Bloodlines: The Death of Chicago Dermatologist David Cornbleet

After dermatologist David Cornbleet was murdered in his Michigan Avenue office, his son, Jonathan, devoted himself to finding the killer. Now a shy and troubled young man—a former patient of Dr. Cornbleet’s—has confessed. But that man’s anguished father is arguing that a drug prescribed by the slain doctor may have contributed to the killing.

(page 4 of 10)


Growing up a happy child in Oregon, Hans Peterson especially loved donning a football uniform.

Tom Peterson is also a doctor who has a son and a daughter. Raised in a suburb north of Milwaukee, Peterson earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison. While traveling around Europe the summer before medical school, he met a French woman named Jacqueline Lebas at a youth hostel in Scotland. The two married in 1972. Jackie became a dual citizen in 1991.

Hoping to land a job in emergency room medicine, Peterson began looking for small hospitals that would hire a doctor fresh out of school. He found one in Roseburg, Oregon, and the couple moved there in 1974. He initially chose the ER, he says, “because you had to think fast, come up with diagnoses, and keep your cool through it all. But when you were done for the day, you were done.” His outside interests—marathon running and triathlons—would eventually lead to his long-term career path. “I would get injuries, and runners would come to me for help curbside,” he says. “Eventually, someone said, ‘Why don’t you just open an office in sports medicine?’”

He did, and in July 1978, the couple had their first child. Blond, blue-eyed, Hans Peterson was named after his great-grandfather Johann, a homesteader who had come to the United States from Sweden. Four years later, the couple added a daughter. (Peterson asked that she not be named, a request honored by Chicago.)

Both children were shy. The sister participated in gymnastics and ballet, Peterson says, “but was really very withdrawn through school. She just kind of liked observing what was going on and not being a part of it.”

There was a history of depression in the family, though early on the son revealed little sadness. A picture of Hans at the age of 15 shows a fair-haired boy in shoulder pads, down on one knee, clutching a football and beaming proudly. “He was a happy child in his early years,” the father says. “He was crazy about football, although he was not a real good player. But he loved the game and he loved wearing the uniform—that was just the coolest thing for him.”

Russ McIntosh, a longtime friend of the Petersons’, recalls that Hans was never a big conversationalist, “but he was always engaged,” he says.

When Hans reached his high-school years, however, a sense of melancholy began to show itself. “He started getting more and more shy or being more and more aware of being shy,” the father says. “When you get to be teenagers, all the little social structure starts. And since he wasn’t the kind of person who easily engaged people in conversation, he kind of felt left out of things. Not that people didn’t like him. He was very likable and everyone was fine having him around, but he wasn’t in the in crowd. He didn’t have much of a social life and he didn’t date much” beyond taking McIntosh’s daughter to the prom.

One day, Tom Peterson says, he noticed that his son was reading a book on how to overcome shyness. “I asked him what that was about, and he said, ‘I just can’t seem to light people up or get girls to want to go out with me. I feel lonely.’”

The father says he was concerned enough about the depression to take his son to a therapist. “He’d get into a pretty blue mood where he didn’t want to do anything,” the father says. “As he got more and more into teenage years, you started seeing it more and more, to the point when he was 16 he got put on antidepressants [Zoloft] for the first time.” By then Tom and Jackie Peterson were having their own troubles. They divorced in 1994.

* * *

Every day, as evening gathered, the dermatologist went through the same routine. “My dad was very methodical,” recalls his daughter, Jocelyn. “Every day at about six he would call my mom and say, ‘I’m finishing up; I have one more patient.’ Then he would transfer the phones so that they forwarded to his house” in Lincolnwood, on the Northwest Side.

By 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 24, 2006, however, Dr. Cornbleet’s wife, Aileen, had not heard from him. She immediately called Jocelyn, who was walking her dog downtown. “It’s nearly 8 o’clock and I haven’t heard from your father yet,” her mother said. “I’m concerned.” Shortly after, Jocelyn received a call from her brother. “You’re the only one in the city,” Jon said. “Can you go and check on him?”

The daughter felt an immediate sense of dread. Something had to be very wrong. Had he had a stroke? A heart attack?

