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Cheney man who poisoned wife with ice cream sentenced to 25 years

David L. Pettis was charged with first-degree murder for killing his wife Peggy using "prescription medications...in a lethal amount" placed in ice cream.

SPOKANE, Wash. — After a jury found a Cheney man guilty of murder in the 2018 poisoning death of his wife, he was sentenced to 25 years on Wednesday.

David L. Pettis, 58, was charged with first-degree murder for 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, court records say.

In July 2019, Pettis pleaded not guilty to the charge. Pettis' trial began Tuesday, Nov. 30 in Spokane County Superior Court.

Katreena Mabe, the victim's niece, said that she and her family felt relief from the jury's decision.

"This is a very rough time for our family," Mabe told KREM 2's Amanda Roley. "Dave was a part of our family for 35 years. We are relieved that there is a resolution and we hope that our family can now go forward with healing."

According to court documents, Pettis told officers he found his wife lying facedown 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. 

Peggy's toxicology report also 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.

After the judge left the courtroom, David Pettis's daughter, Elizabeth Culp, rushed to hug her father. She insists that her father is not guilty, saying that she was living with her parents at the time and noticed her mother taking hydrocodone on the weekends.

"I feel awful," Culp said after the verdict. "I feel even more awful than I did before because I know that my dad didn't kill her and it certainly wasn't premeditated."

Pettis is now in custody at the Spokane County Jail. His sentencing is set for Jan. 12, 2022.