Ask Travis Peterson

I visited Travis Roy Peterson, 19, of Northfield, in the Rice County jail at 8 a.m. on Thursday.

Peterson is facing one first-degree charge of selling heroin, two second-degree charges of selling and one count of possessing heroin.

His bail is set at $100,000 and he has been in jail since the last week of October, when the Rice County Drug Task Force arrested Peterson and seven other young people for suspected heroin dealing.

Peterson said he probably could not say much about his case, and he kept that resolve throughout our conversation.

I sensed that he still wanted to talk, but that could have been because I kept thinking how a visit with two nosy strangers (my fiance Josh Rowan was with me) might be the most interesting part of his day.

Peterson looked me in the eye. He didn’t move from his chair or take the telephone from his ear as he looked at me from behind the soundproof glass. He wore a gray sweatshirt beneath his orange jumpsuit. Josh and I, wearing our thick, winter coats, barely fit in the visitor’s booth across from him. There was one other booth next to ours in the tiny concrete room. There, a man told another prisoner he looked tired and asked if he was getting any sleep.

“Not really,” that prisoner replied.

I struggled to think of a question Peterson might be able to answer. I told Peterson I had spoken with some of his friends. I told him they said they still cared about him very much.

“How’s it going for you in there?” I asked.

“Not good,” he said. “Everyone thinks I’m this big drug dealer but…” he trailed off, looking downward and shaking his head.

“How does it feel, when you’re up there in court, in front of people?” I asked.

“Embarrassing,” he replied.

Peterson’s next pre-trial hearing date is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 10 at 1:30 p.m. in the Rice County District Court.

Before I left, Peterson made a suggestion. He told me to write him a letter with a list of questions and he would write back.

“It would give me a chance to respond more wisely,” he said.

I would like to know what questions the readers here would like me to include in my letter to Peterson. When and if he replies, I will post Peterson’s response on the blog.


  1. Griff Wigley said:


    I’d like to know what went into his thinking when he moved from being a user to a dealer. How did it happen? How did he rationalize it?

    December 11, 2008
  2. anonymous said:

    I want to know what he thinks of the overdose fatalities and if he feels any responsibility regarding them?

    December 12, 2008
  3. Bright Spencer said:

    We might ask TRP if he ever considered the concentric circles he set off when buying, selling or taking drugs…from his own immediate influence to that which occurs in the country of the heroin’s origin.

    December 12, 2008
  4. victor summa said:

    Given the history of society’s pursuit of users, dealers etc., I ‘d ask him what forces made it impossible for him to conduct himself in a more self-protective manner, in spite of his need (assuming he had one) for the drugs. Of course, that implies I think he’s guilty. I have no idea … only a media created impression. But I do find it problematic when these young people act outside the realm of self protective reason. Is it cool, hip, (do we still use that term) peer pressure, to be one of the guys, satisfying a user’s need, what? This stuff damages lives, takes some, and destroys others, including the families of the guilty and the innocent as well.

    I have adult acquaintances here, who have mentioned to me their fears (they’d say, irrefutable knowledge) of some of their younger family relations, and THEIR, friends being involved. Some of these kids I know, and I can see a variety of personalities; from naive to outrageous. If they’re too young to be responsible, can they be held responsible?

    Rhetorical question. Please don’t bother to answer. I’m really turned off by the vindictiveness you can read on some other bogs.

    PS: On a more uplifting note: Bonnie, I really liked the tone of your opening piece. simple, hard to read but undeniably compelling. It painted a real heartfelt picture of what’s happening to this young man with a bleak outlook.

    December 13, 2008
  5. David Henson said:

    I agree with #2: Ask him if he recognizes himself as a contributing factor in harming people and causing deaths

    December 13, 2008
  6. nick waterman said:

    I would honestly like to know if he has any real ideas about how, without being old out-of-it-fogeys lecturing kids about drugs, we can keep young people away from heroin.

    December 13, 2008
  7. Anonymous said:

    These would be my questions for Roark:

    As long as I have known you, you have only been interested in drugs, alcohol, sex, and money.
    So what would you be doing if you were released tomorrow?–Do you even have any aspirations?

    In the past 5 years, have you accomplished anything that you can be proud of? Did you even have a future when you were still free?

    If released, would you go back to Northfield and do you have any friends there or anywhere that don’t do drugs?

