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Modesto man arrested in connection with parents' deaths

August 19, 2013|By Kate Mather

A 25-year-old Modesto man has been arrested in connection with the death of his parents, whose bodies were found earlier this month in their burning home.

Brandon Pettit and another man, Felix Valverde, 26, were arrested on suspicion of homicide, arson and conspiracy in the deaths of David and Janet Pettit, Modesto police said Saturday.

A department news release said only that "information and evidence gathered" led to the "identification of two suspects" but declined to release additional information, citing the ongoing investigation.

The probe began early Aug. 8 after a witness called 911 to report seeing flames and possibly hearing screams from the Pettits' home, police said. Firefighters found the bodies of David and Janet Pettit inside, along with two dogs that died of smoke inhalation.

Police initially said there were "no obvious signs of foul play" but later said there was evidence "indicating the deaths may not have been accidental." The case was declared a homicide investigation the next day.

On Friday, officials said investigators had determined the Pettits were killed prior to the fire, which they said was an apparent attempt to cover up the murders.

Modesto police Sgt. Ivan Valencia told the Modesto Bee that Valverde was friends with Brandon Pettit, who lived with his parents but who Valencia said was at work when they were killed. Valencia also told the newspaper "the involvement of other people has not been ruled out."

David Pettit was a martial arts instructor who worked at his current location for a decade, the newspaper said. In 2007, he was named citizen of the year in Riverbank, where his martial arts studio is.

Former student Viencient Youngs was one of the dozens of people who gathered to remember David Pettit last week, the Bee reported.

"You could go to him not just for karate but for anything, and he'd tell you his best advice and judgment on it," Youngs said. "He was more than just a karate instructor, he was more of a father figure to everyone and pretty much a father figure to the town of Riverbank."

Janet Pettit was a neonatal nurse practitioner and clinical nurse at Doctors Medical Center, the newspaper reported, and also worked as an assistant nurse manager at Kaiser Modesto Medical Center.


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