Walking into her father’s office building, a high-rise across from Millennium Park, the daughter approached the security guard. “Have you seen Dr. Cornbleet?” she asked. The guard hadn’t. Panic rising, Jocelyn took the elevator to the 12th floor and walked down the marble hall to the door of her father’s office.

* * *

 
Photograph: Courtesy of Tom Peterson

Share

Advertisement

comments
7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

My heart really goes out to Jon Cornbleet. He is a real hero and something should be done to grant him the justice he so badly has worked so hard for. He is somebody I greatly admire and respect. I think that Jon Cornbleet is the next John Walsh.

I really hate France for making this nightmare continue for him.

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

This is an excellent article. I am very impressed with the class and respect that Jon Cornbleet always shows.

Jon Cornbleet is a real life hero and somebody we should all aspire to be. I sit here and can not believe not only how strong a person he is, but how wonderful a son he is to his father. Jon's pursuit of justice is so admirable.

This is such a sad tragedy. Hans Peterson is a scum and shame on France for not extraditing this guy.

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Why is France not extraditing him? He visited France a dozen or so times and thus he is protected under their laws? No wonder EVERYBODY hates the French. I think that what they are doing is criminal and I hold France personally responsible for aiding and abedding a confessed murderer.
I am very touched by the dedication and determination of Dr. Cornbleet's son. I think that all of us inside wish that we had the heart and courage that he does.

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

I have been following this sad tragedy since it happened. I think that John's persistency and determination is so honorable and such an ode to his love of his father. He shows a lot of class toward the Peterson family which is admirable.

Shame on France. I thought that the new President wanted to be different yet it is the same old song and dance with France. I will never visit or support those jerks.

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

who ever came up with the website/myspace idea was a genius

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Excellent article. I never thought about the impact on the Peterson family. I now feel a great deal of sympathy for them (excepting Hans) as well.

Hans Peterson should be extradited and face his crime. You cannot tell me that in 4 years, he did not have one single lucid moment where he could have expressed and sought help for his feelings of anger. There are many medications that will help a psychotic individual function in society without murdering others.

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Excellent article. I am saddened by the tragedy of Dr Cornbleet. He was the greatest doctor that I was ever fortunate to know. I miss his wisdom and humor tremendously.

Kudos have to be given to the son of Dr Cornbleet who has become a real life hero.

I can assure you that I or nobody that I know will ever support the French again. I think that they are obstructing justice and should be ashamed of themselves for not extraditing an American citizen.

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

It would appear that no one is addressing the issue that Hans only took this drug twice, from his own fathers' admission. Unless I missed it somewhere!? How about having someone, who is qualified to do so, evaluate the effects it can have on a person: same height, weight and gender, as Hans, having only taken the drug twice as well as compared to those mentioned in the article that the drug had a psychotic effect on (in terms of how long, etc., they took it). Let's get some conclusive evidence that it was the drug FIRST. In addition, someone else said it, he had more than enough time, Hans and his father, to seek help (or intervene on behalf of his son) before this happened. This is an unforgiveable crime, and he should pay. And ditto, SHAME ON FRANCE for even becoming involved: whether he was there once or a dozen times, in my opinion, it does not matter - he didn't live there!

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Just a horrible crime and plan by Tom Peterson to distract attention from a first degree murder to two pills of vitamin a. Not to say that I wouldn’t do the same if this was my son, but it is clear that the Peterson family feels so much shame that they will do anything to transfer the blame. They are loosing a son in all of this, so it is OK to feel sympathy for them, but if one really reads between the lines of this story, Tom Ps previous comments, and even Hans’ posting on the Asberg blog, it is clear that Hans was an unguided child from the start. It seems that Top P may never really have known Hans, and only now is getting involved in his life by starting a crusade against accutatne. Perhaps this is noble cause or just a way for him to make up for lost time. Either way if wants to build support for his cause he should do everything in his power to get his son back to the US, including hitting the media in the same format and volume that the Cornbleets did.

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

I think it is time for France to update their law of 1927.

