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Judge: No bail in cold case

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A man charged with murder in a 21-year-old case cannot have his bail reduced from $1 million cash-only, a judge ruled Friday.

Third District Judge William Barrett said his decision was influenced by the seriousness of the charge — first-degree felony murder — and the fact that the man in question has no ties to the community, other than a brother living in Weber County.

However, the judge said he would be open to reconsidering the bail issue later.

Dan L. Petersen, 44, is charged in connection with the death of 14-year-old Tiffany Hambleton, who was stabbed repeatedly in the chest and neck in February 1986.

Petersen was arrested Jan. 12 by Salt Lake City police detectives in Arizona, where Petersen had lived and worked for some time. He currently is in the Salt Lake County Jail.

Randall Skeen, one of Petersen's lawyers, argued his client has worked steadily since 1986 and has no violent criminal history, law enforcement officials always knew where he was, Petersen cooperated whenever questioned about the case — which happened repeatedly — and he passed two polygraph tests.

Skeen also said information that will be presented to the court in the future suggests the victim was seen alive with another man weeks after she was spotted with Petersen.

But prosecutor Kent Morgan characterized Petersen as a flight risk. Morgan said Petersen "fled" Utah to California after Hambleton was killed, has lived out of state ever since, and is now facing a murder charge.

"We would hardly describe his contacts with police as cooperative," Morgan said.

Morgan also said it was "malarkey" to buy into the notion that some witness saw the dead teenager weeks after she was observed in Petersen's company.

Defense attorneys also filed a motion asking the state to pay for an investigator to interview two other individuals convicted of homicides during the 1980s, whom defense lawyers characterize as potential suspects and witnesses in the case.

The Salt Lake Legal Defender's Association (LDA) represented one of them, Forrest Whittle, and contracted for an outside attorney for another, James Sharard.

Petersen's lawyers say the LDA's own investigators cannot conduct an investigation of its own clients in the case because that would be a conflict of interest.

Morgan, however, said the Utah Legislature in 2006 passed a law saying that in areas with legal defender associations, those associations should be the exclusive resource for lawyers and investigators unless there are compelling reasons why they should not be.

The judge said it is premature for him to do anything, and stated any claim regarding a possible conflict of interest should come from the executive director of the LDA.

Outside the courtroom, Vicki English, the dead girl's mother, said it gave her the creeps to see Petersen for the first time and be so close to him.

"It made me sick," English said.

She is convinced Petersen is the killer because new DNA testing techniques show his skin under her daughter's fingernails and on her shirt.

"That says to me she was fighting," English said.

As for other theories about what happened to Hambleton, English said science has convinced her Petersen is the culprit.

"I just don't see how you can fight DNA and he was the last one to see her," she said.

She also had praise for Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, who pushed to have the cold case re-examined.

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com