Article published May 30, 2004
UNCW fails to uncover criminal pasts
Another student accepted to UNCW after withholding the truth about
his criminal record on an admission application is accused of crimes
against a female student, but the university has no plans to review
its admissions policies.
John B. Peck, 27, acknowledged Thursday that he didn't cite felony
and misdemeanor convictions on his University of North Carolina
at Wilmington application. He now faces charges of misdemeanor stalking
and making harassing phone calls to UNCW student Christen Naujoks,
his 22-year-old ex-girlfriend. She recently took out a restraining
order against him.
Mr. Peck said school officials contacted him last week and asked
whether he lied on his application. The school's inquiry came after
a Star-News reporter contacted the university about his record.
"I said, 'Yeah, otherwise I wouldn't have gotten in,'»"
Mr. Peck, who started at UNCW in August 2002 and was planning to
attend classes this summer and fall, said he has been expelled because
of the deception.
The situation raises further questions about whether admissions
policies at UNCW and elsewhere are lax in identifying or rejecting
convicted criminals and whether that compromises students' safety.
The issue came to light last week, when it was learned that Curtis
Dixon – the 21-year-old student charged in the murder of 18-year-old
Jessica Faulkner – lied about his criminal record on his UNCW
application. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor larceny in 2000 but
didn't disclose that on the application.
Mr. Dixon and Ms. Faulkner lived on the same floor of Cornerstone
UNCW officials said late last week they have no plans to consider
modifications to the school's admissions policy regarding criminal
backgrounds. They said it's similar to others across the country
and that the self-reporting system has worked in the past.
Applications to UNCW ask prospective students whether they've been
convicted of a crime other than a minor traffic violation and whether
they've "entered a plea of guilty, a plea of no contest, a
plea of nolo contendere, or an Alford to a criminal charge or otherwise
accepted responsibility for the commission of a crime."
The form relies solely on the word of the prospective student, with
no way to ensure truthfulness. By signing the statement, an applicant
certifies the information is complete and accurate, school officials
"This is standard practice in universities all across the country,"
UNCW spokeswoman Mimi Cunningham said. "We rely on the honor
of our students."
But that didn't work in at least two cases, and there could be others.
Mr. Peck said he knows a couple of other people who lied about their
pasts to get into UNCW; they still attend school there. He declined
to name them.
If a prospective student checks the box on the application indicating
a criminal record and if the applicant is otherwise admissible to
the university, the application would be forwarded to the dean of
students. The dean would review the situation, interview the applicant
and make a decision about acceptance, according to university policy.
Ms. Cunningham said UNCW received about 15,000 applications for
the 2004-05 school year, and fewer than 1 percent – about
125 applicants – indicated they had criminal records. She
said the bulk of the offenses were "very minor." At least
two applicants were denied admission after an interview with the
dean of students, she said, declining to say how many applicants
were interviewed by the dean.
School officials said backgrounds checks on all applicants would
A quick Internet search of applications for several colleges revealed
that some don't ask about criminal backgrounds at all, and others
ask less specific questions than UNCW.
An online freshman application for Ohio State University, for example,
includes only the question, "Have you ever been charged with
or convicted of a felony?" and a box to explain it.
In Mr. Peck's case, it will never be known whether his prior convictions
would have kept him out of the university had he disclosed them.
Mr. Peck pleaded guilty in November 2001 to a misdemeanor count
of assault on a female and two felony counts of crimes against nature,
a sex offense. He was originally charged with first-degree rape
and first-degree sex offense after an incident with a girlfriend
who claimed he raped her and threatened her with a handgun, according
to court documents. Mr. Peck pleaded guilty to the less serious
He is in the final year of a three-year supervised probation term,
spent about 30 days in jail and is attending anger-management classes,
according to court records.
His next court appearance for the pending charges is scheduled for
In a criminal complaint, Ms. Naujoks, who declined to be interviewed
for this story, said she broke up with Mr. Peck and he followed
her around school on three occasions attempting to talk to her and
not allowing her to get into her car.
