Witnesses testified Tuesday that David Pettis was anxious about getting his wife’s life insurance policy approved shortly before she died and inquired multiple times about the cause and manner of her death in the months after her death.
The 60-year-old Cheney man is accused of killing his wife, Peggy Pettis, 64, on June 25, 2018, by lacing her ice cream with hydrocodone. David Pettis is on trial on a charge of first-degree murder.
Krystn Meier, a life insurance agent for the Pettis couple, said a $150,000 life insurance policy was approved for Peggy Pettis three days before she died. She said David Pettis was the beneficiary of that money .
She said David Pettis did not apply for a policy because his rates would be too high as a result of health issues.
Meier said it took unusually long for Peggy Pettis’ policy to be accepted. She applied for the policy March 23, 2018, and it did not become effective until June 22 that same year. Meier said David Pettis expressed frustration with the length of the process 10 days before she died.
Carol Gahl, a physician assistant at MultiCare Rockwood Clinic in Cheney, said Peggy Pettis visited the clinic on June 5, 2018, for a physical, which was needed before she obtained the life insurance policy.
“It was an interesting visit,” said Gahl, who added that David Pettis accompanied his wife.
Gahl said the Pettis couple wanted the medical documents from the 30-minute visit to be finished that day so the life insurance policy could be completed. Gahl said the clinic is sometimes unable to complete such a task the day of an appointment.
She said Peggy Pettis was relaxed and smiling during the visit, while her husband was “somewhat anxious” and stressed the need for the paperwork to be completed. She said David Pettis was also concerned about his wife’s health.
He said Peggy Pettis had hip pain and memory problems. Gahl said Peggy Pettis told her she did not have memory issues, and that Gahl did not catch any “red flags” for dementia or Alzeimer’s Disease during her brief medical visit.
Three people who worked at the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office testified Tuesday that they each received at least one phone call from David Pettis inquiring about his wife’s toxicology results and her cause and manner of death.
Taylor Diggles, a former office assistant at the medical examiner’s office, said David Pettis contacted the office the day after his wife died. After talking about funeral arrangements, Diggles said David Pettis asked when her toxicology results would arrive. She said David Pettis “wasn’t happy” when she told him toxicology results were delayed that year and it would likely take longer than three months.
Diggles said she also received a call from David Pettis in late August, inquiring about the cause and manner of her death. She said he was once again unhappy after she told him the doctor needed to review documents and he was out of the office for a couple of weeks.
She said David Pettis told her he was in contact with the governor’s office to get the autopsy results quicker.
Brenda Walker, an administrative support specialist for the medical examiner’s office, said David Pettis asked in September about the cause and manner of death, and she told him the doctor was conducting additional toxicology testing and that it would be several more weeks until the results came back.
She said he became upset and started using abusive language. She said David Pettis also told her he was going to contact the governor and a state representative to obtain faster results.
Diggles said it is common for family members to have the questions that Pettis asked, and it’s also common for families to call the medical examiner’s office more than once.
She said it would not be uncommon for family members to be frustrated by the backlog at the crime laboratory.
James Uttke, deputy medical investigator at the medical examiner’s office, said he also received a call from David Pettis the day after his wife died, asking if there were any significant findings in the autopsy. Uttke said David Pettis’ daughter also had concerns about her mother’s death. Uttke said he advised her to speak to police about those worries.
Mark Voigtlaender, a detective with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, addressed messages sent between David Pettis and Robin Kaylor, a woman he knew from high school and reconnected with on a trip to New York in November 2017.
In messages from March 2018, David Pettis allegedly told Kaylor he loves and misses her. He also allegedly sent a nude selfie to her and asked her to send a photo of her in a night gown, Voigtlaender said.
At one point, Kaylor reportedly told David Pettis that he is “all over the place” emotionally.
The Pettis’ daughter told Peggy Pettis that David Pettis is in a “midlife crisis” that same month.
James Beckley, who was raised by the Pettis couple from age 14 to 19, said David Pettis was talking – a couple days after Peggy Pettis’ death – about selling his farm and leaving his home because he couldn’t stand to be there anymore. Beckley, who referred to David and Peggy Pettis as mom and dad, said David Pettis mentioned moving to New York, which is where Kaylor lives.
Sharon Hedlund, deputy Spokane County prosecutor, said she expects to interview seven witnesses Wednesday before the state rests.
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