Suspect's state of mind at issue in murders of family, dog
Published: September 26, 2012
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ST. CROIX - The prosecution and defense in the murder trial of Ivan Petric Jr. gave opening statements Tuesday indicating that they are basing their cases on Petric's state of mind on the day he murdered three family members and the family dog almost six years ago.
Petric, 39, is 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 multiple counts of possession or the sale of ammunition in connection with the shootings.
He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Petric's 75-year-old father, Ivan Petric Sr.; his father's companion, 69-year-old Nanny Kuiper; and Ivan Petric's younger brother, Zivko Petric, 31; and the family dog were found dead at the home Nov. 21, 2006.
Assistant Attorney General Tom Sedar told jurors Tuesday morning that he intends to present evidence and witness testimony that although Ivan Petric was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the murder, Petric was in a position that he knew right from wrong and should be held accountable.
Sedar said the fact that Petric hid the bodies shows that he knew what he was doing was wrong. The prosecutor said he plans to show evidence that Petric had killed his family, cut his hair, packed his bags and had planned to flee, but his plans fell apart when the car belonging to Zivko Petric broke down about a quarter mile away from the home.
Defense Attorney Hanibal O'Bryan, who, along with Nesha Hendrickson, is defending Petric, told the jurors in his opening statement that it will be his duty to prove that nobody in their right mind would do such a thing. He said it was a tragedy and evident that Petric had a broken mind and was insane to the point that he did not have the capacity to knowingly commit a criminal act.
"Insanity is not something that is cut-and-dry, where either you are or you are not," O'Bryan said. "Insanity comes in episodes, and during that time the person's state of mind switches."
O'Bryan said the defense will not dispute many of the facts presented, but it will be up to the prosecution to prove that Petric was sane.
V.I. Police officers Richard White and Terrance Aaron took the stand Tuesday. Both testified about the police report that led to the discovery of the bodies in the secluded area of the island's northside.
White said a caller reported an abandoned vehicle in the roadway near the Petrics' home, and during that investigation they learned that the family had not been seen for a few days. The officers went to the home and discovered the bodies, he said.
Both officers testified that Ivan Petric Sr. was the first person found and that his body was discovered outside the home, covered by a cushion and cardboard. They continued looking around the home, entered it through an open window and found Kuiper's body nearby, rolled up in a carpet in a bedroom, the officers testified. The family dog was found with a single gunshot wound to its head, and the final body, that of Zivko Petric, was found down one level in a kitchen area, the officers said.
The officers testified that each of the victims had a single gunshot wound to the torso and one to the head. When Ivan Petric Jr. was found, he was sitting in a bedroom in a corner with seven spent casings saved in a cup near him, the officers said. The murder weapon, a .357-caliber revolver, and a similar gun were near Petric, hidden under a towel, according to the officers.
The prosecution will resume its case at 9 a.m. today. The trial is expected to last this week with about 15 witnesses, including police, mental health experts, forensic technicians, firearms experts and medical personnel.
Petric has remained incarcerated since his arrest and faces life in prison if convicted on the murder charges.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.