Witnesses hit the stand on Wednesday in the Kenneth Peters Murder trial in Gogebic Circuit Court.
The 50-year-old Bessemer man is charged with first and second degree murder of his 79-year-old wife, Ethel Grzena Peters. Grzena went missing August 3, 2012 and was found dead a week later in Watersmeet Township.
The first witness to take the stand was Milia Nivison, one of Grzena's children. While questioning her relationship with the defendant, Nivison admitted that she didn't care for him from the beginning because of the "age difference."
She continued that before meeting Peters, phone conversations with him were short, cold and include questions like "Why do you give her a hard time?"
The victim's daughter testified about a visit to her mom around Mother's Day of 2012, and the first time she would meet the defendant. She explained that Peters had called her before she left, crying that her mom's dementia is getting worse.
"Did you notice anything like dementia?" asked prosecuting attorney Richard Adams.
"She was forgetful, but nothing like dementia," said Nivison.
However, Ken's concerning call led Nivison to stay with her mom for an entire week.
"Was she happy?" Adams asked.
Nivison responded, "When she was with me, yes. She told me Ken made her mad."
"That's all she would tell me," she added.
During defense attorney Rudy Perhalla's redirect he turned to a letter in evidence. The letter was presumed to be from her mom, since it was discovered in her belongings, and asked her daughter to remove her name from the deed of the home. Nivison's mom added her name to the deed after her dad, the victim's husband, passed away back in 2006.
"'I decided to give my half of the house to Ken Peters, my husband,'" the daughter read off the letter to the jury. "'I'm also going to make a will that leaves him all the contents in the house.'"
Nivison believes her mom never wrote it, noting the handwriting was "unfamiliar."
"I advised her that it probably wasn't a good situation for her," testified Michigan State Trooper Cleary. "That it could potentially be dangerous. She said she did not care. She said she understands that she could be being taken advantage of, but she's happy when she's with Mr. Peters, and that's all she cares about."
Trooper Cleary and social worker Chandra Carullo made a welfare check on the elderly woman because of delinquent bills and exploitation concerns from neighbors regarding the couple's age difference.
"Her water had been shut off and her utilities were in arrears," said Carullo. "There was comments made that they weren't sure how the bills were being paid and who was controlling the finances in the home."
Both testified the 79 year old said she loved Peters and no abuse was present during their relationship.
However, the victim's primary physician, Dr. Bassem El Tom, had a different story.
During Grzena's last visit with Dr. El Tom in May of 2012, she admitted that she didn't trust her husband and wanted her daughter to have control over her medical decisions if she ever became incapable of doing so. During the same visit, the doctor testified that the victim admitted to receiving verbal abuse from Peters, but nothing physical.
During his testimony, he said the defendant, on multiple occasions, complained about Grzena's dementia and claimed he could no longer care for her. The doctor conducted two memory tests, on separate visits, along with CAT scans and bloodwork to check the 79 year old's mental health status, but all results showed "normal" brain function and memory "appropriate to her age."There are 126 potential witnesses to take the stand. The trial is expected to take approximately two weeks.