Kentucky Questions linger in case of 'collar bomb' hoax

By Bruce Schreiner

and Kristen Gelineau

Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- The masked intruder who fastened a fake bomb around a millionaire's teenage daughter was armed with an aluminum baseball bat. He warned her not to call police and left demands for money. He also left an email address, a clumsy move authorities said helped lead to his arrest.

The man accused in the elaborate plot is Paul Douglas Peters, a smart, successful international investment banker who jetted around the globe. Peters lived in weatlhy suburbs in the United States and abroad. Despite a divorce, he was close to his wife and doted on the couple's three daughters -- one of whom is the same age as Madeleine Pulver, the teenager who spent 10 terrifying hours with a bomb-like device on her neck.

So what exactly led the 50-year-old Peters to carry out the plan, as authorities allege? Was it money troubles? Did he have a personal grudge? The questions lingered days after his arrest.

Those who knew Peters said he wasn't capable of such crimes. Authorities didn't reveal a motive, saying only that Peters once worked for a company with ties to the victim's family, according to federal court documents.

"I think we're all wondering why," said the 18-year-old Pulver.

She was studying for her high school exams Aug. 3 in her bedroom when she saw the intruder walk in. "Sit down and no one needs to get hurt," he told her, according to the documents.

He locked a box around her neck and slipped a lanyard over her with a hand-written note with demands, an email address that appears to refer to a novel about a ruthless businessman in 19th-century Asia and a USB digital storage device.

When the intruder left, Pulver got a hold of her parents. Hours later, bomb technicians determined the device was fake.

Pulver's father, William Pulver, was once the president and CEO of NetRankings, a pioneer in tracking online exposure and readership for companies advertising online. He left after the firm was sold to ratings giant Nielsen in 2007. He is now the chief executive of Appen Butler Hill, a company that provides language and voice-recognition software and services.

Peters' older brother said he didn't believe the accusations.

"I still think there's more than meets the eye in this case," said Brent Peters, 52. "I would not know who'd have any technical capability whatsoever like that. We're old school."

Brent last saw his brother in 2010, and said he appeared to be doing well.

"Look, the guy was a quarter-of-a-million-dollar guy a year over in America," he said.

The small Australian coastal community of Copacabana, where Paul Peters lived, was buzzing with news of his arrest. Peters' hairdresser, Tammy Schreiber, told The Associated Press he usually stopped by every six weeks when he was in town, but she last saw him about four months ago. At the time, he was planning a trip to the U.S. to visit his family and was eager to see his daughters, she said.

Peters rarely talked about work, but gave the impression he was a "real entrepreneur type," and was always well-dressed. He didn't interact much with members of the close-knit community of around 3,000, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) north of Sydney, she said.

"Really nice person -- really helpful, liked to have a nice chat," Schreiber said. "A family man, loved his daughters. ... Even now if I see the papers and I see his face in there I still can't believe it."

Authorities spotted Peters in surveillance footage at various locations in Australia where they said he accessed the email address Dirk Struan is the main character in James Clavell's 1966 novel "Tai-Pan," about a bitter rivalry between powerful traders in Hong Kong after the end of the First Opium War.

Australian authorities determined that the email account was established May 30 from an Internet Protocol address linked to a Chicago airport, where Peters had been.

The email account was accessed three times on the afternoon of Aug. 3, beginning almost two hours after the hoax device was placed around the teenager's neck, court documents said.

He was arrested Monday in a quiet suburb in Kentucky where his ex-wife, Debra, lived. She sobbed openly during his court appearance and emerged from her house Wednesday to take three girls to school. She didn't want to talk to an Associated Press reporter.

"I'm not giving you any comments about my husband," she said.

Peters' family lives in one of the most affluent subdivisions in one of Kentucky's wealthiest counties. The subdivision, about a half-hour drive from Louisville, is lined with stately brick homes and well-manicured lawns.

Before moving to Kentucky a couple of years ago, the Peters lived in a brick mansion at the end of a secluded cul-de-sac in a rural, but wealthy pocket of northwestern New Jersey that is about a 45-minute drive to Manhattan. A white fence leads to a long driveway that winds alongside a lawn. The front door is framed by white columns and has a fountain in front of it with stone lion heads sprouting water.

Several neighbors said the wife never worked, but the family was passionate about riding horses. Neighbors said they didn't know the couple very well, in part because the neighbor wasn't conducive to socializing on the street.

"They seemed like a regular, normal American family," neighbor Elizabeth Guest.

A judge ordered Peters jailed pending an extradition hearing Oct. 14 in Louisville. Peters faces charges in Australia that include kidnapping and breaking and entering.

Published: Fri, Aug 19, 2011


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