A judge has ordered a trial for Brandon Pettit and Felix Valverde who are accused of murder in the deaths of Pettit’s parents, Scott and Janet, who were found in their burning Modesto home.
A criminal complaint indicates the Pettits were shot by Valverde in their home. Investigators have said they believe the fire at the Divan Court two-story house was started to cover up the killings and have confirmed that the victims were dead before the fire started.
After hearing testimony in a preliminary hearing last week, Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves on Friday decided there was sufficient evidence for the defendants to stand trial.
Firefighters found Scott and Janet Pettit dead in the second-floor master bedroom of their home early Aug. 8, 2013.
Along with the murder charge, Pettit and Valverde will each face charges of arson and burglary. A special circumstance allegation of arson of an inhabited home was dropped from the murder charge.
There is case law that states a home is no longer inhabited if the residents were already killed when the fire was started, said John Goold, a spokesman for the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.
Goold said the charges still include other special circumstance allegations, including committing murder for financial gain, that make the case eligible for a maximum sentence of life in prison without a chance for parole if the defendants are convicted.
The defendants remain in custody at the county jail. The judge scheduled Pettit and Valverde to return to court April 5 for an arraignment hearing.