By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — Stormy Peters’ death was tragic for her, but not an accident, a Snohomish County judge said on Wednesday.
The 6-year-old was shot in her forehead by her drunken father in 2008 after he told her to bring him his gun.
The lawyer for Richard Peters said the family considers her death a tragic accident.
Superior Court Judge Joseph Wilson saw things differently.
The shooting wasn’t something that was thrust on Peters, outside of his control, the judge said. The man was drunk and handling firearms. Whether he believed the gun was loaded or not is irrelevant, Wilson said. He should have protected his daughter. That was his job, and he failed, the judge added.
“It’s a tragedy for Stormy, but it’s not a tragedy for Mr. Peters because he created it. It’s not a tragedy for the family because they allowed the environment to fester. It was simply a matter of time,” Wilson said.
The judge on Wednesday sentenced Peters to five years and three months in prison, the maximum sentence under the law. Peters already has served about 4 1/2 years behind bars. He likely will be released in the coming months.
Prosecutors learned on Wednesday that Peters may appeal his conviction.
A Snohomish County jury earlier this month found Peters guilty of second-degree manslaughter with a firearm. They acquitted him of the more serious charge of first-degree manslaughter, concluding that Peters was negligent, not reckless.
It was the second trial for Peters. His original first-degree manslaughter conviction was overturned in 2011 after the state Court of Appeals found that the jury was given erroneous instructions, lowering the burden of proof for the first-degree manslaughter charge. Peters was given more than 13 years in prison after that conviction.
His attorney Laura Martin asked the judge to send Peters home. She said that he and his family have been punished enough. Her client does take responsibility for shooting his daughter. His wife and his 8-year-old son need him home, she said.
“Rich is a loving husband and father to his kids,” his wife Kristina Peters said.
“I’d like to go home to my wife and kids. I miss them more than life,” Peters said. “I can’t believe any of this happened.”
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Paul Stern said that if were up to him Peters would remain in prison until “he gets it.”
The defendant has failed to grasp that the shooting could have been prevented, Stern said.
The deputy prosecutor wonders who is standing up for Stormy.
Two weeks ago when the verdict came back, Snohomish County sheriff’s detective Brad Walvatne brought flowers to the little girl’s grave, Stern said. The homicide detective had done the same after the first trial.
“He’s the one who brought flowers. Two weeks later, his are still the only ones there,” Stern said Wednesday morning.
Wilson, clearly troubled by the girl’s death, said he is worried about the Peters’ family and their son. The judge said there has been no acknowledgement that Richard Peters has a drinking problem. His mixing alcohol and guns is the reason Stormy Peters is dead, the judge said.
“This was waiting to happen. If not that day, some other day,” Wilson said.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.