    How does it make you feel knowing that you are “just another scumbag dealer off the streets” to a large majority of the community you once had a chance to be a part of..?

    I assume you get to send out mail from jail–do you have any apology letters you plan on sending out?

    December 13, 2008
  8. Mary F. Nelson said:

    I am wondering if he could tell us what he thinks we, as a community and as individuals, could do to reach out and support his family and loved ones at this time.

    December 14, 2008
  9. Holly Cairns said:

    I wonder what the hell was he thinking? What about when people die because of drug overdoses, etc? Didn’t he like the people he sold drugs to? Or did he feel like “one of them”?

    I would think a lot of power goes along with being a dealer. Did that factor in for him? If so: When it is time to move on, and after he’s paid his dues and kicked the habit– What other way can he contribute to society and still have a lot of respect and control? Maybe we can help there… but jobs are few and far between, now, I think.

    Just wondering out loud.

    December 14, 2008
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    FYI, I’ve been letting some anonymous comments to be posted here since the purpose of our comments is NOT discussion but rather just submission of questions for Bonnie to consider.

    December 14, 2008
  11. I’d like to know what went into his thinking when he moved from being a user to a dealer. […] How did he rationalize it?

    I want to know what he thinks of the overdose fatalities and if he feels any responsibility regarding them?

    We might ask TRP if he ever considered the concentric circles he set off when buying, selling or taking drugs…from his own immediate influence to that which occurs in the country of the heroin’s origin.

    I assume you get to send out mail from jail — do you have any apology letters you plan on sending out?

    I wonder what the hell was he thinking?

    Guys, how about asking real questions of this guy, instead of this “I think you’re a bad person. How do you feel about that?” crap.

    Though we never knew each other well, Roarke and I both went to the same school several years ago — he was not a good guy then, and he’s not now. However, I think that $100k bail is indication enough that he’ll be punished (probably to great excess). So back off, or ask him a non-accusatory question. Nick Waterman’s seems like a good example.

    December 14, 2008
  12. nick waterman said:

    Yes, Sean, I was trying to actually ask a real question instead of –understandably, but unproductively — using the invitation as an excuse to scold. But maybe the devastation behind everyone’s anger is the real story here, anyway.

    December 14, 2008
  13. Holly Cairns said:

    Well, thanks Sean for dismissing my question, but the friends thing is really in my mind. He sold to his friends, and I want to know about that. I taught at an ALC (not Northfield) and worked directly with a kid who sold to someone who overdoesed, but it was on LSD. He didn’t feel remorse for anything, except when asked about the friend connection. That was his friend. He had that weakness, or strenght, depends on how you look at it. I’m thinking he’ll eventually enter back into society, and what job would he like? How does he get that? How can he replace that feeling of power and respect…

    it might sound accusitory to you, but it sounds healing to me.

    December 14, 2008
  14. What the hell are you talking about, Holly?

    If that sounds accusatory, that’s the point ;-). Seriously, your question was phrased in an accusatory tone. I doubt I’m the only one who took it that way.

    December 14, 2008
  15. Holly Cairns said:

    It’s as if my question shouldn’t be asked but yours should? You seem to suggest that. And who said the questions shouldn’t be accusatory? You. Why?

    December 14, 2008
  16. Holly, the questions shouldn’t be accusatory because he’s voluntarily agreed to answer them. The least we could do is try to be respectful.

    He’s being punished. Right now. But we have no place in that; we don’t need to add our written attacks.

    December 14, 2008
  17. anonymous said:

    Sean quit judging everyones questions. That’s not your call. Someone close to me from the community died because of this drug. I have in no way blamed Travis peterson for his death and I wasn’t making accusations. I simply want to know his feelings. Back off please

    December 14, 2008
  18. Anonymous, if you have a grievance with him, that’s fine. Clearly he did a lot of bad things; I’m just not okay with these attacks hiding under the thin veneer of a question.

    December 15, 2008
  19. kiffi summa said:

    I think Bonnie’s original interview was good, both sad and thought provoking.
    I also think that it would be just as productive to have these questions go to Bonnie directly, instead of being a public free-for-all here.
    There are honest questions, and seriously angry questions, and questions that are meant to be constructive.
    However, I don’t see that the public good is served by the public list of questions. There is to me, a subtle, yet very different aspect when questions like these are asked, in public, in a setting like existed at the Moravian Church event.

    There may be more public good served by some of the answers.

