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Former CHP officer who killed San Diego State student in 1986 could see early release from prison

One of San Diego's most notorious killers Craig Peyer who murdered 20-year-old Cara Knott while on duty could be released early from prison due to COVID-19 concerns

SAN DIEGO — Craig Peyer, one of San Diego’s most notorious killers, may be released from prison early because of COVID-19 concerns. Peyer killed Cara Knott on December 27, 1986. The 20-year-old San Diego State student was strangled and then thrown from a bridge off Interstate 15 near Poway.     

The murder happened while Peyer, a CHP officer, was on duty. He continued to work the rest of his shift as if nothing had happened. 

“A premeditated killing by an on-duty police officer is probably one of the worst betrayals that law enforcement can do to members of the public,” said Paul Pfingst on August 25. 

Pfingst prosecuted the case in 1988. 

A jury convicted Peyer and he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, which he's been denied multiple times because Peyer still maintains his innocence.

On Sunday, Cara's sister Cheryl posted a message on Facebook that read: 

"Dear Friends, my family received terrible news that there is a real possibility that my sister Cara Evelyn Knott's murderer might be released early from prison any day now. This monster should never be freed!”

“If we can't keep people who committed crimes like this in prison, why do we have prisons?” Pfingst said.

News 8 archive footage of Peyer's trials in 1988:

Peyer apparently falls under the category of high-risk medical. That means he's been deemed high risk for COVID-19 complications. Because he's not serving a sentence of life without parole, he's been assessed as a low risk for violence and is not a high-risk sex offender.

Pfingst said the prison system being cautious is not a good reason to release Peyer. 

“Ultimately, the prison should have to explain to the people in the state of California and to the Knott family why it is absolutely necessary, not just caution, but absolutely necessary to release someone who committed an act like that into the public," he said. 

The Department of Corrections sent News 8 the following statement on the case:

"At this time, there are no plans to expedite the release of Craig Peyer."

But Cara's family is taking no chances. Her sister wrote a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom and is asking others to do the same to ensure Peyer, who isn't eligible for parole again until 2027, stays behind bars as long as possible.

News 8 archive footage of Peyer's sentencing in 1988: