SPOKANE, Wash. — A Cheney man accused of killing his wife by poisoning her ice cream in 2018 pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder in a Spokane court on Wednesday.
David L. Pettis, 58, is accused of killing his wife Peggy using "prescription medications ... in a lethal amount" placed in ice cream, according to court documents. He also took out a life insurance policy worth $150,000 three days before her June 25, 2018 death.
According to court documents, Pettis told officers he found his wife lying face down on the floor between their bedroom and bathroom at about 10:30 p.m. He told officers he had fallen asleep on the couch while his wife was still awake and woke up to find her on the ground, according to a warrant filed in January.
During an initial investigation, Pettis gave police officers a box containing prescription hydrocodone and Trazadone pills, according to a warrant. He told officers he obtained the Trazadone from a third party, but said the hydrocodone may have been from his previous prescription for a shoulder injury.
Pettis, during one of multiple reported calls to the state medical examiner's office, said that Peggy would mix her pills with alcohol and had done so on the night of her death, according to court documents filed on June 14, 2019.
But detectives found that none of the prescription medications could be linked to Peggy and none of the pill bottles had her name on them, according to court documents.
Also, Peggy's toxicology report stated that she had multiple drugs, including hydrocodone, Trazadone and Benadryl, in her system, but no alcohol, according to the documents.
On June 28, 2018, Peggy's sister contacted the Spokane County Sheriff's Office and reported that she thought Peggy's death was suspicious due to financial circumstances, statements Pettis had made about her passing, and worries that he was having an extramarital affair, according to court documents. Peggy's sister was also the Pettis' next-door neighbor.
Peggy's sister told investigators that Peggy had expressed concern over their financial situation due to David's spending, and that Peggy only occasionally took hydrocodone to deal with back pain and didn't drink to intoxication, according to court documents.
According to the court documents, Peggy's sister said that Pettis reconnected with an old high school girlfriend while in New York for a funeral in Nov. 2017, after which he posted a photo on Facebook with her a caption similar to, "Feeling in Love."
Through the course of their investigation, detectives found that Pettis had assisted in taking out a life insurance policy on his wife worth $150,000 that became effective on June 22, 2018, for which he was the sole beneficiary, according to court documents.
During an interview with detectives on July 10, 2018, Pettis told two detectives that Peggy had been having medical issues but was able to pass a physical for the life insurance policy, according to court documents. Pettis also said he had tried to get his own life insurance policy, but was denied due to medical issues.
The court documents also say that Pettis told detectives Peggy needed to take medication by crushing up the pills and mixing them with ice cream, which she would then take with an alcohol mixture. He also claimed Peggy had trouble getting around due to pain and that she had told him to pursue a relationship with his old high school girlfriend in case anything happens to her, according to documents.
Pettis also told detectives that he and Peggy had planned on selling their farm and moving to New York, documents said.
Detectives obtained Peggy's medical records, which showed that in the last few years of her life, she had only been prescribed a total of 13 hydrocodone pills, and that none of the prescriptions were recent or current, according to court documents. There were also no notes referencing a difficulty swallowing, the records said, and a physical cause of death was not found during the surgical part of the autopsy.
One of Pettis' sons told detectives on August 17, 2018, that he was concerned his father had caused Peggy's death, noting that his father's story about how many pills she had taken and how much she drank was changing, according to documents. The son also said Peggy didn't take medication or drink in this fashion, and that his mother had told Peggy's sister that David had given her a sleeping aid, according to the records.
The son also said his father had told him he shared a bed with his old high school girlfriend during a trip and that he had already collected Peggy's retirement account, according to court documents. The son's girlfriend, who was interviewed separately, voiced similar concerns.
The son's girlfriend also told detectives Pettis had repeatedly brought up frustrations that Peggy was suffering from early symptoms of dementia, but the girlfriend said she didn't believe Peggy had dementia.
During the physical examination done for the life insurance policy, the doctor had wrote that Peggy didn't suffer from any memory issues, according to documents.
Detectives interviewed Pettis' old high school girlfriend on Aug. 21, 2018, according to court documents. The woman told detectives that Pettis had stayed at her residence during a trip in 2018 and that Pettis had made romantic advances to her, according to the documents. She also told detectives that during a later visit in 2018, after Peggy's death, that David no longer voiced financial concerns as he did in previous visits.
Detectives then discovered pharmacy records that showed Pettis had received hydrocodone prescriptions as late as March 2018, and also had a history of Trazadone and Lorazepam prescriptions.