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Trial begins for man accused of killing daughter

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By Diana Hefley
Herald Writer
EVERETT — A Tulalip Bay firefighter stood next to a projector screen lit up with a school picture of a smiling, dark-haired girl.
That was the 6-year-old he found lying in blood a year ago Monday. That was the girl whose mom he saw leaning over the child’s motionless body, crying for her baby. That was the girl whose heart had stopped beating.
Joshua Graham was the first firefighter inside the Tulalip-area house last year.
On Tuesday, he carefully pointed to the picture of Stormy Peters. His finger came to rest on a space between Stormy’s brown eyes.
That’s where her father shot her, Graham told a Snohomish County jury.
The murder trial of Richard Peters began Tuesday. If convicted, Peters, 43, faces more than 20 years in prison.
Dressed in a dark blue suit, Peters kept his head bowed during most of the opening statements. He appeared shaken when Stormy’s picture was shown to jurors.
Prosecutors believe Peters was drunk on Nov. 16, 2008 when he sent Stormy to his bedroom to retrieve a gun from a nightstand.
Peters is accused of pointing the gun at his daughter’s head and pulling the trigger.
“He was trying to mess with her, trying to scare her,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Paul Stern said. “He expected to hear a click. Instead he heard a boom.”
Stormy was shot right between the eyes, Stern said.
Medics were able to restart Stormy’s heart. The first-grader was rushed to a Seattle hospital, where she died a few hours later.
Peters told investigators he didn’t think the .45-caliber Colt was loaded. He was cleaning the gun when it went off, he told police.
The shooting was a horrible accident, his Everett defense attorney Karen Halverson told the jury.
“She did not deserve to die. The person responsible for her death is Richard Peters,” Halverson said. “His actions don’t amount to a crime.”
There is no evidence that what happened is anything other than a tragic accident, she said.
“As human beings we want to blame someone ... but oftentimes things are just what they appear,” Halverson said.
Prosecutors first charged Peters with first-degree manslaughter. They alleged that while the shooting may have been unintentional, Peters recklessly caused his daughter’s death.
He knew the risks of having loaded guns around children, Stern told the jury. Two other children, ages 3 and 8, were home at the time of the shooting.
He had a gun safe and locks but he failed to properly handle the weapons, Stern said. He allowed his children to carry the guns, the deputy prosecutor said.
Stern in August added a second-degree murder charge.
Homicide detectives uncovered evidence indicating that Peters intentionally pointed the gun at Stormy’s head, Stern said.
Pointing a loaded gun at someone is second-degree assault. Because the assault led to the girl’s death, that’s murder, Stern wrote in court papers.
Detectives in May learned that Peters allegedly told a cellmate in the Snohomish County Jail that he pointed the gun at the girl. He said he didn’t realize the weapon was loaded, Stern wrote in charging documents.
Detectives returned to Peters’ home to recreate the shooting and analyze the path of the bullet.
They believe Stormy was facing the gun when it was fired.
The new evidence demonstrates that what Peters told police is “forensically impossible or at least significantly unlikely,” Stern wrote.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463;
Story tags » Crime, Law & JusticeHomicide

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