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Chiesa’s Wife Testifies In Husband’s Defense

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A recess had to be called in the Peter Chiesa murder trial Thursday as his emotionally distraught wife recalled the violent death of their dog.

Peter Jordan Chiesa, 65, is charged in the June 25, 2002, shooting deaths of neighbors Leslie Hannameyer, 43, and Annette Truman, 41, as they cleaned up limbs and other debris from a tree trimming operation along a common easement and driveway through the Chiesa property shared by the three families.

The trimming had been contracted by the Chiesas but the debris along that particular stretch had not been picked up.

In a call to 9-1-1 that day, Chiesa said he believed the women were taking the wood that belonged to him and that he was going to shoot them.

The tragedy capped a feud of several years between the Chiesas and the other two families over the easement and other property issues.

While on the stand Thursday morning, Donna Chiesa testified about numerous incidents she and Peter believed were caused by their neighbors.

Their gates and barn doors were opened, property was vandalized, and one of their horses apparently was poisoned.

While Donna Chiesa said there was no evidence their neighbors were responsible for such incidents, she became tearful as she described the death of her dog, Kortze, a 1-year-old mix of border collie and Australian shepherd she described as a cow dog.

The Chiesas had the dog since it was about five months old, but in November 1998 it disappeared and was missing for about 20 hours, Donna Chiesa said.

They eventually found the dog at the beginning of their driveway dead with a hole in its head.

Seeing no blood around it, they speculated it had been shot elsewhere and then dumped at the head of the driveway.

Defense attorney Clyde Blackmon asked her why this was such a tragedy for the two of them. “We don´t have children,” she said. “This was our little girl.”

A few days later, Donna Chiesa said, she was pulling into the driveway and had just opened the gate when Bill Hannameyer, Leslie´s husband, pulled in behind her and called out to her.

When she approached him, he asked her if she had seen a black cow dog with a bullet in its head, and then he laughed, Donna Chiesa said.

She later told her husband about the conversation, saying she could not believe it.

“We never did anything to hurt any animals,” she sobbed, putting her head down on the witness stand and crying loudly.

Blackmon was granted a recess for Donna Chiesa to compose herself. Her husband sat with his face in his hands.

Prior to that testimony, Donna Chiesa said there had been other incidents they directly linked to the Trumans.

While mowing their pasture one time, Donna Chiesa said the blades of the tractor jammed several times with arrows that had been shot into the grass.

The Trumans had been seen target shooting with arrows on their own property, Donna Chiesa said.

She wrote a letter to them complaining about finding the arrows on her property, Donna Chiesa said. She added that the only acknowledgement she received was when the Trumans´ son, Ben, came up to her one day at the fence and asked for his arrows back.

The tree limbs and other debris had apparently been on and next to the common driveway for several days, obstructing access, when the two women decided to go out and clean it up on the day of the shooting.

Donna Chiesa said just a couple of days before that she had been mowing the pasture again and tossed the wood over the fence next to the easement to clear the way.

Twice the mower jammed and she had to take it back to their barn. Each time she returned, the wood had been tossed back over the fence, impeding her mowing, she said.

Members of the Truman family were out near the area that day, she said.

When asked if she had actually seen them throw the wood back over the fence, Donna Chiesa replied: “No, but there was nobody else in the area.”

She was scheduled to take the stand again for the Thursday afternoon session and cross-examination by Deputy District Attorney Seth Matthews.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Craig Koscho. For more Calaveras news,