski participated in the beating of Monfils, and the available circumstantial evidence at most casts suspicion on him. This is a far cry from guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” A 2009 book was written about the case entitled The Monfils Conspiracy. This book alleges that the other five defendants in the case were also wrongly convicted.  (Piaskowski v. Bett)  [10/05]

 Harris County, TX

Anthony Pierce

Aug 4, 1977

Anthony Leroy Pierce (aka Yatombi Ikei) was sentenced to death for the murder of Fred Johnson during a robbery of a Church's Fried Chicken restaurant in Houston.  (IIPPI)

Oklahoma County, OK

Jeffrey Todd Pierce

May 8, 1985

Jeffrey Todd Pierce was convicted of rape and robbery. Pierce was part of a landscaping crew that had been working around the victim's apartment complex. The initial description of the perpetrator did not match Pierce and, when the victim was asked if he was the perpetrator she replied, “I don't think so.” Months later, police arrested Pierce and placed his picture in a photo lineup wearing a tan shirt, which was an item in the victim's initial description. The victim identified him from this lineup. At trial the victim told jurors, “I will never forget his face.”

Pierce's innocence was proven during the investigation of Joyce Gilchrist, a former scientist at the Oklahoma City Police Laboratory. Gilchrist was investigated for giving false testimony and for presenting shoddy forensic work. Pierce's case was one of over a thousand involving Gilchrist's testimony. Gilchrist claimed that hairs from the victim's apartment, the scene of the rape, matched Pierce's hair. These findings were disputed in 2001 by the FBI's laboratory. DNA testing exonerated Pierce and provided a preliminary match to another man. Pierce served 15 years of a 65-year sentence.  (IP)  [6/05]

Sumter County, SC 

William Pierce

Dec 1970

William “Junior” Pierce was convicted of raping and murdering Margaret “Peg” Cuttino, 13, the daughter of a state senator. Cuttino was reported missing on Dec. 18 and her body was found on Dec. 30. Pierce, who had an IQ that “barely broke 70” and who was a known serial confessor, confessed to this murder apparently after being tortured by Sheriff “Red” Carter. A document supports Pierce's contention that his confession was coerced by physical abuse consisting of burns, bruises, and cuts to his “privates.”

In order to convict Pierce the prosecution theorized that Cuttino was murdered on Dec. 18, but when her body was found, the sperm evidence was not much degraded and this evidence implied that she was not killed before Dec. 25. Public disagreement with the verdict arose starting with an uncalled witness who allegedly saw Cuttino on the afternoon of Dec. 19. The county coroner joined the opposition. Because of new evidence that arose following the conviction, it is highly likely that Pierce would be acquitted if he could get a retrial, but getting a retrial because of new evidence is very difficult under South Carolina law. New technology raised the possibility of DNA testing, but the authorities contend Hurricane Hugo destroyed the biological evidence in 1989.

Pierce is not a glamorous defendant, having been convicted, after confessing, of three murders in Georgia, perhaps because of techniques similar to those used by Sheriff Carter. Public opposition to the verdict seems surprising since an acquittal would do little to free Pierce, but physical evidence that Cuttino was killed much later than Dec. 18 seems compelling and such a finding would exonerate Pierce.  (CrimeLibrary)  [9/05]


Pinfold & MacKenney

Nov 1974

Terry Pinfold and Harry MacKenney were convicted of murder based on the testimony of a sole witness. This witness testified the pair murdered a man, but this man was later known to be alive three years after his alleged slaying.
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Cuyahoga County, OH

Brian Piszczek

July 29, 1990

Brian Piszczek was convicted of rape, felonious assault, and burglary after being identified by the victim from a photo lineup. He had once been to the victim's house with a mutual friend. DNA tests exonerated Piszczek in 1994.  (IP) (CBJ)  [12/05]

 New Brunswick, Canada

George Pitt

Oct 2, 1993 (St. John)

George Pitt was convicted in 1994 of the rape and murder of his six-year-old stepdaughter, Samantha Dawn Toole. Samantha was found dead behind her home at the edge of the Saint John River. The key evidence against Pitt was that he was washing a comforter at four in the morning. Biological evidence that was not tested before trial has since been tested and such tests clear Pitt. Pitt is still imprisoned as of 2006, serving a life term.  (Ottawa Citizen) (R. v. Pitt)  [9/06]

Freddie Pitts - See Lee and Pitts

Ricky & Marcella Pitts - See Bakersfield Seven