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Jury to start deliberations in trial of David Pettis, who’s accused of murdering his wife with hydrocodone-laced ice cream

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 13, 2021

A jury convicted David Pettis on Monday of killing his wife, Peggy Pettis, by poisoning her ice cream with hydrocodone.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
A jury convicted David Pettis on Monday of killing his wife, Peggy Pettis, by poisoning her ice cream with hydrocodone. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Peggy Pettis died from a lethal dose of hydrocodone, but now it’s up to a jury to decide whether the numerous hours of witness testimony and exhibits presented by prosecutors are enough to convict her husband, David Pettis, of first-degree murder.

The jury will start deliberations Friday.

David Pettis, 60, is accused of grinding up the pain medication and putting it in his wife’s ice cream on June 25, 2018, at their Cheney home.

Doctors were unable to conclude how many hydrocodone pills she ingested that night, but court documents said the hydrocodone was about 10 times the “therapeutic amount.”

Dr. John Howard, Spokane County forensic pathologist and medical examiner at the time of Peggy Pettis’ death, testified the muscle relaxer, antihistamine, antidepressant and acetaminophen medications she consumed that night likely hastened her death.

David Pettis has claimed he had fallen asleep on the living room couch sometime after 8:30 p.m. that June night. He reportedly woke up two hours later and found his wife lying on the bedroom floor face down. He called 911 and started CPR, but neither he nor medical personnel were able to revive her. She died at about 11:10 p.m.

Prosecutors said David Pettis killed his wife in order to receive life insurance payouts and to start a new life with an old girlfriend, Robin Kaylor, from his high school days.

Spokane County deputy prosecutor Sharon Hedlund said Thursday in her closing arguments that David Pettis would be the beneficiary of three significant life insurance payouts when Peggy Pettis died. One policy took effect two weeks before her death and another three days before she died.

She said David Pettis made a claim within two days after his wife’s death on one of the policies for $150,000, Hedlund said.

Meanwhile, David Pettis allegedly rekindled a flame with Kaylor while he was in New York at a funeral. Kaylor said David Pettis attempted to be intimate with her during the November 2017 visit.

“If you look at the communications Mr. Pettis had, he was planning a new life,” said Hedlund, noting that new life did not include his wife.

The prosecution showed messages between David Pettis and Kaylor in March 2018 that showed the defendant’s love for Kaylor. He even allegedly sent her a nude selfie, saw her a second time in early 2018 in New York and expressed interest in moving to the east coast, Hedlund said.

The Pettis couple’s son, also named David Pettis, said he believed his father had something to do with his mother’s death after his father reportedly told him inconsistent stories of the night she died.

The defense said at the start of the trial that Peggy Pettis’ death was accidental or suicidal. Several witnesses testified that Peggy Pettis did not appear to be suicidal.

Lyle Johnston, a former detective with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, testified Thursday that Peggy Pettis did not seem like a suicidal person based off witnesses’ descriptions of her at the time.

Kyle Zeller, one of David Pettis’ attorneys, said in his closing arguments Thursday that his client did not murder his wife.

“All there is in this case is smoke,” Zeller said.

He said David Pettis stated he did not put hydrocodone in his wife’s ice cream that night. He said the sole question is how the pain medication got into Peggy Pettis’ ice cream, and that cannot be proven, Zeller said.

He said David Pettis had an inappropriate relationship with Kaylor, “but this trial is not about the affair,” he said.

Witnesses testified that Peggy Pettis knew about Kaylor.

Regarding the life insurance policies, Zeller said the couple had life insurance for years and when the policies lapsed they got new ones. He said the couple both wanted new life insurance policies prior to her death.

Zeller told the jury that if David Pettis did kill his wife, he did everything wrong to cover his tracks.

“Mr. Pettis didn’t kill his wife,” Zeller said. “I don’t think anyone can say for certain what happened.”

David Pettis declined to testify during the trial.

But, the prosecution showed the jury Thursday morning a recorded video from October 2018 of Spokane County Sheriff’s Office detectives interviewing David Pettis.

In the interview, David Pettis denied multiple times killing his wife.

“I’m telling you I did not kill my wife,” he said.

He said during their 35 years together – 33 of which they were married – he never raised his hand or voice at Peggy Pettis.

“This woman was my life. Period,” he said. “I have nothing but emptiness without her.”

He said he initially did not think his wife committed suicide, but he told the detectives that the idea crept deeper into his mind the last couple of months leading up to the 2018 interview.

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