Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- After undergoing five hours of questioning by police detectives Thursday, Shawn Peterson emerged from NOPD headquarters as a free man with big questions swirling around him.

Peterson showed up at headquarters at about 11 a.m. after he was named a person of interest in a triple murder in Gentilly Wednesday night. About 12 hours earlier, a gunman fatally shot NOPD dispatcher Christine George and her two adult children inside the garage of the family's home on Jeanne Marie Place.

Family members said Peterson was an on-again, off-again boyfriend of George, 39, who was fatally shot along with her 20-year-old daughter, Tresa George, and 18-year-old son, Leonard George. Peterson was Leonard's father, the family said.

Peterson, 41, began his criminal career early, finding himself in jail shortly after he became an adult in the eyes of the law at age 17. Most of his life since then has been spent behind bars, court records show.

Peterson was 17 when he pleaded guilty to possession of crack cocaine in 1989 and received five years probation, the records show.

He wasn't free long before he was arrested in connection with a 1991 killing. He originally was booked with first-degree murder in that case, but after several co-defendants were booked in the same killing, Peterson cut a plea deal, agreeing to 20 years in prison on charges of attempted second-degree murder.

At the same time, Peterson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit second-degree murder, for which he received five years in prison, which ran concurrently with his 20-year term. He served both of those sentences simultaneously with a five-year term for violating his probation on the cocaine conviction.

After an early release on good-time, the records show, Peterson quickly found himself back in trouble with the law. In 2008, he was booked with five counts of aggravated assault and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He resolved those charges by pleading guilty to attempted possession of a firearm by a felon, agreeing to seven years in prison.

Because that sentence was given without the benefit of probation or parole, it is unclear how Peterson was back on the street. A full prison term on the conviction would have established his release date some time in 2015.

It is also unclear what Peterson told police detectives. He emerged from police headquarters at about 4:30 p.m., according to an NOPD spokesperson, but police offered no updates about the investigation except to say it is ongoing.

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