In a complaint seeking a protective order, Ms. Naujoks also claimed
Mr. Peck left 17 obscene messages on her answering machine March
Mr. Peck said he agreed to comply with the order and that he wants
to put the matter behind him.
"It's like I've been hit with a ton of bricks," he said,
adding that he has never physically harmed Ms. Naujoks.
Last week, Ms. Cunningham cited federal law when declining to say
whether Mr. Peck withheld the truth about his criminal record on
his admissions application or whether he disclosed it and was accepted
anyway. Mr. Peck subsequently acknowledged that he didn't include
his record on the application.
Earlier last week, school officials said Mr. Dixon, "did not
cite any irregularities" in his application, thus confirming
he lied on his application.
"We believe there was a compelling reason to let the public
know that there were no irregularities in Curtis Dixon's application,"
Ms. Cunningham said in explaining why the school released that information
about Mr. Dixon but not Mr. Peck.
Mr. Dixon could face the death penalty and remains in jail without
bond, charged with first-degree murder, first-degree rape, first-degree
sex offense and first-degree kidnapping in connection with Ms. Faulkner's
murder. UNCW officials have declined to release his status with
Patrick Gannon: 343-2328
Published: Jun 6, 2004
Modified: Jun 6, 2004 5:57 AM
UNCW student shot dead
Her mother had spoken with paper about ex-boyfriend
By JOSH SHAFFER AND CRAIG JARVISWILMINGTON -- Sheriff's deputies
Saturday searched for the former boyfriend of a UNC-Wilmington student
who was slain near her home Friday night, just one month after a
young Cary woman who was enrolled at the coastal university was
killed in a dorm room.
Former UNCW student John Brian Peck, 28, of Wilmington has been
charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Christen
Marie Naujoks, 22, outside her apartment, the New Hanover County
Sheriff's Department said.
Authorities said Peck is armed with an assault rifle and should
be considered dangerous.
Naujoks had been frightened enough of Peck that she had taken out
a restraining order against him in April, after his arrest on charges
of stalking her and making harassing phone calls to her. Peck was
due in court on those charges Wednesday.
Peck is already on probation for sexually assaulting another girlfriend
in 2001 and was under a restraining order to stay away from that
One week ago, the Wilmington Star-News reported that Peck had failed
to disclose his convictions on his application to the university,
and the story also noted the new charges against him. Peck said
he was expelled after the Star-News contacted the university about
his record, the newspaper reported.
The article stemmed from the May 5 slaying of Jessica Lee Faulkner,
19, of Cary, in her dorm. Curtis Dixon, 21, a fellow student, has
been arrested on charges of raping and murdering her. Last month
the Star-News reported that Dixon had failed to tell the university
about a misdemeanor larceny conviction.
The paper began looking into Peck after hearing from Holly Naujoks
of Solon, Ohio, who was prompted by Faulkner's death and by her
daughter's problems with Peck to call the paper, an editor said.
Tim Griggs, managing editor of the Star-News, said Saturday that
Naujoks' mother had told the newspaper about her daughter's situation
to draw attention to the university's lack of domestic violence
Subsequently, the woman expressed concern about printing her daughter's
and Peck's names, he said. Griggs said the paper printed the names
to add credibility to the story.
"We felt it was important to show a real-world case,"
Griggs said. "It was important to show this kind of thing does
happen -- that someone could lie to get into school. Not to place
blame on the university; rather, what can be done?"
Griggs said the timing of Naujoks' slaying left him "nauseous"
and that he agonized for her family. But he said that the forthcoming
court hearing on the restraining order also could have been a factor,
if Peck turns out to be the killer.
"Did we play a part in this?" Griggs said. "I hope
not. I don't think so. It's hard to tell what sets a person off."
Holly Naujoks could not be reached for comment Saturday. Relatives
said she and her husband were traveling to North Carolina.
