Questions linger in case of 'collar bomb' hoax

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The masked intruder who fastened a fake
bomb around a millionaire's teenage daughter was armed with an
aluminum baseball bat. He warned her not to call police and left
demands for money. He also left an email address, a clumsy move
authorities said helped lead to his arrest.
The man accused in the elaborate plot is Paul Douglas Peters, a
smart, successful international investment banker who jetted around
the globe. Peters lived in weatlhy suburbs in the United States and
abroad. Despite a divorce, he was close to his wife and doted on
the couple's three daughters - one of whom is the same age as
Madeleine Pulver, the teenager who spent 10 terrifying hours with a
bomb-like device on her neck.
So what exactly led the 50-year-old Peters to carry out the
plan, as authorities allege? Was it money troubles? Did he have a
personal grudge? The questions lingered days after his arrest.
Those who knew Peters said he wasn't capable of such crimes.
Authorities didn't reveal a motive, saying only that Peters once
worked for a company with ties to the victim's family, according to
federal court documents.
"I think we're all wondering why," said the 18-year-old
Pulver.
She was studying for her high school exams Aug. 3 in her bedroom
when she saw the intruder walk in. "Sit down and no one needs to
get hurt," he told her, according to the documents.
He locked a box around her neck and slipped a lanyard over her
with a hand-written note with demands, an email address that
appears to refer to a novel about a ruthless businessman in
19th-century Asia and a USB digital storage device.
When the intruder left, Pulver got a hold of her parents. Hours
later, bomb technicians determined the device was fake.
Pulver's father, William Pulver, was once the president and CEO
of NetRankings, a pioneer in tracking online exposure and
readership for companies advertising online. He left after the firm
was sold to ratings giant Nielsen in 2007. He is now the chief
executive of Appen Butler Hill, a company that provides language
and voice-recognition software and services.
Peters' older brother said he didn't believe the accusations.
"I still think there's more than meets the eye in this case,"
said Brent Peters, 52. "I would not know who'd have any technical
capability whatsoever like that. We're old school."
Brent last saw his brother in 2010, and said he appeared to be
doing well.
"Look, the guy was a quarter-of-a-million-dollar guy a year
over in America," he said.
The small Australian coastal community of Copacabana, where Paul
Peters lived, was buzzing with news of his arrest. Peters'
hairdresser, Tammy Schreiber, told The Associated Press he usually
stopped by every six weeks when he was in town, but she last saw
him about four months ago. At the time, he was planning a trip to
the U.S. to visit his family and was eager to see his daughters,
she said.
Peters rarely talked about work, but gave the impression he was
a "real entrepreneur type," and was always well-dressed. He
didn't interact much with members of the close-knit community of
around 3,000, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) north of Sydney, she
said.
"Really nice person - really helpful, liked to have a nice
chat," Schreiber said. "A family man, loved his daughters. ...
Even now if I see the papers and I see his face in there I still
can't believe it."
Authorities spotted Peters in surveillance footage at various
locations in Australian where they said he accessed the email
address dirkstraun1840(at)gmail.com. Dirk Struan is the main
character in James Clavell's 1966 novel "Tai-Pan," about a bitter
rivalry between powerful traders in Hong Kong after the end of the
First Opium War.
Australian authorities determined that the email account was
established May 30 from an Internet Protocol address linked to a
Chicago airport, where Peters had been.
The email account was accessed three times on the afternoon of
Aug. 3, beginning almost two hours after the hoax device was placed
around the teenager's neck, court documents said.
He was arrested Monday in a quiet suburb in Kentucky where his
ex-wife, Debra, lived. She sobbed openly during his court
appearance and emerged from her house Wednesday to take three girls
to school. She didn't want to talk to an Associated Press reporter.
"I'm not giving you any comments about my husband," she said.
Peters' family lives in one of the most affluent subdivisions in
one of Kentucky's wealthiest counties. The subdivision, about a
half-hour drive from Louisville, is lined with stately brick homes
and well-manicured lawns.
Before moving to Kentucky a couple of years ago, the Peters
lived in a brick mansion at the end of a secluded cul-de-sac in a
rural, but wealthy pocket of northwestern New Jersey that is about
a 45-minute drive to Manhattan. A white fence leads to a long
driveway that winds alongside a lawn. The front door is framed by
white columns and has a fountain in front of it with stone lion
heads sprouting water.
Several neighbors said the wife never worked, but the family was
passionate about riding horses. Neighbors said they didn't know the
couple very well, in part because the neighbor wasn't conducive to
socializing on the street.
"They seemed like a regular, normal American family," neighbor
Elizabeth Guest.
A judge ordered Peters jailed pending an extradition hearing
Oct. 14 in Louisville. Peters faces charges in Australia that
include kidnapping and breaking and entering.
---
Gelineau reported from Sydney. Associated Press writers Samantha
Henry in Lebanon, N.J., and Ray Henry in Atlanta also contributed
to this report.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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