GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When Kent County detectives arrested a man last year for perjury in the 1981 disappearance of Deanie Peters, it raised hopes that the mystery would soon be solved.
But 10 months after the arrest of James Frisbie, the only new development is that the suspect is fighting to dismiss the case.
Deanie was 14 in February 1981 when she left her brother’s wrestling practice at Forest Hills Central Middle School to use the bathroom.
She never returned. Her remains have never been found.
Then, last year, Kent County detectives arrested Frisbie, 62, of Caledonia, for perjury — the only arrest ever made in the case.
In recently filed court documents, Frisbie’s attorney, David Dodge, asked Kent County Circuit Judge Paul Denenfeld to dismiss the perjury charge, saying there’s a difference between lying and having a bad memory.
Dodge said the district court should never have ordered Frisbie to stand trial.
“It is the defendant’s position that the district judge abused his discretion because he was bound over based on inconsistencies or contradictions,” Dodge wrote. “The prosecutor introduced insufficient corroborating evidence…”
Among the lies Frisbie is accused of telling: In 2008, he came forward to tell detectives about a man he suspected could have killed Deanie.
But last year under investigative subpoena, he denied that he ever suspected the man.
Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Kellee Koncki refused to comment when asked if the perjury charge was meant to “squeeze” Frisbie for information, if he has any, about Deanie’s disappearance.
“I’m not going to make any comment about the purpose of the perjury charge,” she said. “It’s a separate case. Whether or not this individual’s involved in the Deanie Peters’ murder, abduction or destruction of her body really is irrelevant of whether he’s guilty of perjury.”
The assistant prosecutor wouldn’t comment directly on the perjury charge.
“I will say that I’ve worked a lot of cold cases, very old cold cases, and we obviously give people the benefit of the doubt as far as their memories go,” she said. “We don’t write perjuries on those cases, unless we have evidence that they are not being truthful, not that they just don’t remember.”
She called the Deanie Peters investigation “still very active,” with a Kent County detective working on it every day.
“We’re putting a lot of effort into it with our goal being to bring her home,” Koncki said.
— Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the year Deanie Peters disappeared. We regret the error, which has been fixed.