Suspect may be armed
W.T. Parker, chief deputy of the New Hanover County Sheriff's Department,
said the county's 911 center received a call reporting a shooting
at NorthChase Apartments about 9:45 p.m. Friday. Deputies found
Naujoks lying on the sidewalk with gunshot wounds. She was pronounced
dead at the scene.
Peck is thought to be driving a dark green 2000 Toyota 4Runner with
North Carolina license tag SRR-8120. He is 5 feet 7 inches tall,
weighs 180 pounds and has blond hair and hazel eyes.
At a brief news conference Saturday evening, Parker held up a Chinese-made
SKS assault rifle and said Peck may be carrying a similar firearm.
"Do not approach him or attempt to make contact with him,"
Parker said. "Call 911."
UNCW Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo said the killing of freshman Faulkner
on the last day of final exams this spring prompted the university
to review its procedures to protect students.
"This recent tragedy further compels our commitment and resolve
to explore what additional measures, if any, the university can
take to ensure the safety of our university community," she
said in a prepared statement. "We express our deepest sympathy
to the Naujoks family and friends."
Naujoks was a transfer student who was not expected to return to
school, UNCW officials said. She was a junior pre-education major.
A great-aunt, Helen Naujoks of Cleveland, Ohio, said the young woman
had moved to Wilmington to attend college after graduating from
high school in Solon, a suburb of Cleveland. "She was a real
sweetheart, just an absolute little doll," she said.
Peck was a junior and a pre-communication studies major, but university
officials said he was suspended effective May 27.
Naujoks lived in an apartment complex north of Wilmington near the
city's airport. Her porch spilled over with plants and flowers.
Neighbors said she was a caring woman with a green thumb.
"That's all she ever did, is take care of her plants,"
said Sandra Apple, a neighbor. "She took care of another neighbor's
dog, too. She was a really sweet person."
Apple got into her wheelchair Friday night to investigate the noise
"I heard the shots," she said. "By the time I got
in my chair and got outside, it was all over."
Peck lives in a one-story Wilmington house on a circular drive.
On Saturday, the blinds were closed over the front windows, and
a pair of old boots sat on the porch. Birds fluttered around multiple
His neighbor, Joyce Barefoot, described Peck as likable and attentive
to his yard.
"He and his girlfriend were real close," she said. "They
had a little fish pond and they planted some flowers. Then one day
she was gone."
Barefoot said she saw Peck a few hours before Friday night's slaying.
"My daughter and I were pushing the baby around the circle,"
she said. "It must have been about 7:30 when we saw him leave.
He waved, and my daughter waved back. I didn't wave."
Staff writer Craig Jarvis can be reached at 829-4576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
News researcher Brooke Cain contributed to this report.; Correspondent
Josh Shaffer reported from Wilmington.
© Copyright 2004, The News & Observer Publishing Company,
a subsidiary of The McClatchy Company
Published: Jun 13, 2004
Modified: Jun 13, 2004 9:18 AM
Killings jolt UNCW, city, newspaper
Shooting-suicide stirs issue: What could have stopped it?Naujoks,
22, was shot to death by her ex-boyfriend.
By MARTHA QUILLIN, Staff Writer
WILMINGTON -- Christen Marie Naujoks was a beaming, tender-hearted
young woman who would have made a fine marine biologist or special-education
teacher. Whatever path she might have chosen, those who knew her
say she was destined to do good.
The 22-year-old UNC-Wilmington student was killed June 4 by a man
who, for the past few weeks at least, was just as determined to
After shooting Naujoks, his ex-girlfriend, on a sidewalk at her
apartment complex, John Brian Peck, 28, headed west, apparently
toward Ohio with the intent of murdering Naujoks' mother. Police
say he planned to kill her and several other women.
Before he could get there, he was confronted by rangers and police
in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He wheeled his car around
at a roadblock, fired a few shots at officers and then shot himself.
