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Mental state of dad accused of shooting 5-month-old son investigated

Published: Monday, May 20 2013 3:19 p.m. MDT

Joshua Petersen appears in 4th District Court in Provo April 15, 2013. Petersen is charged with killing his 5-month-old son.

Mark Johnston

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PROVO — Attorneys connected to the case of an American Fork father accused of shooting and killing his infant son want to know more about his mental state before proceeding with the case.

Josh Petersen stood quietly in court with his attorney Monday, as both sides informed a judge that Petersen's mental state and medical history are being evaluated.

"All the medical records from his history that we have access to, as much as we can offer an opinion on what they mean, we are sending them to an expert … to see what we can see about his state of mind at the time of the shooting and see how that might affect the interest of justice in this case,” prosecutor Craig Johnson said.

It could take about a month for the experts to review the reports and medical records.

Prosecutors have charged Petersen with aggravated murder, a capital offense, and are now facing a decision whether they will seek the death penalty.

"Certainly this is literally a case of life and death,” Johnson said, “and it is a case that we take very seriously.”

Prosecutors have to declare their intention to seek the death penalty within 45 days after an arraignment, which will not occur until after a preliminary hearing about the evidence is held. Such a hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Petersen could also face life in prison without parole, or life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Police were called to 582 N. 500 East in American Fork around 1 p.m. on April 5. Investigators said Petersen shot the infant in the head with a rifle. He then allegedly planned to kill himself but was stopped by family members. The baby's mother had just broken up with Petersen, family members said.

At an April 29 hearing, defense attorney Dusty Kawai said his client wanted to die. Monday, Kawai did not speak to the media, but did meet behind closed doors with several family members.

Josh Petersen remains in the Utah County Jail where he is being held without bail. His next court hearing is June 17.

Email: spenrod@deseretnews.com

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