Petric gets 3 consecutive life sentences
Published: August 15, 2013
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ST. CROIX - As he had done throughout the last six years of court appearances, Ivan Petric showed no reaction Wednesday, even as he received three consecutive life sentences in addition to 69 years in prison.
Petric appeared before V.I. Superior Court Presiding Judge Darryl Donohue Sr. for a sentencing hearing after being convicted last year of killing his family and their dog on Nov. 21, 2006.
Public Defender Hannibal O'Bryan had filed a seven-page motion asking the court to grant a judgment of acquittal on all counts of the superseding indictment because he said there was no evidence that surfaced in court during the trial that countered his insanity defense or proved that Petric was competent to stand trial.
Prosecutors argued that Petric was cool and precise in his execution, that he partially hid the bodies, put his clothes in bleach water and cut his hair and had the firearms and ammunition with him when he was found in the house and tried to give police other possible suspects in the crimes. The prosecution contended that those actions show that Petric knew what he was doing, committed the killings intentionally and tried to prevent himself from being held responsible, according to their response to the motion for judgement of acquittal.
Donohue denied the defense motion.
Petric was charged with three counts of first-degree murder; three counts of unauthorized possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime; one count of animal abuse; and one count of possession or the sale of ammunition and was convicted on all eight counts.
Petric's 75-year-old father, Ivan Petric Sr.; his father's companion, 69-year-old Nancy Kuiper; Ivan Petric's younger brother, Zivko Petric, 31; and the family dog were found dead at the home. All were shot to death.
On Wednesday, O'Bryan made his allocution to the court a brief one, only stating that the statute is clear and the judge has no choice but to sentence Petric to life in prison. He noted that Petric has a mental illness with a worsening circumstance and asked that as part of his sentence, Donohue include that Petric be evaluated and placed in a suitable facility.
"Anything less than that would be tantamount to an Eighth Amendment rights violation," he said.
Assistant Attorney General Cornelius Evans said the forensic evidence and the verdict of the jury makes it clear that when Petric shot each of his victims twice, he intended to kill them.
He read an excerpt from a victim-impact statement submitted by Petric's aunt and heir to his father's estate, Amalie Petric, in which she described how the crimes have affected her and asked for someone to ask Ivan Petric Jr. why he killed his family.
During the trial, the officers who responded to the scene testified that when Petric was found, he was sitting in a bedroom in a corner with seven spent casings saved in a cup near him. The murder weapon, a .357-caliber revolver, and a similar gun were near Petric, hidden under a towel, according to the officers.
Before imposing sentence, Donohue said he remembered the trial and reviewed the facts and the pre-sentence report in the case and noted that the facts of the trial were chilling.
"This was, to say the least, a horrific set of circumstances," Donohue said.
He sentenced Petric to life in prison without the possibility of parole for each of the murders of the three people and sentenced him to 20 years in prison for each of the gun charges associated with the murders. He ordered that each sentence run consecutive to the next. Petric also was sentenced to two years in prison for the animal abuse conviction and seven years in prison for the conviction of possession of ammunition, which Donohue said should run concurrent to the first murder and firearm sentence.
The judge told O'Byran to file a separate motion seeking additional psychiatric evaluation, treatment and placement for Petric, outside of the oral motions he made during the sentencing allocution.
Karen Petric, Ivan and Zivko Petric's mother, said she was broken when she heard of the sentencing Wednesday afternoon. Her voice trembled as she said she could not believe that nobody had notified her of the sentencing hearing.
"I would not have been able to come back down there, but I certainly would have been able to write a letter or something to the court for him," she said. "From day one, I was not kept informed but for nobody to tell me of the sentencing is criminal, it is just criminal."
Karen Petric said she felt like she was treated unfairly by Ivan's attorney and that his case was not moving fast enough and was not handled thoroughly, but she kept quiet because she did not want to prejudice her son, and now she wonders whether it was a mistake.
She said just as her intuition had led her to call the house trying to urge her sons to come back to Florida to her just before the murders, her intuition led her to call Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility on Wednesday afternoon just to check on her son and she was informed of his sentence.
Karen Petric said she, too, suffers from mental illness and also has a physical disability and moved from the island after her divorce from Ivan Petric Sr.
"I lived on St. Croix for 15 years and left because it was too expensive, but it cost me the lives of both my sons," she said. She said she was not there at the time of the murders, but she knows Ivan suffers with mental illness, so did Zivko and many others in her family. She said it is certainly a tragedy and could have been avoided.
"A neighbor said after the incident that he knew Ivan had a gun," she said. "He never had a history of violence, but you never know, we all have a moral obligation to report stuff like that."
Karen Petric said the tragic experience has shown her the importance of getting treatment for the mentally ill, adding that because her son was an adult, she could not force him to get treatment.
"He is getting worse, and there is nothing I can do, but he knows that I love him," she said. "I hugged and kissed him when I was last there, and I am just hoping that my faith in God will get me through this."
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.