SAN DIEGO - A biotech executive accused of wounding his estranged wife's brother and a former business partner in separate shootings in La Jolla last year must stand trial on attempted murder and other charges, a judge ruled Monday.
Hans Petersen, 49, faces up to 96 years to life in prison if convicted of the Sept. 18 shootings, said Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund.
Petersen's girlfriend, Jeanne Henry, testified during Monday's preliminary hearing that the defendant seemed "agitated" and "focused" as he worked on his computer about 12:30 a.m. the morning of the attacks.
Henry said she tried repeatedly to get Petersen to come to bed, but he said he had to finish an email.
"It was frustrating to me," the woman said.
Henry told defense attorney Marc Carlos that Petersen had been drinking and seemed very angry. She said the defendant never mentioned his estranged wife or former business partner.
Henry said Petersen finally came to bed about 1:30 a.m., but she woke up to find him gone.
At Petersen's arraignment last year, Maund said the defendant had two intended "targets."
About 3 that morning, Petersen fired his gun into the master bedroom of 53-year-old Steven Dowdy, a UCSD researcher and former business associate, Maund alleged.
Dowdy and his wife were sleeping when Petersen allegedly started firing.
On Monday, Dowdy testified he thought Petersen was going to kill his entire family. He told the court he was woken up in the middle of the night by the sounds of footsteps and soon realized he was being shot at.
Dowdy testified that he fought off the attacker by yelling, throwing picture frames at him and eventually lunging at him in order to protect his wife and kids, who were inside the home at the time.
During testimony, he realized that the attack was not a robbery and that someone was trying to "assassinate" him.
"But for a dresser-table, the husband would have died," Maund said, adding that four shots hit the dresser-table. "When the husband got out of bed, he was shot (in the lower back)."
About four hours later, Petersen allegedly broke into a home on Cottontail Lane and shot randomly until he found his second "intended target," 43-year-old Ronald Fletcher, the brother of Petersen's estranged wife, according to Maund. Fletcher was shot in the stomach but was able to disarm the defendant, Maund said.
Dramatic surveillance video shows the struggle between the men. (Watch the video here: http://bit.ly/1aY68Ma)
"I quickly thought of a million things. I was not going to reason with this person," said Fletcher.
He said he made a move to get the gun.
"When I grabbed the gun, he fired. He shot me in the stomach …Then I tackled him to the ground and fought with him," Fletcher said.
On the video, the men are seen coming back into frame. Fletcher has the gun, but it is jammed. He is visibly in pain while trying to fend off Petersen's attacks.
"Every time he got close to me I had to hit him to keep him back. He kept trying to attack me. He just wouldn't stop trying to attack me. "
In the video, Fletcher is seen dialing 911 on his cellphone. Petersen then intercepts, smashing it to bits.
"Mr. Petersen went over the counter to grab the phone and grabbed it and started to smash it on the side of the kitchen counter," he said.
Eventually, police are seen on video closing in with weapons drawn. Fletcher, who was losing blood and strength, is seen dropping the gun, finally safe.
An emergency room physician, Dr. Mike Nielsen, testified that he was driving home from work last Sept. 18 about 5 a.m. in the same La Jolla neighborhood when he noticed a person walking very quickly and "suspiciously" among some trees and bushes.
Nielsen said he turned his car's headlights toward the area and saw the person behind a tree.
As Nielsen rolled down the window to say something, the person – identified as Petersen – stepped out from behind the tree and pointed a gun at him, the witness said.
"I saw what looked like a gun to me in his right hand," Nielsen testified.
The physician said he hit the gas pedal, ducked and drove home. Nielsen said he tended to his crying year-old child and eventually called 911.
Police said the relationship between Petersen and Dowdy began to sour when Petersen lost his job and blamed Dowdy, and the suspect allegedly targeted Fletcher because of the role he played in his sister's separation from Petersen.
According to Petersen's online resume, he is CEO of Bays Four Corp., a genome data-analysis firm headquartered in La Jolla. However, Dowdy claims Bays Four is nothing more than a post office box on La Jolla Blvd. “It is a completely virtual (fantasy) company,” he wrote in an email to 10News. “There is no headquarters in La Jolla and no genetic analyses are being performed.”
Judge Leo Valentine Jr. ruled that enough evidence was presented for Petersen to stand trial on three counts of premeditated attempted murder and charges of shooting at an inhabited dwelling and first-degree burglary, along with a misdemeanor charge of displaying a weapon in a menacing manner.
A status conference was set for June 13 and trial for Sept. 15.
Petersen is currently in custody. Bail was set at $5 million.