ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A 67-year-old Anchorage woman has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for killing her longtime roommate with a shotgun blast.
Berne Peterson claimed she didn't remember pulling the trigger on the .410-bore shotgun that fired and struck 57-year-old Colleen Fukuda in the head as she lay in her bed.
Superior Court Judge Larry Card said at sentencing Tuesday that Peterson might not have intentionally fired the gun but that her actions were reckless enough to warrant a conviction for second-degree murder.
"It seems to me, but for the alcohol, we'd have an entirely different situation," Card said.
On April 19, 2011, police responded to complaints of a loud fight and made a call to the home Peterson shared with Fukuda, the Anchorage Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/QqhIdu). Officers reported Peterson was drunk and had held a knife, while Fukuda appeared sober. No charges were filed.
One night later, the women argued again. Peterson told investigators Fukuda refused to get out of bed to help her to the bathroom.
Peterson told police she walked to Fukuda's bedroom carrying the small, loaded shotgun, and when Fukuda "gave her a dirty look," the shotgun "just went off."
Peterson's attorney, David Weber, said prescription drugs, alcohol and mental issues caused his client to shoot at something imaginary.
Fukuda's sister, Sharon Hurley, said Fukuda met Peterson upward of 30 years ago when they worked as nurses at Providence Alaska Medical Center. They were roommates for about 20 years.
Health issues including diabetes forced Peterson to quit her job. Hurley said Peterson started using Fukuda as her personal nurse. Hurley described her sister's roommate as abusive, controlling and "pure evil."
"Berne took my sister away a long time before this happened," she told Judge Card.
Fukuda had announced her intention to move back to her home state of Hawaii to help take care of her father. Peterson, she said, was angry about it.
"She wanted to be in control, and she didn't want us to influence her. Over the years, it just got worse and worse and worse," Hurley said. "Colleen was actually like a personal slave."
Peterson was convicted of second-degree murder in an August bench trial.
At sentencing, Peterson apologized to Fukuda's family and said she did not remember the shooting.
"I loved Colleen. We were the best of friends," Peterson said. "I think the main thing of this is I blacked out, and when I came around, I didn't remember what had happened. I'm extremely sorry for causing the pain that (her family is) going through. I'm going through it myself."
The judge said he did not believe that Peterson could not remember the shooting.