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    Bush orders review of appeal for clemency

    The governor orders the FDLE inquiry after daughters of a man in prison for molesting them 15 years ago recant.

    By JULIE HAUSERMAN

    © St. Petersburg Times, published September 22, 2000


    TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Jeb Bush is ordering state law enforcement officials to look into the case of Norman Peterson, a prisoner who contends he is innocent of charges that he molested three of his daughters 15 years ago in Clewiston.

    Now grown, the three daughters have signed sworn affidavits saying their father never molested them.

    Last Friday, Peterson's 23-year-old daughter, Jennifer, begged Bush and the Board of Executive Clemency to free the 46-year-old Peterson. But now it looks as if the family will have to wait until the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates before they get an answer.

    News of the new investigation moved Peterson's daughter Jennifer -- now back home in Pennsylvania -- to tears.

    "Why?" she asked. "It seems like another delay. There's nobody else who is going to tell them anything different. My father is innocent."

    Bush spokesman Justin Sayfie said the governor's request for an FDLE clemency investigation is "not something that happens very often."

    "Hopefully the results of such an investigation will provide the clemency board with information that would be helpful to making a decision," Sayfie said.

    Jennifer and her two sisters, Chavonne, 21, and Rosemarie, 19, signed sworn affidavits saying that their mother coerced them into making the allegations when their parents were splitting up and fighting over custody. The girls were ages 5, 6, and 8 at the time.

    The man who did molest them, the girls say, was Walter Krieg, who was their mother's boyfriend and later their stepfather. The family moved to Pennsylvania. There, when the girls were in their teens, Krieg pleaded guilty to raping and molesting them and their younger sister, Michelle. He is in prison in Pennsylvania.

    Their mother, Joyce Woodruff, also served prison time for child endangerment because, authorities said, she knew about the abuse but didn't report it. Woodruff also now says she believes Peterson is innocent.

    Thursday, Bush wrote a letter to FDLE Commissioner Tim Moore.

    "Mr. Peterson's application for clemency was predicated on the recantations of his three daughters," Bush wrote. "In the interest of justice, you are directed to conduct a prompt investigation regarding Mr. Peterson's assertion of innocence and report your findings back to me."

    Peterson was sentenced to 45 years in 1990. He pleaded no contest at the time, after being represented by a string of public defenders. He is housed at the Glades Correctional Institution.

    Documents in the case show that the girls' early stories to authorities differ on key details. Medical exams of the three girls revealed no signs of sexual abuse.

    In recent interviews with the St. Petersburg Times, Jennifer and Rosemarie were adamant about their father's innocence. They said they endured years of abuse by Krieg, including horrible beatings, threats, and rape. When Krieg was behind bars, they set out to clear their father.

    Chavonne was working along with them, but recently broke with the family after she moved in with a man she met on the Internet. In a brief telephone interview, Chavonne said she has flashbacks and is "not sure who the guy is."

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