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Father pleads guilty in death of 5-month-old son

By Sam Penrod | Posted - Sep 10th, 2013 @ 6:24pm


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AMERICAN FORK — One day after a judge found an American Fork father competent to stand trial, Josh Petersen plead guilty to murdering his 5-month-old son.

The conviction could keep Petersen in prison for life with no chance at parole.

Petersen sat in the corner with his head down, crying at times, as he waited to plead guilty Tuesday to killing his newborn son.

"This is the first time he saw Amanda, the mother of Ryker, since he was arrested," said defense attorney Dusty Kawai. "It is emotional for him. He feels the gravity of his actions and he is devastated. He is devastated by what he did."

Petersen's attorney said that is why he was willing to plead guilty, even though at age 22, it means he will never get out of prison.

Kawai said Petersen was not in the right state of mind when he decided to kill his son and himself so they could be together. He said it was not an attempt to hurt Ryker's mother.

"In his depressive state he was at a point where he thought life was horrible, that it was full of disappointment and tragedy, and he wanted to spare his son that horror and he wanted to leave this life with his son," Kawai said.

However, after firing the shot, Kawai said Petersen had second thoughts and called his grandmother for help.

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"Ryker didn't pass away right away, and he didn't go through with the murder suicide he had initially planned," Kawai said.

Ryker's mother cried during the hearing and quickly left the courtroom, but prosecutors said she is satisfied with the plea agreement.

"Certainly nothing we do here will bring Ryker back," said deputy Utah County attorney Craig Johnson. "The family got the closure they wanted."

Petersen will be sentenced on Oct. 21. It will give him the opportunity to speak and also allow the voices of Ryker's family to be heard.

"No one is out here celebrating. This is a somber day, but a necessary day to have closure for the families so they can both hopefully move on," Johnson said.

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