Greg Peterson, GOP activist charged in sex abuse cases, discovered dead in cabin

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 23 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

Lorie Hobbs, with the Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic, represented two of Peterson's alleged victims. She said one of them was scared when she learned Peterson had posted bail last week. She was shocked Tuesday when she received word of his death.

"Although she did say that her belief is he probably planned it before he left, that he knew what he was going to do when he got out," Hobbs said.

The criminal cases against Peterson will now be dropped. Hobbs said her clients are happy they at least were able to testify against the man they said attacked them, during a preliminary hearing in August.

"They did get to tell their story. They had some cross-examination at that point, so they got a hint of how difficult a trial might be. But now, they're not going to have to go through that process, which is really going to be a good thing for the victims," she said.

Hobbs said the Peterson case was particularly troubling.

"He picked his victims well. He picked people he was able to manipulate for whatever reason. He could just see, I don't know if weakness is the right word, but he could see cracks in people, and he could take advantage of those," she said.

Planning his suicide

Salt Lake County Jail spokeswoman Cammie Skogg said Peterson did not show signs of mental illness or risk for self-harm during intake screenings or prior to his release last week. But a longtime acquaintance of Peterson's said he first began contemplating suicide in 2011.

Scott Morris, who first met Peterson while both were serving LDS missions in Venezuela, said Peterson contacted him after he was arrested last year and was first accused of a sexual assault. Peterson asked him to help his mother coordinate his bail payment.

“He told me ... ‘If this ever happens again, I would rather die a free man than be kept like an animal in a cage,’” Morris said Tuesday.

He said he felt uneasy about Peterson’s words and thought, “I think he actually means what he’s saying.”  No charges followed that initial arrest in Wasatch County.

Morris said Peterson then adopted a new saying for when times were hard: “It’s better than jail.”

Morris said he is not convinced that Peterson's suicide is an admission of any guilt:

“I think the thought of the possibility that he could face that much time in jail probably weighed heavy on his mind. But it was not, ‘I’m guilty, I’m going to go to jail, I’m going to kill myself instead.'”

Hristo Belchev used to live and work with Peterson. In an email to the Deseret News Tuesday night, he wrote: "I am in shock. ... Most of all I feel for his family who does not deserve to be going through this. What a horrible turn of events. ... He should have never been let out of jail."

In 2004, Belchev filed a complaint with BYU while working for Peterson at Satcom as a satellite dish installer. Belchev, a Bulgarian native, claimed Peterson used threats, intimidation and manipulation against him.

Peterson did have multiple weapons inside his cabin. It was unknown Tuesday whether he had any weapons restrictions as a condition for his bail.

The cases

Peterson was charged with raping, kidnapping or assaulting women he met on LDS dating websites or at church functions. Several women claim he took them to that cabin and intimidated or threatened them.

A decision to uphold Peterson's $2 million bail was recently made by 3rd District Judge Katherine Bernards-Goodman after she noted additional information about Peterson revealed during his preliminary hearing that concerned her, including:

• Peterson told one woman he is accused of sexually assaulting that he "had connections to 'make a person disappear.'"

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