The 60-year-old Cheney man convicted last month of murdering his wife by lacing her ice cream with a lethal amount of hydrocodone was sentenced to 25 years in prison Wednesday.
Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price said Peggy Pettis, 64, deserved to live a full life, but her husband, David Pettis, took that away from her because he was “selfish” and “uncaring.”
“Her life ended because, Mr. Pettis, you killed her,” Price said.
Doctors testified they did not know how many pills David Pettis ground up and put in his wife’s ice cream the night of June 25, 2018, but the hydrocodone was about 10 times the “therapeutic amount.”
Prosecutors said during the trial that David Pettis killed his wife in order to receive life insurance payouts and to start a new life with an old girlfriend. They presented jurors with proof of new life insurance policies taken on Peggy Pettis.
“You killed her because you wanted a new life,” Price told David Pettis, who sat in a wheelchair Wednesday wearing a yellow Spokane County Jail inmate jumpsuit.
Price said she should have had the opportunity to enjoy her upcoming retirement, spending time with family members and in her garden, both of which she loved. Peggy Pettis worked as a school bus driver.
Price said he wished he knew Peggy Pettis, who he described as hard working, caring and loving.
“She sounds to me like a remarkable woman,” he said.
Price said her family and friends are the ones left to pick up the pieces. Some of them addressed the court in person Wednesday while others watched and listened via Zoom.
Everyone who spoke, except for the Pettis’ daughter, asked that Price impose a life sentence or at least a lengthy prison sentence.
The 25-year sentence, or 300 months, was within the standard sentencing range of 240 to 320 months. Pettis has no prior criminal history.
Sue Turnidge, one of Peggy Pettis’ sisters, wrote that her sibling was “one of the most unselfish people I had ever known.”
She wrote that the family is now divided with no chance of repair and that David Pettis took away a mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend.
“He did it because of money, greed and selfishness,” Turnidge wrote. “She had a future and he took that away.”
Lori Wilson, another of Peggy Pettis’ sisters, told reporters after the sentencing that Peggy Pettis gave her life to other people and that family was most important to her.
She said she was glad the court proceedings were over and that the family will heal.
“We’re strong people,” Wilson said.
Elizabeth Culp, the couple’s daughter, told the court via Zoom that she knows her father was not capable of killing her mother.
“I know that with the circumstantial evidence it makes my dad look pretty damn bad,” she said.
Price said direct and circumstantial evidence carry the same weight and the evidence overwhelmingly indicated that David Pettis killed his wife.
Culp said David Pettis still loved his wife.
“The love that my parents had was there every single day,” she said.
Culp asked Price to be lenient with his sentencing.
“I don’t want to lose my dad like I lost my mom and the whole side of her family,” she said.
David Pettis declined to address the court.
One of his attorneys, Kyle Zeller, said they will appeal the conviction.
Zeller said David Pettis always told him he missed his wife and shared stories of their life together and what they planned to do in the future.
While he said he respected the jury’s decision, he said he had a difficult time believing the conviction.
“That is just not at all the Mr. Pettis I got to know over the last three and a half years,” Zeller said.
Zeller said the sentence imposed is about what he and Colin Charbonneau, David Pettis’ other attorney, expected. Zeller asked Price for the low-to-midpoint area of the standard sentencing range.
Spokane County deputy prosecutor Sharon Hedlund asked the court to consider family members’ sentencing wishes.
“We’re glad that this case is over for the family’s sake,” Hedlund said.
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