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Abuse Suspect’s Rights Not Violated, Judge Says

Second District Judge John Stegner has denied Latah County Public Defender Steve Mahaffy’s motion to suppress evidence in the first-degree murder trial of David Pettit.

If convicted, Pettit faces life in prison.

The former University of Idaho student’s constitutional rights were not violated when he was interviewed by police about how Rebekkah, his 15-week-old daughter, was hurt and why she seemed unresponsive after being left in his care, Stegner ruled Friday.

The infant died in October after allegedly being shaken violently by Pettit.

In his motion, Mahaffy said Pettit was not advised of his Miranda rights before being questioned by Pullman Police while Rebekkah was being treated at Pullman Memorial Hospital on Oct. 2, nor was he advised of his rights before being questioned by Moscow police Detective Sgt. Bruce Fager.

Mahaffy argued that Pettit told police he would rather go to Spokane to be with his wife, Dawn Pettit, and Rebekkah, who was flown there for additional care. The infant died Oct. 5 at Deaconess Medical Center. According to autopsy results, Rebekkah’s injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome.

Pullman Sgt. Sam Sorem testified that he spoke briefly to Pettit at the hospital before asking if he would like to go to the Moscow Police Department. He said Pettit was willing to go.

Pettit was never handcuffed or arrested before being driven to Moscow by Detective David Peringer and Sorem. He did not ask to be released or to have an attorney present, Sorem said.

Fager also testified that he told Pettit he was not under arrest. Fager did read Pettit his Miranda rights before arresting him for injury to child after a two-hour interview.

Latah County Deputy Prosecutor Robin Eckmann reinforced Fager’s testimony when she played a videotape that showed the first few minutes of that interview. On the tape Fager told Pettit he was not under arrest by “any stretch of the imagination.”

Pettit’s trial is scheduled for May.


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