The murder trial of Kenneth Peters continued on Wednesday morning in Gogebic County court. A medical expert was called to the stand to discuss the state of the victim, Ethel Grzena Peters, at the time of her death.
Benedict Kuslikis, who has a Ph.D in pharmacology toxicology, conducted a toxicology report on Grzena which revealed alcohol, 100 ml per decimal, equating to .1 percent alcohol level, in her system. However, the toxicologist testified that post mortem, the human body produces alcohol in the form of ethanol, and it's difficult to determine what was ingested before the victim's death.
Doxylamine, an antihistamine used as a sleep aid, found in things like NyQuil, was also discovered, along with Lorazepam, known as Ativan, an anti-anxiety drug. The report revealed 55 mg/ml or nanograms per milliliter of Lorazepam, but the drug drops a half life every 12 hours in milliliters.
Therefore, if the victim ingested it and passed away 48 hours later, she most likely had approximately over 700 mg/ml present, and Kuslikis says 140-240 is typically a normal therapeutic level of the drug.
"She's going to be drowsy, no question about it. She's going to be stumbling around," explained Kuslikis.
Defense attorney Rudy Perhalla asked if Lorazepam makes everyone "drowsy" if taken at the "therapeutic level." The toxicologist responded that it "depends" on the individual.
"Again, high levels of Lorazepam are very similar to alcohol," he added. "I would expect someone to be drowsy with all those drugs at all those levels."
The toxicologist continued that it is "unusual" to find traces of Lorazepam in the victim when she "did not have a prescription."
Next defense attorney Perhalla requested a recorded conversation of Tiffany Youngberg, a care giver for the victim and Peters, be presented in court. Peters had no knowledge of being recorded during the entire conversation with Youngberg.
The jury listened attentively to over an hour of conversation about Grzena's disappearance. On the tape the defendant denies multiple times that he had anything to do with his wife's disappearance. According to the prosecutor, a cell mate of Peters told him writing an alibi is a solid way to memorize it. The accused murderer then wrote out several alibis relating to the victims disappearance. This cell mate then saved all the letters written by the defendant and turned them over to authorities.
Jorge Cruz, the detective sergeant working the case with the Gogebic County Sheriff's Office, then got a court order to have Peters write replicas of the original letters to be comparatively analyzed.
The detective said when he received the court order for written exemplars from Peters; the defendant refused and requested his lawyer.
"He said 'the judge could order whatever he wants my hands not moving,'" said Cruz.
The detective was forced to bring in Peters' attorney before he would comply. Once he did, everything was forwarded to a question document lab. Todd Welch, specialist sergeant forensic document examiner with Michigan State Police, testified that without a doubt the letters recovered from that cell mate were written by the defendant.