Court hearing in Modesto murder, arson case

local@modbee.comSeptember 4, 2013 

Two men charged with arson and murder in the deaths of a Modesto couple appeared briefly in court Wednesday morning.

Brandon Pettit and Felix Valverde are accused of being responsible for the deaths of Pettit's parents, Scott and Janet Pettit. Prosecutors allege that the defendants committed the murders for financial gain, according to a criminal complaint filed in court last month.

The document doesn't provide further details about a financial motive. Robert Orenstein, Pettit's attorney, asked the judge to postpone the defendants' arraignment hearing, because the defense attorneys needed more time to review discovery evidence from the prosecution before proceeding.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves postponed the arraignment until Sept. 16. The charges include special circumstances that make the case eligible for the death penalty.

Prosecutor Sam Getrich told the judge Wednesday that the district attorney's office has not yet made a decision on whether to seek the death penalty in this case.

The defendants remain in custody in the Stanislaus County Jail.

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