Cheney man accused of killing wife with poisoned ice cream pleads not guilty

CHENEY, Wash. - A Cheney man accued of killing his wife with poisoned ice cream pleaded not guilty to first degree murder charges on Wednesday. 

David Pettis was originally charged with murder last year, but according to his court record, that charge was dropped in December. Pettis pleaded not guilty to a new charge on Wednesday and is set to go to trial in November. 

Detectives said Pettis called 911 on June 25, 2018, stating his wife was blue in color and not breathing. Authorities responded to Pettis' home in south Spokane County where his 64-year-old wife was declared dead. 



Treating the scene as an unattended death, Pettis interviewed with Spokane County Sheriff's deputies. He told Deputy Spencer his wife took prescribed pain medication and had at least one alcoholic drink earlier that night. According to Pettis, he found his wife not breathing, face down on the floor, after he emerged from a nap. Pettis noted his wife was given a "clean bill of health" during a recent trip to the doctor's office.

Deputy Spencer noticed a small number of Hydrocodone and Trazadone pills while inventorying medication, as per procedure. Pettis told deputies he obtained the Trazadone from a third-party and the Hydrocodone may have been prescribed to him for his shoulder.

Several days later, a family member contacted Major Crimes Sergeant Jack Rosenthal and Detective Lyle Johnson and expressed suspicion Pettis may have been responsible for his wife's death.  The two learned of Pettis' concern of finances and the possibility he was having an affair with another woman. 

Detective Johnson learned other family members shared similar concerns.

Pettis also contacted the Medical Examiner's Office and was upset at the time it was taking to produce a final autopsy report because of the amount of time to obtain a toxicology report. He also contacted the toxicology lab directly to try to influence them to provide the results sooner, stating he needed to collect the life insurance policy money to pay for funeral expenses.

During an interview with detectives, Pettis said his wife took three hydrocodone pills at a time for pain. He stated the pills would be ground up and put in ice cream with an alcoholic mixture because she had a hard time swallowing pills. 

Detectives also interviewed a childhood friend of Pettis who said he had unsuccessfully attempted to start a romantic relationship with her prior to the death.

A toxicology report showed multiple drugs in Pettis' wife system, including Hydrocodone, Trazadone, and Benadryl, but no alcohol. The amount of Hydrocodone was at a lethal level.

Knowing what they learned, investigators believe Pettis attempted to be engaged in an extra-marital affair and named himself the beneficiary of his wife's new life insurance policy. Investigators also believe he gave his wife a lethal amount of prescription medication. 

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