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Attorney: Man accused of killing infant son 'wants to die'

Published: Monday, April 29 2013 5:15 p.m. MDT

PROVO — An attorney for an American Fork man charged with shooting and killing his 5-month-old son says his client wants to die.

Joshua Petersen, 21, is charged with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, in connection with the April 5 death of his 5-month-old son Ryker. The charge could be a capital offense if prosecutors decide to pursue the death penalty.

"I told him that was a possibility, and he's, in my opinion — and I'm not a medical professional — but he's suffering from severe depression and he honestly wants to die — he wants to," defense attorney Dusty Kawai said of his client. "I think there are times when that's what he wants more than anything and there are times when he understands … despite his decisions there could be some sort of light at the end of the tunnel."

Kawai said he doubts a preliminary hearing will be held.

"In this case we don't need a preliminary hearing to agree that there is sufficient evidence to go to trial on the charges that he's facing," Kawai said Monday.

Police were called to 582 N. 500 East in American Fork after the shooting around 1 p.m. on April 5. In a 911 call, Petersen's maternal grandmother and the baby's great-grandmother, can be heard on the line.

"Roll the cops, roll an ambulance, shots fired, a baby’s been hit in the head. Please come now," she said.

She then reported that the baby's father was trying to shoot himself. She can be heard asking for the gun and then saying, "I have the gun."

The woman told dispatchers that the infant was still breathing.

"Who shot the baby?" the dispatcher asked.

"His daddy," the woman responded.

In a recording of the call, a man can be heard intermittently in the background. The woman identified herself as "the grandma" before breaking down.

"Please, please send a cop," she said. "Ryker, Grandma loves you. With all my heart I love you. Please, Ryker."

During a court hearing just after Petersen was arrested, American Fork Police Sgt. Gregg Ludlow testified that officers found evidence that the baby had been shot in the head with a .22-caliber rifle. He said Petersen told police he had been planning to kill the child for about a month.

Petersen was also planning to kill himself, but investigators said he was stopped by a family member.

Kawai said the hearing in 4th District Court Monday allowed him to coordinate with prosecutors "about the nature of the case." He said Petersen had been meeting with medical professionals prior to the shooting and he will seek those medical records before the next court hearing on May 20.

"We want to get those medical records to kind of understand the back story as to how this could have happened," Kawai said. "Hopefully between now and then, we can look at them and have a greater understanding on the back story. I will say that he is, from the moment I met him, devastated and that hasn't changed."

Email: emorgan@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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