As perjury case sent to trial, Deanie Peters investigation described as ‘active’

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kent County prosecutor on Monday described the investigation into the 1981 disappearance of Deanie Peters as not only open but also “active.”

Assistant Prosecutor Kellee Koncki made that comment to reporters minutes after Kent County Circuit Court Judge David Buter ruled there is enough evidence against James Frisbie to order him to stand trial on a perjury charge.

Frisbie, 61, of Caledonia, is the first person charged in connection with the disappearance of 14-year-old Deanie Peters.

Peters was at her brother’s wrestling practice at Forest Hills Central Middle School in February 1981 when she said she was going to the bathroom and would be right back. She never returned. Her remains have never been found.

FRISBIE IN 2008: ‘OSBORNE COULD HAVE KILLED HER’

The continuation of Frisbie’s preliminary hearing Monday morning focused on his statements about Steve Osborne, a man he has known since childhood.

Osborne previously told News 8 he had never met Peters and had nothing to do with her disappearance, but Monday’s hearing showed prosecutors may believe otherwise. 

Kent County Sheriff’s Department Detective Paul Vanrhee testified that in a 2008 interview with investigators, Frisbie told detectives “Steve Osborne could have killed (Deanie), f—ed her and strangled her.” 

Vanrhee testified that Frisbie said in 2008 there were “rumors about Steve raping and strangling” women and that “Steve might have been the one who did it (killed Deanie).”

An undated courtesy photo of Deanie Peters.

Vanrhee testified Frisbie also told detectives in 2008 that Osborne sometimes returned to women’s homes after they had left and pushed himself on them. 

“It’s hard to tell. He (Steve) was a guy that would rape girls,” prosecutors quoted Frisbie as saying in 2008.

Osborne told News 8 Monday afternoon that he has never raped nor choked any women. 

Prosecutors told the court Monday that Frisbie changed his story about Osborne while testifying under oath on June 23, 2021.

Koncki, the assistant prosecutor, has been utilizing investigative subpoenas to force witnesses to testify in an effort to solve the 40-year-old mystery surrounding Peters’ disappearance. 

Koncki said Frisbie testified under oath on June 23 that he never had any suspicion Osborne had killed Peters. 

Koncki said Frisbie also denied under oath telling anyone about the potential involvement of another man, Kyle Fate, in Peters’ disappearance.

Testimony a month ago during the first portion of Frisbie’s hearing showed Fate was Deanie’s boyfriend at one time. Fate also worked off and on at Frisbie’s sign shop in Caledonia.

Fate’s former girlfriend told the court last month that Frisbie had called her the day Fate died in 2008.

“He (Frisbie) said, ‘Yeah, I think (Fate) lived his life with drugs and alcohol because he felt guilty about killing Deanie Peters,’” testified Fate’s one-time girlfriend, Susan Timmer. 

However, while under oath in the investigative subpoena, prosecutors said Frisbie denied having said anything about Fate and Osborne’s potential involvement.

Koncki told the court Monday she does not know who killed Peters, but “It’s clear Frisbie’s motive is to divert (attention) away from these people (Fate and Osborne).”

Koncki went on to say Frisbie “certainly is trying to hide something” and that “he doesn’t want us to know what he knows.” 

Frisbie’s attorney David Dodge argued that Frisbie simply did not remember things clearly and did not knowingly lie. At once point while under investigative subpoena, Frisbie told investigators, “I had nothing to hide. I’m not lying about nothing.”

Still, in sending the case on to circuit court for trial, Judge Buter said evidence showed Frisbie had a “lengthy pattern” of false statements to investigators.

MORE THAN 200 TEXTS AND EMAILS

Detective Vanrhee testified that Frisbie’s phone showed six phone calls and 201 written communications between Frisbie and Osborne from May 24, 2021, to June 24, 2021. 

One of those phone calls happened one day before Frisbie’s investigative subpoena testimony and lasted eight minutes.

Vanrhee testified another phone call between Frisbie and Osborne on June 1, 2021, lasted just over an hour. Vanrhee testified that call happened shortly after Frisbie learned investigators were again interviewing witnesses in the Peters case.

The detective also testified phone records show the one-hour call had been deleted from Steve Osborne’s phone and did not appear on Frisbie’s phone at all. 

Vanrhee also testified when he downloaded Frisbie’s phone data a second time, many of the calls and emails that appeared during the original download had been deleted. 

Vanrhee testified also that during a phone call while Frisbie was in jail, his son told him “Steve ratted you out.”

According to Vanrhee, Frisbie responded with, “How do you know?”

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