    December 15, 2008
  20. Holly Cairns said:

    Okay, then, I’ll retract my question above. Don’t include me, Bonnie. After thinking about it my question is not all the different from others.


    December 15, 2008
  21. Anonymous said:

    Although I don’t suggest attacking Roarke, I think that he has put himself in a position to be attacked. (He is an adult and should be treated like an adult.) He did some bad things to his community and now they have someone to direct their hatred towards…and its him.

    He needs to understand that he has not only broken the law, but he has also endangered and infuriated a community and its youth. He will have a lot of time to think about the bad shit he has done and I think that many of our questions will make him see how much he has damaged himself, his reputation, and his future.

    I probably know Roarke better than a lot of you and I can honestly say, he is a piece of shit who plays the hooker with a heart of gold. He needs to be ridiculed and demoralized before he will understand that he needs to make some changes and stick to them. He needs to be broken before he can be fixed.

    December 15, 2008
  22. Thanks so much for everyone’s input. I will write the letter tomorrow, so I’d say deadline for questions is noon tomorrow. Holly, I will not ask your question as per your request.

    December 15, 2008
  23. I just want to emphasize that Travis Peterson is innocent until proven guilty and my intent of publishing information about those young people who have been accused of dealing heroin is to disseminate public information and to try and provide/stimulate some analysis.

    December 15, 2008
  24. Anne Bretts said:

    Clearly if Travis Peterson had any insight, he wouldn’t be in this situation. Some dealers are victims of the addiction, some have childhoods that lacked the proper foundation, some have borderline personality disorder or sociopathy or some other disease that means the part of the brain that controls empathy and responsibility simply aren’t working. Those, I think, are the most challenging. How do you punish someone who is capable of outrageously destructive behavior yet has no understanding of the harm he has done? The more we know about the complicated workings of the human mind, the more we are challenged in our quest for justice and forgiveness.
    I think his answers to the questions posed here will give some insight, and the psychological tests he undergoes in drug treatment might offer more. It may be too soon now for him to move past defensiveness and take responsibility — perhaps he never will.
    If you want some insight into how someone who had it all could throw it away — and recover — try the new book ‘The Night of the Gun,’ by David Carr, a New York Times writer who told of his fall into addiction back when he was a respected reporter in the Twin Cities. He was in a far better position than Peterson and still screwed up. He is merciless in exposing his life and evaluating his choices. You can google and read the highlights. Perhaps someone should give Peterson a copy.

    December 15, 2008
  25. Lance said:

    I know this isnt discussion, but a moment of perspective. My brother in law is dead at age 37 because he bought and consumed a gallon of rum a day from the Northfield liquor store. In varying degrees, there are many, many more like him out there; lives ruined and destroyed by alcohol. As citizens of Northfield, we not only condone this activity, we profit from it. It seems to me a strange value system indeed that allows us to look down on Travis Peterson because the lethal and addictive substance we “deal” to our family, friends and neighbors is legal and the one he allegedly “deals” is not.

    December 17, 2008
  26. David Henson said:

    Lance – you should post that in the Muni section also.

    I really wonder how much Muni revenue comes from individuals who abuse alcohol vs social users. Looking at the Muni as a profit center is a perversion of the legal purpose which was to “control” alcohol not to “profit” from alcohol.

    Maybe those who argue for the “profit” center should be asked to put a price on someones life lost to alcohol abuse so that can be factored in to the equation.

    December 18, 2008
  27. john george said:

    Lance & David- Your comments relate back to a post Griff did last year about the city providing “gateway drugs”. I concure. Lance- I’m very sorry to hear about your brother. That is really a hard one to live with. I think it exposes a double standard we allow in our society.

    December 18, 2008
  28. Dear Readers,

    Peterson’s attorney called me earlier this week to talk about my posting here.

    Carol Weissenborn, a public defender, said she was concerned that articles about Peterson written here and elsewhere could compromise his ability to receive a fair trial, partly because the coverage can cause too many people to believe he is guilty of a crime even though his guilt or innocence has not been determined yet by a jury.

    I asked Weissenborn to write me an email with information I should give to my readers to explain why Peterson would not be able to answer our questions. She said she would write one in a couple of days. I have not heard from her in that time.

    However, we did speak for quite a while on the phone and the situation is this: Weissenborn has advised Peterson since his first court appearance to not say anything to anyone until a decision about his charges is made in court. That’s not to say he has anything to hide, she said. It’s just the best way to move forward legally in a case like this.

