In Stanislaus County Superior Court action, the jury has reached a guilty verdict in a double homicide that occurred back in August of 2013. Riverbank businessman Scott Pettit and his wife Janet, both 59 at the time, were found murdered after an early morning fire in their Modesto home.
Brandon Pettit, son of the couple, was found guilty on two counts of murder and that they were committed with premeditation, for financial gain, following the trial.
Pettit’s friend, Felix Valverde III, was also arrested and charged. Prosecutors alleged that Valverde was paid by the younger Pettit to shoot his parents, then burn their bodies.
Valverde also has been charged with the murders, as well as burglary and arson, but he wasn't tried with Pettit. A court found him incompetent to face trial just before it began. He will be sent to a state hospital so competency can be restored and the case against him completed.
Prosecutors said that Pettit paid his friend to shoot his parents then burn their bodies, all for financial gain. His defense attorney, on the other hand, asserted that his client has autism, Asperger Syndrome, saying that his demeanor before and after the murders and statements to investigators resulted from that disability and did not prove that he was guilty.
At the weeks-long trial, the jury heard testimony that Brandon Pettit gave Valverde a down payment of $500 to kill his parents and that he gave him keys to the house and the bullets to do the job. Prosecutors said he stood to receive a good-sized estate, including more than a million dollars in life insurance, the Modesto home along with several rentals, and valuable classic cars.
The burned bodies of Janet and David ‘Scott’ Pettit were found by Modesto firefighters on their bed in their home after crews responded to a fire there in the early morning hours of Aug. 8, 2013. It was later found that the couple had been shot before the fire was set.
The Pettits were highly respected in the Stanislaus-San Joaquin area community.
Janet Pettit worked as a nurse in the neonatal unit at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, and she had just finished her Ph.D.
Scott Pettit owned Karate for Kids, a Riverbank martial arts school, where he had taught hundreds of local children and adults. The school was started in Escalon, and grew to several locations throughout the Central Valley area. Active and supportive of local Riverbank businesses and community activities, Scott Pettit was chosen as Riverbank’s Citizen of the Year for 2007. He also helped organize classic car and hot rod shows in downtown.
A tree, commemorating the contributions of the pair to life in Riverbank, was planted in the Memorial Grove at Jacob Myers Park, which spans Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.