His car tumbled 60 feet almost straight down.
Images of the two dead young people have haunted Wilmington the
past week. Friends, family and co-workers of Naujoks and Peck, along
with police, university administrators, domestic violence victims'
advocates and the local newspaper, which knew she was in danger,
have asked the question that lingers after a woman is killed by
someone she knew.
Could anything have stopped him?
Marie Brodie, a training specialist with the N.C. Coalition Against
Domestic Violence in Durham, says the question is unanswerable,
but worth contemplating, because it recognizes that society has
an obligation to try to protect victims of domestic abuse.
"There are two things I try to keep in mind," Brodie said:
"That abuser committed that murder, and that abuser committed
that murder alone.
"But the second thing is, we as a society, and as a community
around that couple, have some sort of responsibility in terms of
doing everything we can with the knowledge that we have to keep
battered women safe."
That might mean helping a woman into a shelter or teaching her about
safety planning so that when the time is right, she can escape.
It might just be serving as a confidant, to make sure the victim
doesn't feel isolated.
Naujoks' case is the kind of domestic violence that is especially
frustrating for those who advocate for victims: The woman recognizes
she is in danger, confides in friends and family, seeks the legal
protection available to her -- and still ends up as prey.
Tina Nelson, a friend of Naujoks and classmate at UNC-Wilmington,
said Naujoks and Peck had dated about two years. They met when both
worked at a Wilmington pet store, Nelson said.
"I was really happy for her at first," Nelson said, because
Naujoks was far from her home and family and seemed lonely. She
enjoyed Peck's attention and the time the two spent together.
But gradually, Nelson said, Peck began to have angry outbursts.
"Sometimes it was directed at Christen, and sometimes it was
at something else," Nelson said. "But she was always the
one who had to be there."
They broke up and got back together several times, Nelson said.
Finally, in April, over spring break, Naujoks broke up with Peck
for good. Then the real trouble started.
Peck called the Naujoks' home in Solon, Ohio, leaving more than
a dozen obscene messages. When classes resumed, Peck followed Naujoks
around campus and, she later told police, sometimes kept her from
getting in her car.
Naujoks sought help from university police, who said they would
do what they could while she was on school grounds. Because she
lived off campus, they urged her to talk to local law enforcement
At some point, Nelson said, Naujoks hired a private detective, who
checked Peck's background and found that he had pleaded guilty to
two felony charges and a misdemeanor in the sexual assault of a
former girlfriend in 2001. Court records show he was originally
charged with first-degree rape in the case. He was sentenced to
30 days in jail, ordered to attend anger management classes and
placed on probation for three years, which included the time he
was dating Naujoks.
Naujoks obtained a restraining order against Peck in late April.
He was arrested within a week for violating the order by stalking
and harassing her. The couple was due in court on the matter this
The Wilmington Star-News got interested in the case after another
student, Jennifer Faulkner of Cary, was raped and killed in a dorm
room on campus May 7. A fellow student, Curtis Timothy Dixon of
Charlotte, has been charged in her death.
After Dixon's arrest, the newspaper reported that Dixon had failed
to disclose his criminal history on his application to attend UNC-Wilmington.
Because the school does not conduct criminal background checks of
prospective students, administrators had no way to know about it.
Christen Naujoks' mother, Holly, called the paper after that story
ran. She said her daughter was being stalked by Peck, another student
who had lied on his application, saying he had never been convicted
of a serious crime.
Allen Parsons, executive editor of the Star-News, said Holly Naujoks
believed that the school could do more to help her daughter and
others who become the victims of harassment.
Reporter Patrick Gannon worked on the story for a week to 10 days,
contacting Peck and Christen Naujoks. Peck gave Gannon an interview.
Naujoks decided not to but understood that a story was being written,
After Gannon inquired about Peck, university officials confirmed
Peck's criminal history and suspended him. School was already out
for the summer.
