The murder trial for Kenneth Peters continued on Friday as the defense began to call witnesses to the stand.
At approximately 11 a.m. Kenneth Peters took the witness stand. His attorney Rudy Perhalla had him talk about how they met the victim in 2010 and their relationship.
Peters said it was always a friendship. He claims they both had money troubles and the two decided to live together in April of 2011 and then were married in July of 2011.
Peters testified Ethel Grzena Peters was afraid her kids were going to put her in a home and that she would sign her home over to him if he would care for her and prevent that from happening.
"She always feared her family would put her in a home," said Peters.
The Bessemer man was asked about the day Ethel went missing.
He said they drove around the town for errands that afternoon and then returned home. Soon after, he left heading to camp, planning to stay the night. He returned the following morning only to discover Ethel missing. The defendant testified that he went around asking neighbors if they had seen her.
"I drove out. Went through all the side streets she would walk," Peters explained.
Peters testified he was "pretty upset" when Ethel went missing. He also said police came searching the house multiple times and eventually he was arrested on August 22, 2012.
Testimony turned to the days while Peters was lodged in jail; according to the prosecutor, a cell mate previously testified convincing the defendant to write out alibis for memorization which he then secretly kept and turned over to authorities.
In court the Bessemer man admitted to writing them.
"Nine days before that I was interrogated by Deputy Cruz," Peters added. "They scared the heck out of me, they were basically fabricating evidence on me, telling me they have a witnesses, a video of me in Watersmeet... I'm just sitting there thinking there's no way. There's no if, ands or butts, I was scared and still am."
Earlier on Friday, in less than an hour, the defense questioned four witnesses, all of whom were caregivers, except one, for the 79-year-old victim, Ethel Grzena Peters.
Kathleen Dooms, an acquaintance of Ethel who lived a few blocks away, said she saw the victim and the defendant the day she went missing. Dooms testified that she spotted Ethel in a vehicle at approximately 8:30 p.m. heading west.
"It was a quiet night. I heard a car and looked at the road and saw it was Ethel driving, and she had a man with her who I assumed was her husband, Ken," explained Doom. "They were driving down towards US-2."
Kay Danielson, a caregiver, was the next witness, taking the stand briefly. She worked for Ethel and was at the home on two occasions. Defense attorney Rudy Perhalla spoke to her about her visits with the 79-year-old victim and her husband.
"Recall any type of yelling or see him hit her or anything?" asked Perhalla.
"He might have yelled, but I don't really recall what it was about," insisted Danielson.
Lori Dray was the next caregiver to be called by the defense; she visited Ethel's home three separate occasions. She was also questioned on the relationship between Peters and his wife.
"Did you ever see him be verbally abusive towards his wife?" Perhalla questioned.
"No," replied Dray.
When asked if she witnessed Peters be physically abusive to the victim and again responded "no" but described the defendant as being bossy toward Ethel.
"She seemed frustrated that Ken was controlling and wouldn't let her have any money," she continued. "She mentioned that on all my visits."
The next caregiver, named Amber Plemons, recalled visiting the home of the couple only twice, meeting the defendant on both of those occasions.
"She had one complaint while I was there," admitted Plemons. "She pointed out a notebook that she wrote in when she went out and said, 'Look at what Ken makes me write down when I go out like a child.'"
She added after every visit, forms are suppose to be completed and given to UPCAP to evaluate and ensure what caregivers are doing during visits. Plemons revealed that Ken kept all the reports made, calling it "proof" that Ethel is receiving care.
Plemons also spoke with the defendant after Ethel went missing. She says Peters told her that the 79 year old was acting out and stressed, so he left Friday evening, the night the victim went missing, to go camping, and upon returning Saturday morning, Ethel was gone.
"He said he liked to hike; it relieved stress," she said.