Detectives Charge Husband with Murder
Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Detectives, investigating the unattended death of a 64-year-old woman in June of this year, developed probable cause to arrest and charge the decedent’s husband, 57-year-old David L. Pettis, with Murder 1st Degree. Pettis was arrested at the Public Safety Building this afternoon and booked into the Spokane County Jail.
On June 25, 2018, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Garrett Spencer was advised of a medical call at a residence located in the 21400 block of S. Beckley Ln., in South Spokane County. The call was made by Pettis who stated his wife was blue and wasn’t breathing. Dispatch also advised CPR was in progress and approximately 40 minutes later, Deputy Spencer was advised the female was deceased.
At the scene, Deputy Spencer was advised by fire/medical personnel life-saving measures were attempted but unsuccessful. No signs of trauma or visible injuries were observed.
During an interview as a normal part of the unattended death investigation, Pettis told Deputy Spencer his wife took prescribed pain medication and consumed at least one alcoholic drink earlier in the evening. Later in the evening, after falling asleep in a living room chair, he walked into the bedroom and found his wife not breathing, face down on the floor. When asked, Pettis described his wife as very healthy and noted she was given a “clean bill of health” during a recent physical for the purpose of obtaining a new life insurance policy.
As part of a standard inventory of prescription medications, Deputy Spencer noted a small number of Hydrocodone and Trazadone pills. Pettis stated he obtained the Trazadone from a third party and the Hydrocodone may have been prescribed to him for his shoulder.
The investigator from the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office arrived at the scene to assist. Noting the lack of medical history and confusion regarding the prescription medications, further examination was appropriate.
A few days later, a member of her family contacted Major Crimes Sergeant Jack Rosenthal and Detective Lyle Johnston and expressed suspicions Pettis might be responsible for the victim’s death. The information provided outlined concerns of financial difficulties and the possibility Pettis was having a romantic relationship with another woman.
As Detective Johnston continued the investigation, he learned the following:
Other family members had similar concerns regarding the victim’s death.
Pettis had contacted the Medical Examiner’s Office and was upset the autopsy final report would take so long because of the amount of time needed to obtain a toxicology report. He also contacted the toxicology lab directly to try influence them to provided test results sooner, stating he needed to collect the life insurance policy to pay for funeral arrangements.
During an interview, Pettis stated the victim 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.
Detectives identified and contacted a childhood friend of Pettis who stated Pettis had unsuccessfully attempted to start a romantic relationship with her prior to the victim’s death.
The completed toxicology report showed the victim had multiple drugs in her system to include Hydrocodone, Trazadone, and Benadryl, but no alcohol. The amount of Hydrocodone itself was at a lethal level.
The life insurance for the victim was approved and issued days before her death.
With this and additional information gained during the investigation, Detective Johnston believes Pettis was engage in or attempted to be engaged in an extra-marital affair, he assisted in obtaining and was named the beneficiary of the victim’s new life insurance policy, he acquired and gave prescription medication to the victim in a lethal amount, statements made by Pettis were not consistent with the know medical history or toxicology report and probable cause exists to charge Pettis with Murder 1st Degree.
This afternoon, Pettis arrived at the Public Safety Building for another interview. At the conclusion, Pettis was arrested and booked into the Spokane County Jail for Murder 1st Degree.