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.

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In the months that have followed, the two families have been consumed by different battles. The Cornbleets, led by the son, have relentlessly pursued the extradition of Hans Peterson from Guadeloupe—another French Caribbean territory where Peterson was transferred and where he awaits his fate. Hans’s father, on the other hand, has begun to speak out against Accutane and in defense of his son.

To Jon Cornbleet, Hans Peterson is a “coward” afraid to face justice here, someone gaming the system to avoid a harsher sentence than he would receive in France. “He’s made an absolute mockery of justice, of France and America’s judicial system,” the son says.

That hasn’t stopped Cornbleet. As in the pursuit of his father’s killer, he has been unrelenting in his fight to win extradition. In addition to numerous media appearances, he has organized e-mail and letter campaigns. He has won support for his cause from local, state, and national officials.

One of those officials, Cook County state’s attorney Richard Devine, has been particularly vocal. He has argued that France’s extradition treaty with the United States allows for discretion and has said that, no matter what, he is determined to continue the fight. (Peterson has not been charged here, nor will he be unless extradition is granted.)

The French, however, remain unmoved. “Our law provides very clearly that French nationals are not to be extradited,” Jean-Baptiste de Boissière, the French consul general in Chicago, has said. “It’s a law which doesn’t give room for maneuvering.” Thus, says Anthony D’Amato, a professor of international law at Northwestern University, “it’s futile for Mayor Daley to go to France and ask them to send a guy back. No official can do it without violating French law.”

As this story went to press, French authorities were waiting to charge Peterson pending the outcome of their investigation. One near certainty: Peterson would face lighter penalties in a French court than in the United States. Even under a life sentence, he could be released after 20 years, Devine says.

Such a possibility is anathema to the Cornbleets. “For us, 20 or 30 years is not sufficient,” says Jocelyn. “He would still have another 20 or 30 years of life, as if it [had] never happened.”

To Jon Cornbleet, Hans Peterson is a “coward” afraid to face justice here, someone gaming the system to avoid a harsher sentence than he would receive in France. “He’s made an absolute mockery of justice, of France and America’s judicial system,” the son says.

Tom Peterson, meanwhile, has devoted himself to defending his son and preaching against a drug he believes destroyed not only his son’s life, but his own and his family’s.

“I think the drug made him psychotic,” he says. “And once you’re psychotic the door is open to all kinds of things. You can sit there and ruminate about what happened to you and your anger can spill over. Obsessiveness is part of psychosis.”

In any trial—be it here or on French soil—Accutane will likely play a key role in Hans Peterson’s defense. If the claim is insanity, however, he will face a heavy burden. Under U.S. law, Peterson would have to argue that he could not distinguish between right and wrong—a position made difficult by the lengths he allegedly went to in order to cover up the crime. An insanity defense might be even harder in France, says D’Amato, the Northwestern University law professor. Unlike courts here, the French judicial system uses a three-judge tribunal that chooses its own expert witnesses. That means Hans would be unable to bring his own expert to testify as to his competency.

A trial on French soil would also place a strain on the Cornbleets. They and any other witnesses would have to travel to the chosen location. Chicago police would help French prosecutors by providing evidence. Even if Peterson were convicted and punished by the French, it would not shield him from prosecution in the United States should he ever return, according to Devine.

For his part, Tom Peterson at this writing had yet to consult with a criminal attorney. And anyway, he says, “I am not bringing up the Accutane part of this story to create a legal defense. I am trying to educate the public about what really happened and to expose the corruption of Big Pharma, the FDA, and the majority of doctors.”

That doesn’t mean he sees no link to the crime from the medication. If not for the Accutane, he says, “[Hans] would have stayed in Chicago. He would have found his way in the stock options world, and despite his shyness, I believe he would have found a life for himself.”

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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.

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