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Father guilty of manslaughter in girl's death

Jury convicts Marysville man of manslaughter, not murder, in fatal shooting

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By Diana Hefley
Herald Writer
@dianahefley
Published:
  • Richard Peters

    Richard Peters

  • Stormy Peters

    Stormy Peters

EVERETT — A Marysville man was acquitted Monday of murdering his 6-year-old daughter inside their home last year.
A Snohomish County jury instead convicted Richard Peters, 43, of first-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Stormy Peters.
Jurors weren't convinced that Peters intentionally pointed a .45-caliber Colt handgun at his daughter to scare her or get her to shut up, as alleged by prosecutors.
The jury agreed that Peters was reckless and deliberately ignored the risks of handling a firearm around his daughter on Nov. 16, 2008. His disregard for the dangers ended Stormy's life, jurors decided.
The first-grader was shot between the eyes. She died at a Seattle hospital the next morning.
Peters faces more than 13 years in prison.
“This man is going to be punishing himself for the rest of his life,” Everett defense attorney Karen Halverson said after Monday's verdict.
Lawyers wrapped up their arguments Monday afternoon. Jurors spent less than four hours deliberating.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Paul Stern on Monday praised the hard work of the sheriff's detective Brad Walvatne, who led the investigation. He also called the case tragic.
“It's an incredibly unnecessary loss of life,” Stern said.
Prosecutors alleged that Peters was drunk on vodka when he had Stormy fetch him the Colt semiautomatic handgun out of his bedroom. Stern told jurors that Stormy asked for her mother's help to get the gun, but her mother was on the phone. Stern said Peters' wife jotted down a quick note and told Stormy to give the note to Peters.
Kristina Peters wrote that she was on the phone with her mother, who thought Richard Peters was at work.
The note read: “She kept saying daddy wants. Tell her to shut up.”
Stern told jurors that the girl brought her father the handgun and the note from her mother. Peters read the note and intentionally pointed a gun at Stormy to get her to shut up, Stern said.
Peters had a second, unloaded gun on the table and thought he had that weapon in his hand when he pulled the trigger, Stern said.
“He didn't mean to hurt her. He meant to scare her,” the prosecutor said.
“You picked up the wrong gun,” Stern said to Peters during closing arguments Monday.
Stern first charged Peters with first-degree manslaughter. He added a second-degree murder charge in August.
New evidence showed that Peters intentionally pointed the gun at his daughter's head, Stern said. Pointing a loaded gun at someone is second-degree assault. Because the assault resulted in the girl's death, Peters committed murder, Stern told jurors.
Halverson said there was no proof that Peters intentionally aimed at Stormy's head. Prosecutors were offering a theory that wasn't supported by facts, she said. There is no evidence that Peters even saw the note, Halverson said.
Why would Peters point a gun at his child? Halverson asked the jury.
The investigation was biased because detectives were upset that a little girl had been killed, she said.
“Rich Peters is responsible for his daughter's death, but Rich Peters is not a murderer,” Halverson said during closings arguments.
Peters told detectives he was removing the ammunition magazine when the handgun accidentally discharged.
“It was a tough case. We've always felt that second-degree murder was a stretch,” Halverson said.
Peters is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 1.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, hefley@heraldnet.com.

Story tags » EverettMarysvilleTrialsHomicide

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