It is so easy to jump to conclusions and judgments when a tragedy like this occurs. We believe that we should leave the judgment and conclusions to our Heavenly Father. We will not let this sadness consume us. —Family statement
PROVO — An American Fork man accused of shooting and killing his 5-month-old son will be held without bail, a judge ruled Monday.
Joshua David Petersen, 21, appeared before 4th District Judge David Mortensen via closed circuit video from the Utah County Jail. His hair was disheveled and his sleeves appeared to have been cut or torn from his jail jumpsuit as he listened to American Fork Police Sgt. Gregg Ludlow describe the crime.
"We found evidence the child had been shot with a .22-caliber rifle," Ludlow told the judge, identifying Petersen as the infant's father. "Mr. Petersen advised he had been planning to kill the child, Ryker, for about a month and decided Friday was the day he was going to do that."
Police were called to 582 N. 500 East American Fork after the shooting around 1 p.m. Friday. Ludlow was emotional as he told the judge that Petersen had taken the infant to the basement of the home before going into another room and loading a single round into the rifle.
The sergeant said Petersen pointed the gun at the baby's head and fired. The man was planning to next kill himself, but investigators said he was stopped by a family member. The identity of the family member was not released.
The infant was first taken to American Fork Hospital before he was taken by medical helicopter to Primary Children's Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy determined that the child died as the result of a single gunshot wound to the head, Ludlow said.
Petersen was arrested and booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation of aggravated murder in connection with the child's death.
Deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson requested that Petersen be held without bail, pointing to Ludlow's testimony as evidence and the child's young age as an aggravating factor. Mortensen granted the request and Petersen did not comment when asked by the judge about the bail.
The child's grandmother told the Deseret News Saturday that her stepdaughter and the child's mother, broke up with Petersen Tuesday, which she said may have driven Petersen to what she called "insanity." Johnson said he did not know what might have been the motive for the shooting.
The prosecutor said a bail amount is given in every case unless there is "substantial evidence that a capital felony has occurred." He said his office has a week to file any charges against Petersen and are working with police to obtain their reports before making a final decision.
Once an attorney is appointed for Petersen, Johnson said it is possible that they will challenge the no bail determination.
A candlelight vigil was held for the child Sunday night, the same day the family of the child's mother issued a statement.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to all of you who are suffering from the loss of baby Ryker, including the father’s family," Amanda Merrill Pilling's family wrote. "We can not imagine how hard this must be for you, we know that you love Ryker and we send our love and support to you.
"It is so easy to jump to conclusions and judgments when a tragedy like this occurs. We believe that we should leave the judgment and conclusions to our Heavenly Father. We will not let this sadness consume us. Amanda knows that her son, Ryker is with her parents who have also passed away."
Petersen is scheduled to again appear in court April 15.