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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Cheney man charged with murder in wife’s poisoning death from pain medication-laced ice cream

A Sheriff’s Department patrol vehicle. (SR)

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Cheney man Wednesday on suspicion of killing his wife in June by putting a lethal amount of crushed pain pills in her ice cream.

David L. Pettis, 57, called police on June 25 and reported that his wife, Peggy Pettis, was “blue and wasn’t breathing.” When first responders arrived, they didn’t see any signs of trauma or injuries and gave her CPR for 40 minutes until she was pronounced dead at her home at the 21400 block of South Beckley Lane in Cheney.

When police questioned Pettis, he said his wife, 64, had taken prescription pain medication and drank alcohol while he was asleep. When he woke up, he walked into the bedroom and found her not breathing.

Days later, a family member contacted police and reported that they suspected Pettis might be responsible for the victim’s death, partly because he was having an affair, according to a sheriff’s office news release.

Detectives interviewed Pettis, who said that his wife “took three hydrocodone pills at a time for pain.” He said the pills would be ground up and put in ice cream with an alcoholic mixture because the victim had a hard time swallowing pills.

A toxicology report stated that his wife had hydrocodone, trazodone and Benadryl in her system, but no alcohol.

Pettis “acquired and gave prescription medication to the victim in a lethal amount,” the news release stated, and he obtained the trazodone from a third party and the hydrocodone “may have been prescribed to him for his shoulder.”

“The amount of hydrocodone itself was at a lethal level,” the press release stated.

Detectives confirmed that Pettis “unsuccessfully attempted to start a romantic relationship” with a childhood friend before his wife died.

Pettis was the beneficiary of the victim’s life insurance policy, which she secured days before her death, the release said.

Police arrested Pettis on Wednesday. He was booked into the Spokane County Jail on a charge of first-degree murder.