A Cheney man appeared before a judge Thursday to face charges that he allegedly killed his wife by lacing her ice cream with a lethal dose of pain medication in June.
David Pettis was arrested Wednesday by Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies.
District Court Judge Patti Walker set Pettis’ bond at $1 million, which his defense attorney, Robert Sargent, said was unreasonable because Pettis earned significantly less than indicated in the pretrial findings, which estimated his monthly income at $5,000 to $7,000. Sargent said his income was closer to $2,500 a month, and because that income came from a logging business, which is “feast and famine,” it’s not always consistent.
Walker also determined that Pettis was not eligible to be represented by a public defender because he has enough income and assets to hire his own legal representation.
Pettis had three misdemeanors in the state of New York in or around 1994, his lawyer said, including a trespassing charge and a petty larceny charge.
Pettis owns a transportation business called Pettis Transport in Cheney and served in the military from 1979 to ’81, Sargent said.
In the course of their investigation, detectives interviewed a woman who allegedly had a romantic relationship with Pettis before and after the death of his wife, Peggy Pettis.
Pettis and the woman, his high school girlfriend, reconnected during a funeral in New York in November 2017. The two began texting each other. In March, a Facebook post showed a picture of the two with the caption reading, “Feeling in Love.” The post made multiple family members suspicious of an affair, according to court documents.
Peggy Pettis was communicating with his high school girlfriends, too, David Pettis told authorities, through the Scrabble-like game, “Words with Friends.” Pettis told detectives that “Peggy knew of (her) and encouraged him to pursue a relationship with (her) should anything ever happen to Peggy.”
Within four days of Peggy Pettis’ death, David Pettis was making plans to visit his high school girlfriend in New York to stay with her, court documents stated. Pettis visited her in August, but she was “suspicious of Pettis” and began asking him questions, according to court documents. Pettis “became upset and decided to leave,” and he told her, “’the next thing out of your mouth will be that I killed my wife.”
David and Peggy Pettis’ son’s girlfriend told detectives that Pettis “tried saying that Peggy had failed to pay some bills because she had dementia, however (she) said she knew it was, because in fact they didn’t have the money and Peggy was not experiencing dementia.”
No signs of dementia were found when a physician’s assistant conducted a physical for a new life insurance policy Peggy received days before her death, according to court documents. Pettis told the physician’s assistant that Peggy was having memory issues related to fiances, but “the examples were not of significance.”
Three days after she secured the life insurance policy, she died. Pettis was listed as the sole beneficiary of the policy.
Pettis called the medical examiner 10 times to speed up Peggy’s toxicology report because “he needed it to receive the life insurance monies and bury Peggy,” court documents stated.
Pettis also had made 14 insurance claims since 1996, detectives found. Four of them were determined to be arson.
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