By SCOTT PESZNECKER
Calaveras County District Attorney Jeff Tuttle announced he will not seek the death penalty for a Wallace man accused of shooting and killing his two neighbors in June.
Instead, Tuttle said Friday, he will seek life without possibility of parole for 64-year-old Peter Chiesa.
Chiesa faces two first-degree murder charges for the June 25, 2002, slayings of Annette Truman, 41, and Leslie Hannameyer, 42. His Calaveras Superior Court trial begins July 16.
Chiesa pleaded not guilty to both charges in October.
Tuttle could not be reached for comment about his decision on capital punishment.
Before November's elections, Tuttle said at a Copperopolis candidate forum that Chiesa is "64 and in bad health. The death penalty, in some cases, makes no sense to spend all that money on something that's not going to happen."
Clyde Blackmon of Sacramento, Chiesa's defense attorney, said he can't talk about the reasons behind Tuttle's decision.
"We're pleased that that's what the prosecution has decided," Blackmon said. "Other than that, I really can't comment about the case."
The murder charges Chiesa faces stem from the double shooting last summer. Chiesa and his neighbors, the Trumans and the Hannameyers, had a history of disputes over a shared driveway that ran along the fronts of their three homes on Highway 12 in Wallace. The Hannameyer and Truman families had to drive by Chiesa's property in order to get to their homes.
Everything came to a head when Chiesa had a professional tree trimmer cut down eucalyptus branches over the driveway. The tree clippings fell onto the drive, hindering two-way traffic, sheriff's reports said.
About 10 a.m. the day of the shooting, Annette Truman, Leslie Hannameyer and their sons were clearing the trimmings from the road.
At 10:03 a.m., Chiesa called 911 and told the dispatcher he was going to shoot his neighbors because they were cutting his trees.
Minutes later, sheriff's reports indicate, Chiesa arrived at the driveway toting "at least two firearms," including a .357 Magnum.