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

It sounds like Peterson may be schizophrenic. Escalating social isolation in late adolescence with depression among other things. Accuatane probably had nothing to do with it. All the more reason we need to extradite this guy back to the US to have some court appointed experts (not ones chosen by the Petersons) weigh in and see what's up with this guy for sure.

The French are just reprehensible.

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

By the way, the French law doesn't allow them to extradite anyone to a country with a death penalty. Never mind that this happened in Chicago and Illinois is currently under a death penalty moratorium. That's one of the excuses the french are using - that Peterson might be executed.

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Excellent article. I am blown away by the dedication and heroism of Dr Cornbleet's son, Jon. I have to say that I am not sure anybody else would have handled this with such honor and dignity. France should be ashamed of themselves and I for one will never give that country another dime.

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

I want to put my two cents into this as I have been following the case for months. The French just flat out suck as a country. They are the most corrupt government and never ever will the United States have a relationship with them when they pull monkey business like this. I think that France should be ashamed of themselves for their actions. I think that our government needs to intervene and get this to happen. No family should have to go through what the Cornbleets have to with this horrible monster who should be locked up forever and ever....

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

I think it is time for France to step up and be an ally to the United States as they claim they are.

I have never seen such injustice in my life. France should be ashamed of themselves and why on earth do they want this murderer as part of their country?

I have to applaud Cornbleet's son and all of his efforts. He is the silver lining in this horrible mess created by Hans Peterson. 2 pills caused murder 5 years later, give me a break!

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Jabiru 2

... Le meurtrier, un autiste social depuis sa prime enfance ( Asperger Syndrome) est un garçon solitaire intelligent. Ses gains au poker On line sont facilités par les logiciels qu’il a lui-même créés. Avant d’arrivée à St Martin ( fwi) le 29 dec 06
Il a pensé à se suicider, il est allé pour ça au Mexique.
Il n’a pas confiance dans les institutions de son pays.

Il a choisi une pointe avancée de la France en Amérique
Pour s’y livrer après le meurtre.
L’affaire y sera jugée. 15 à 22 années de prison. Pas plus.

http://jabiru.blog.lemonde.fr

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Jabiru 1
bon article de Bayan Smith, qui synthétise bien l’affaire une année après le meurtre


De mon point de vue , le profil psychologique du meurtrier
est la piste d’enquête actuellement la plus intéressante.
La question de l’extradition étant pliée,
comme d’habitude dans les commentaires boucs émissaires
« les frenchy sont des salauds de pas nous rendre le diable »

L’essentiel à mes yeux c’est le cocktail chimique Zolof / Accutane traitements chimiques incompatibles .

Avec Internet, nous disposons de la preuve irréfutable de l’évolution des faits en 2002
Oui, deux comprimés de 80g d’accutane ont flingué le mental
d’une jeune franco-amércain d’origine suédoise par sa branche paternelle. Tandis que les Cornbleet juifs allemands, ont quitté l’alllemagne Nazi en 1939 .

les généalogies parentales de ces deux familles blanches viennent de la vieille Europe, dont tous les pays ont aboli la peine de mort...

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

I have been following this case. I really would hope that France would send this guy back to the US. But we have laws that say we think it's okay for our government to kill people, so that goes against France's ethics and laws. I applaud France for holding firm. I have been a witness to murder and now my brother killer will also be set free after 25 years. Which is not far of the mark with what this guy would get in France.

I hope Jon that you and your family can rest in peace. And as far as Hans' family, get over it! Your son is the killer not the drugs!

For you anti-frenchy's- you are morons. I mean I don't love the French like I do many countries. But seriously..... you think this is bad, what about our own government? Get educated, get the facts!

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Are these people Cornbleet's family? You guys are so disgusting...Hans is a real vicim here. Accutane is one of the worst drugs and if you guys suffer long term aacutane side effects, you will understand what I am talkinga about...

7 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

I am French and only heard about this tragedy over myspace. The French people had never heard about it so don't blame them please.
I, and the few people I could warn about this tragedy, are actually very sad and doing the little that we can to let the people know to have something done about it. The problem is that the information doesn't go across the country. The French who know about it support you and want the murderer to be in jail.

Submit your comment