Judge picks trial date in 2000 cold-case killing in East Ridge

Judge picks trial date in 2000 cold-case killing in East Ridge

December 16th, 2017 by Zack Peterson in Local Regional News
Jason Sanford

Jason Sanford

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

A Michigan man accused of fatally strangling his estranged girlfriend in East Ridge over 16 years ago has until early May to enter a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Otherwise, Jason Sanford is scheduled to stand trial in Hamilton County Criminal Court on May 15, according to an order Judge Tom Greenholtz entered earlier this week.

Sanford is charged with one count of first-degree murder in the slaying of Sarah Perry, whose body was found by two teenagers in a garbage can in June 2000. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors believe the 44-year-old traveled to Michigan afterward, and they finally secured his indictment in August 2016 after a local detective re-opened the case and convinced a few witnesses to clarify their old statements to law enforcement. They said Sanford talked to one of those witnesses, Michel Penetrics, about the crime.

However, in October, prosecutors told Greenholtz they had a dilemma.

Because of his brain cancer, recent chemotherapy and surgery, Penetrics wouldn't be able to travel to Chattanooga to testify.

That was before Greenholtz picked a trial date, so prosecutors wanted to depose Penetrics in Michigan to preserve any potentially valuable testimony. A deposition is when attorneys question someone under oath, usually without a judge present.

Not only did Greenholtz agree to the deposition, but in this case, he spent Nov. 30 on standby as prosecutors and Sanford's defense attorneys questioned Penetrics in Michigan court.

Afterward, Greenholtz set the case for trial. Attorneys on both sides are required to file any motions before March 16, according to Greenholtz's order.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.