    Thanks to everyone for their participation and I hope everyone understands the importance of a fair trial for Peterson and the other young people facing serious charges.

    December 19, 2008
  29. john george said:

    Bonnie- I think Carol W’s request is very wise. Since the involvement of the press in the Watergate scandal years ago, and the rise of investigative journalism, I feel the lines between the media and law enforcement have become blurred. I believe this has diluted the effectiveness of law enforcement and the court system in general to be able to fairly prosecute those guilty of crimes and clear those who are innocent. Some may say that limiting this type of journalism is an infringement on freedom of speech, but it is my opinion that it is not. Thanks for listening to Carol’s advice.

    December 20, 2008
  30. Bright Spencer said:

    No problem, Bonnie, I think I should have recognized that situation right off, but I forget how public this forum is at times. My bahd.

    December 21, 2008
  31. JHLI said:

    I have posted anonymously on this site and another one containing this story, and both were removed for reasons I am not aware of. I had stated I knew the defendant Peterson, and met him several months before this happened. I find it quite absurd that my comments were removed.

    I had accused the Northfield task Force of being naive and merely taking junkies who had only made these “sales” because of the fact they needed heroin, and money, and that is the ONLY reason. They were NOT dealers, they were users.

    The informants involved here KNEW this and KNEW that they could set these users up to be dealers by paying twice as much ($200 for a gram, where Peterson was paying $100) to set these people up. I imagine the “informants” were both busted for heroin-related crimes and they used the opportunity to set these others up, as a way to get themselves out of trouble.

    The fact these and other well-known facts are and were removed from comments, is disheartening to say the least. This is a free-speech society yet the moderation that goes on, on a site such as this, is absolutely herendeous.

    The Task Force, and Judges, in this case, are absoultey ignorant of who the real dealers are. The real dealers are still selling in the Twin Cities and the police got nowhere near them. I know because I am a heroin addict and I purchased from Travis Peterson before and simply got hooked up with his connections instead, so I wouldn’t have to support his habit. These were suburb kids who did not have the connections downtown and therefore Travis took advantage of that by making money for HIS HEROIN ADDICTION off of these other folks, INCLUDING the informants.

    I think this and other comments need to be approved, as the truth is not being even discussed properly, and these guys are going to go down for crimes they were absolutely set-up upon and it is almost even entrapment. I, like some other poster here, did not like the defendant Peterson at all. However, I am being very clear as to what the case is here, and I knew them better than most.

    It is a shame that no one with a clue will be commenting in the press or part of the court proceedings, except the defendants themselves, and no one is about to listen to them. It is all just, sad. Really. Any comment-based discussions like these should not even be moderated. Who is getting the power to censor others, who might have good information on this case? Why is their opinion being stifled?

    January 28, 2009
  32. Griff Wigley said:

    Hi JHLI,

    Good to have you chiming in with your perspective as heroin addict here in Northfield.

    I generally don’t allow anonymous comments here on Locally Grown. In cases like this, tho, I do allow some but only after we make an attempt to confirm a person’s identity.

    January 28, 2009
  33. Joshua Hinnenkamp said:

    I have talked to a few former users and the post above is the general sense that I have gotten from these people. Travis (Roarke) was selling to feed his habit and was informed on by others who were busted. I have also gathered that the dealers are still going strong in the cities from the people I have talked to. This in no way excuses what Travis did, but it does help us gain a little perspective. This is not a black and white issue as some have made it out to be. This is a complex issue in which users become stop gap dealers who deal to their friends and other junkies but who still get supplied from bigger fish in the cities (who also get supplied by bigger fish from other areas of the country). Travis saw an angle to support his habit and make a little money. Junkies rarely think of the consequences (hurting him/herself and others). I don’t know if the recent busts have stopped heroin activity in the area, but would assume it is temporary until others fill their places. I hope not. I do know that the police (and all of us working in prevention and treatment) have a lot of work cut out for them (and us) and with the economic forecast unfavorable, prevention, enforcement, and treatment will take a beating while drug rates may in fact go up.

    January 28, 2009
  34. Scott Oney said:

    Bonnie: I’m not sure if anyone’s still following this, but it looks like Travis Peterson was sentenced yesterday.

    May 6, 2009
  35. Patrick Enders said:

    I think that Bonnie has moved on, but thanks for the update.

    May 6, 2009

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