To hear his wife tell it, David Pettit didn’t want to have a kid.
When the baby cried, as she often did soon after she was born, “he’d say, ‘Damn kid,’ and ‘she’s just a parasite’ and ‘I wish we never had her,”’ she testified.
The baby had a case of colic so bad the couple took to driving her around at 5 a.m. in the hope that she would go back to sleep. Dawn Pettit told her husband that the hard times would pass, that he should be more patient.
“He said, ‘Well you should be happy that I haven’t killed her yet or thrown her out the window.’ He said, ‘That is me controlling my anger.”’
Eventually, say prosecutors, he did kill her. On Monday, they sought his wife’s testimony in a preliminary hearing aimed at having him stand trial in District Court for the first-degree murder of Rebekkah, age 16 weeks.
The infant died in October, three days after being flown to a Spokane hospital with retinal tearing and brain damage. X-rays revealed she had earlier had a broken leg and six broken ribs. An autopsy found other broken ribs near the spine that did not show up in X-rays, according to court documents.
Pettit, a 24-year-old University of Idaho student, told police he had been holding the child on the arm of a chair when she fell three days before her death.
But in Monday’s proceeding, Latah County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robin Eckmann began portraying Pettit as a frustrated and hot-tempered father who was unwilling and even afraid to help raise his child. At the time of the child’s death, he had other reasons to be frustrated as well. Dawn Pettit said he had flunked a class over the summer, missed the first four weeks of fall classes to illness and was in jeopardy of losing his financial aid.
In more than two hours of nonstop testimony, Pettit, 25, said she got pregnant within a month of their meeting. They had a March wedding - his first, her third - and took classes at Gritman Memorial Hospital to prepare for the child’s birth - his third, her first.
As part of a class exercise, he said he had reservations about parenting and worried whether “he could make a good father, if he could handle the baby’s crying,” she said.
On July 8, the first time Dawn Pettit left the child with him alone, the child began vomiting and developed a fever. Two days later, doctors found the child had a broken leg.
David Pettit said he did not know what could have happened. But several days later, said Dawn Pettit, he theorized he could have hurt the child’s leg when he stubbed his toe in the kitchen and squeezed the child against him as he lost his balance.
Idaho Child Protective Services placed the child in foster care until early August.
The child then blossomed, Dawn Pettit said. She started to laugh and smile and became fascinated with trees.
“She was a very intelligent baby,” she said, beginning to sob. “You could see it in her eyes.”
Her remarks set David Pettit to quietly crying as well.
On Aug. 26, the first time Dawn Pettit left the child alone with her husband since foster care, he told her their dog had tipped the baby out of its bassinet, rendering her unconscious.
In giving the baby CPR, Dawn Pettit recalled him saying, “I think I may have grabbed her too hard.”
Dawn Pettit said she later saw on each side of the child’s back bruises the size of an adult’s finger.
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