Girl, 6, fatally shot; father jailed

MARYSVILLE — A Marysville man told detectives he watched his 6-year-old daughter crumple to the floor after he accidentally shot her in the head Sunday with a handgun she retrieved for him.

Detectives were told Richard Peters, 42, had planned to clean the .45-caliber Colt. He said he’d sent his daughter, Stormy, to get the loaded gun from a nightstand in his bedroom. He also allegedly told detectives he’d consumed multiple double shots of vodka and would have been too drunk to drive a car.

Peters was arrested for investigation of first-degree manslaughter and is being held in the Snohomish County Jail.

Stormy died early Monday, a few hours after she was rushed to Seattle Children’s hospital, according to a police affidavit filed Monday in Everett District Court.

“The death of a 6-year-old is tragic,” Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said. “You have to be so careful when you have guns and children in the house. Adding alcohol to the mix is certainly a recipe for disaster.”

First-degree manslaughter occurs when somebody recklessly causes the death of another person.

Deputies were called to the Peters’ home Sunday about 7:30 p.m. after receiving a report of an accidental shooting at a house in the 4500 block of 83rd Place NW.

Deputies found Peters sitting outside with a neighbor. He was talking about how he had just killed his little girl, according to the police affidavit.

Homicide detectives later questioned Peters about the shooting. He told investigators he’d asked Stormy to bring him his gun from his bedroom. He said the girl was standing somewhat behind him when she handed him the gun. He explained that he cleared the loaded magazine from the gun, pulled the trigger and the gun fired, according to the affidavit.

Stormy fell to the ground. Peters said she turned blue. He held his daughter in his arms. He told police he froze and couldn’t perform CPR or call 911 after the girl was struck by the bullet, according to the affidavit.

Stormy was put on life support at Children’s, where doctors pronounced her dead just after 3 a.m. Monday.

State records list no unintentional deaths involving firearms and children Stormy’s age between 2002 and 2006, the last year the statistics were available. Of the 43 accidental firearms deaths in Washington during those years, just two involved people under 15.

The most frequent causes of accidental death for children Stormy’s age were motor vehicle accidents and drownings. Between 2002 and 2006, more kids under 14 died of bee stings in the state than accidental shootings.

Peters reportedly told police all of his children handle guns, including his 3-year-old. He said the handgun that fired Sunday has a “hair trigger,” and he thought his daughter could have been able to pull back the slide, loading a bullet into the chamber.

Peters’ wife had a somewhat different account of the shooting, according to the police affidavit. She allegedly told police she retrieved the gun from his nightstand.

She said he cleared the gun, pulled back the slide and the weapon discharged. She said her daughter wasn’t in the room while they were cleaning the gun but suddenly appeared, police wrote in the affidavit.

Their other children, 3 and 8, were home but not in the room at the time of the shooting, she said.

Richard Peters told police he is proficient with guns and has a concealed weapons permit. He said he was in the U.S. Navy and often goes shooting. He said he started handling guns at the age of 7, according to the court record.

Peters told detectives he accidentally discharged a shotgun in October during a Halloween event at a shooting range in Darrington. He said his friend had handed him a loaded shotgun. He said he didn’t know the gun was loaded and he accidentally fired a shot downrange. He was counseled about the shooting.

Detectives removed other guns from the house, Hover said. They declined to say how many weapons there were.

Prosecutors on Monday requested that Peters be held on $500,000 bail. There were other children in the home at the time of shooting and a large number of guns in the home, Snoho­mish County deputy prosecutor Mona Clarkson told the judge.

“He was cleaning guns while using alcohol,” she said. “We do believe he is a danger.”

Clarkson said prosecutors also are concerned about his mental health. Deputies noted that Peters was distraught and made statements about harming himself, according to the affidavit.

Peters’ public defender, Anika Carlsten, requested that Peters be released from jail. She argued that Peters isn’t a flight risk. He’s employed and has lived in the area for more than a decade. The only prior trouble came in 1990 when he was cited for driving without a license, Carlsten said. She said her client isn’t a danger to himself or the community.

“He has a wife and children who need him at home at this time,” Carlsten said.

The judge set bail at $250,000.

The other children have been removed from the home by state Child Protective Services workers, Hover said. That is standard practice when an investigation is under way surrounding the death of a child.

Neighbors who live on the quiet cul-de-sac on the west side of the Tulalip Indian Reservation described the accident as tragic.

“They are good people,” said Ana Tall, who lives on the same block as the family. “They are good neighbors.”

Gerry Provencher, 65, didn’t know about the shooting until Monday morning when his son called to say the road was blocked off with police tape.

“She was just a little girl,” he said. “It’s sickening. It’s just … Why?”

Provencher said the girl’s death is a tragic reminder of the importance of gun safety.

“I have a gun,” he said. “I have grandchildren. The gun is in my safe, locked.”

Stormy was a first-grader at Quil Ceda Elementary School. Grief counselors were at the school Monday to help any children who might need help, said Marysville School District Superintendent Larry Nyland.

Quil Ceda’s staff was briefed before school.

“It’s just a real tragedy,” Ny­land said.

Quil Ceda Principal David McKellar sent a letter home Monday afternoon to families with children at the school.

“Classroom students were told of the accident this morning by their teachers,” McKellar wrote. “Counselors were available to talk with children who may have felt sad or uneasy; however, we understand that may not be enough.”

McKellar included a tip sheet for parents as a resource to help children deal with death. He said the school is respecting the family’s request for privacy as it deals with its grief.

“We all feel a tremendous loss of a friend and will hold the family close in our hearts at this sad time,” he wrote.

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


Helping children deal with death

The following information is a compilation of suggestions from school psychologists and other specialists who have worked with grieving children. It was sent home with Quil Ceda Elementary School students in Marysville on Monday.

Do

  • Allow yourself to grieve so you may then help your child grieve.

  • Show feelings and share your own reasons for sadness.

  • Present the reality of the situation to the child.

  • Offer support and comfort.

  • Accept and respect the feelings, behaviors and questions that reflect the child’s way of dealing with death. Children will grieve in different ways.

  • Inform the child where you are going and when you will return. A bereaved child in sensitive to separation from significant adults.

  • Use the death of pets in explaining death. Explain it only within your beliefs.

  • Alleviate the child’s need to deny the inevitability and permanence of death.

  • Allow young children to attend the funeral or memorial service if they show a desire to. Explain in advance what will take place. Have the child accompanied by an adult he or she knows and loves, and who will be able to set aside their own grief long enough to comfort the child.

    Don’t

  • Try to protect the child from grief.

  • Suggest that the dead person “went to sleep.” That might create night fears.

  • Make the child feel guilty because he or she doesn’t show the response you might expect. All feelings are important and need to be shared.

  • Get so involved in your own grief that the child is ignored.

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