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ANCHORAGE - The 28-year-old Kenai man charged with murder in the vehicular deaths of a couple on the Seward Highway last fall says he was not watching a movie on a DVD player in his pickup when the crash occurred.
Erwin "Jamie" Petterson Jr. said little else about the case in a brief telephone interview and referred other questions to his lawyer.
"There's a million things I'd like to say that I can't," Petterson told the Anchorage Daily News. "All I know is, the truth will come out."
Petterson's trial on second-degree murder charges is scheduled for August.
Troopers say that on the afternoon of Oct. 12, Petterson was watching "Road Trip" on a DVD player in his Ford F-150 and speeding when he crossed the double yellow line near Mile 65.5 Seward Highway and smashed into a Jeep Grand Cherokee occupied by Robert and Donna Weiser, ages 60 and 56. Both vehicles took evasive action but smashed head on, troopers said.
Initial trooper reports said Petterson took his eyes off the road to grab a soda. Troopers later said their investigation revealed he was watching a DVD.
Petterson broke his back and nose in the wreck and his foot and shoulder were fractured, he said. Petterson's passenger, Jon Douglas, also of Kenai, was treated for minor injuries, troopers said.
Petterson said the murder charges he faces were not warranted.
"It was an accident. I get to live with this for the rest of my life, regardless of what happens. It haunts me," he said.
The Weisers' two grown sons have said they are satisfied with the charges.
Many residents in Kenai, where Petterson grew up, have rallied around him since his indictment, said Petterson's close friend Mike Silba.
"He's a man of high morals and good standing in the community," Silba said. "We just can't sit by and act like this was an intentional thing, because it wasn't."
A committee has organized events such as yard sales and a teen dance to raise money for Petterson's defense, Silba said. So far, the group has raised about $15,000.