Not guilty plea in Oregon work-release homicide

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HILLSBORO, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon man charged with fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend while their 2-year-old daughter cried in another room had just been temporarily released from a minimum-security facility where he had been held for violating a restraining order sought by the woman, court documents show.

Eric C. Petersen, 24, pleaded not guilty to murder Thursday afternoon. He is charged with punching Aimie Zdrantan, 24, of Hillsboro in the face so hard that he broke his hand, beating her with a coffee mug and a wall plaque, then telling Zdrantan to pray before stabbing her in the back of the neck with a butcher knife.

Petersen used an approved pass to leave the Washington County Community Corrections Center at 9:49 a.m. on Aug. 28. He was to visit a job-search office and return at noon. Petersen, however, called a staff member seven minutes before noon to say he was at a mall and wouldn't be back on time.

It's unknown if Zdrantan's death will cause policy changes to the work-release program. Karleigh Mollahan, manager of the community corrections center, was in a meeting Friday morning and did not return phone calls in the afternoon.

The killing happened two days before another Oregon woman died under similar circumstances. Police said Cassandra Wagner of Silverton was shot by an ex-boyfriend against whom she had sought a restraining order. That suspect also had a day pass from a work-release center.

Petersen fought extradition following his arrest in Washington state, delaying his arraignment until Thursday.

An affidavit in support of an arrest warrant, released after the court hearing, provided the first detailed account of what investigators think occurred in Zdrantan's apartment.

A neighbor of Zdrantan told an officer that Petersen had come to her apartment between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., saying there had been a family emergency and to watch the 2-year-old girl.

Hillsboro police Detective Michelle Hahn wrote that she inspected the crime scene and later interviewed Petersen at the Washington hospital where he had been taken by police for treatment of a broken hand.

Petersen asked questions about his daughter and then "asked that I make sure he spends the rest of his life in prison," Hahn wrote in the affidavit.

According to the document, Petersen told the detective he broke his hand while punching Zdantran in the face during an argument and then cut her badly with a large coffee mug.

"Mr. Petersen told me that he took a wall plaque off of the wall and smashed it over Ms. Zdrantan's head multiple times," she wrote. "I observed a wall plaque near Ms. Zdrantan with words similar to 'God Bless This Family' inscribed on it."

Petersen said he placed a shirt in front his ex-girlfriend's face and then a plastic bag over her head, to stop her from making noise, Hahn wrote. After tending to their daughter in another room, Petersen returned to find Zdrantan still making noise.

"Zdrantan moaned for help and asked Petersen why he was doing this to her," she wrote. "Petersen said that he decided to end it for her, and retrieved a large butcher knife from the kitchen."

Hahn wrote that the knife was still sticking out of the victim's neck when police arrived. The blade nicked the spinal cord, the autopsy found.

Petersen is being held without bail. His next court date is Wednesday.

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