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Lawyer: Utah dad ‘devastated’ over son’s killing

PROVO, Utah (AP) – A man accused of fatally shooting his 5-month-old son is “devastated” about it, the man’s lawyer said Monday at an initial court appearance.

Joshua Petersen, 21, of American Fork is accused of placing his son, Ryker, on a sofa and shooting him in the head with a rifle on April 5. Petersen then tried to kill himself before a family member intervened, police said.

The shooting occurred in American Fork, a suburb of Provo located about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Fourth District Court Judge Claudia Laycock laid out the seriousness of his charge, aggravated murder, during Monday’s hearing. Petersen wore a green jail jumpsuit and was unshaven with his hair disheveled.

Prosecutors will decide whether to seek the death penalty after Petersen is arraigned and enters a plea to the charge, Deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson told The Salt Lake Tribune ( He also could face life in prison if convicted.

Petersen is being held without bond.

Investigators said Petersen was upset when his girlfriend broke up with him and plotted for a month to shoot his son. Petersen’s family members said he also suffered from lifelong depression.

Petersen’s attorney, Dusty Kawai, said he’s trying to evaluate the man’s mental state. Petersen is absolutely devastated, evidenced by his somber and distant demeanor in court, he said.

“What I think you are seeing is just the physical evidence of how devastated he is,” Kawai told the Deseret News. “He calls me and he is just bawling. He is weeping. I’ve seen a lot of very sad people in my career and his is at the top of this list.”

Kawai said he has not yet asked Petersen specifically about the shooting, saying that would be too difficult for Petersen at this point. Family members cried as they left Monday’s hearing.

“They loved Josh’s son, and Josh loved his son, and this is just a tragic, tragic situation,” Kawai told the Deseret News.

Petersen is expected back in court on April 29.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune,

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