Two days before the story was to be published, Holly Naujoks called
Gannon again, with second thoughts. She said she was worried the
story might push Peck toward more violence. She asked whether it
could hold for a while.
"She thought it might set him off," Parsons said last
week. The reporter referred Mrs. Naujoks to his editors. She spoke
with Parsons, and he and other editors discussed whether to run
the story, kill it, or try to find another case to illustrate the
absence of criminal backgrounding throughout the UNC system.
The paper decided to publish the story, in part, Parsons said, because
it would not tell Peck anything about his victim he did not already
know, such as her name, where she lived, worked, or went to school.
And by running the story, Parsons said, the paper would raise the
issue of whether conducting background checks could reduce campus
The story ran on the Star-News' front page Sunday, May 30. It's
not clear whether Peck saw it.
Other killings planned?
After Naujoks was killed, investigators said they found evidence
at Peck's rental house indicating he had been planning Christen
Naujoks' death since at least mid-May, before her mother called
the Star-News. They also said they found evidence that Peck intended
to kill Holly Naujoks; the former girlfriend who filed the rape
charges; his own mother, who lives in Florida; and a Florida therapist
he had seen as a young man.
Parsons said the staff at the newspaper has been devastated by Christen
Naujoks' killing. Although he is ambivalent about the proper tactics,
he is resolute about the newspaper's role in covering domestic violence.
"What if you know about it, and you don't write about it?"
he said. "If we hadn't written about it, would there have been
this manhunt, and would Peck have been found before he committed
In the end, he said, "John Peck did this. We didn't have the
power to stop him. We didn't have the power to start him up. Her
family didn't have the power to stop him. The people who helped
her fill out the restraining order didn't have the power to stop
him. The sheriff's department didn't have the power to stop him.
His father didn't have the power to stop him.
"He is the one who is responsible."
Staff writer Martha Quillin can be reached at 829-8989 or email@example.com.
© Copyright 2004, The News & Observer Publishing Company,
a subsidiary of The McClatchy Company
Last updated: December 18. 2004 12:00AM
... more honesty from parents?
Curtis Dixon got the chance to murder Jessica Faulkner because his
father helped him lie his way into UNCW. Now Curtis Dixon is dead,
His father not only was a lawyer, but also the right-hand man of
UNC-Charlotte's chancellor. He no longer holds that job.
Fathers are not only entitled to help their children; they're expected
to. But James Dixon didn't level with his university counterparts
about his son's troubled academic and emotional past. He didn't
offer reasons to believe his son had overcome those problems and
was entitled to another chance.
Instead, from his office at UNC-Charlotte, he faxed an application
on his son's behalf that included multiple falsehoods and failed
to include pertinent facts. Among them were episodes of hostility
and (Curtis later told investigators) his departure from Navy boot
camp after being classified as homicidal and suicidal.
UNCW officials may now regret that they waived an essay requirement
and admitted Curtis Dixon after the usual deadlines had passed,
though that was allowed for various reasons, some of which applied
But university officials apparently had no reason to doubt the truthfulness
of the application, and, like most of their counterparts at most
other colleges, didn't try to verify information on it.
That's about to change across the UNC system. From now on, admissions
offices will seek more information about applicants' backgrounds.
For example, the campuses will establish a common database that
allows them to check whether an applicant has been thrown out of
a sister institution.
Those changes are coming, alas, because of the violent deaths of
four UNCW students in one year.
No checking system will ever be perfect. But a better system might
have detected the omissions and lies on Curtis Dixon's application.
That would have saved the lives of Jessica Faulkner and Curtis Dixon.
It might even have saved the lives of two other students if –
and we'll probably never know – the murder of Ms. Faulkner
in any way inspired John Peck to murder Christen Naujoks and later
James Dixon is entitled to the deepest sympathy for the loss of
a son he must have loved very much. The father didn't know that
submitting a falsified college application would lead to murder
But he did know that what he did was wrong. The consequences were