Judge denies bail for man accused of murdering infant son

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UTAH COUNTY, Utah — A man accused of murdering his infant son made his first court appearance Monday morning.

Joshua Petersen, 21, who is accused of murdering 5-month-old Ryker Petersen last Friday, listened to the proceedings of his Bail Hearing at the 4th District Court in Provo via closed-circuit television from the Utah County Jail.

Judge David Mortensen ordered Petersen be held without bail following the testimony of American Fork Police Sgt. Gregg Ludlow. According to Ludlow, Petersen admitted to investigators that he had been planning to shoot and kill Ryker for about a month. Ludlow became emotional as he described what happened moments before the infant was killed.

“Mr. Petersen talked about dreaming about this, thinking about this, for quite some time," said Deputy Utah County Attorney, Craig Johnson, who is prosecuting the case. "You heard the emotional, disturbing testimony, especially for someone who was just at the autopsy. You can imagine what he's going through, seeing that, much less the family and everyone who is coping with it.”

According to the probable cause statement, “Joshua Petersen laid his five month old son on a couch in the basement of his American Fork residence…and loaded a single round into a .22 caliber rifle. Joshua returned to his son with the rifle, pointed the rifle at his son’s forehead, and shot his son.”

Following the hearing, Johnson said it was unusual for a judge to not set bail in a murder case, but because of Ryker’s young age, this case was different. “There needs to be an aggravating factor, and there are approximately 24 in the code and one of those is under 14 years of age.”

Petersen made no statements during the hearing. Johnson said at the next hearing, Petersen will be able to file a motion to have bail be reconsidered.

The defendant’s court appearance comes after a candlelight vigil was held Sunday night outside the home of Amanda Merrill Pilling, the baby’s mother.

A crowd gathered outside Pilling’s apartment, which was adorned with pictures, toys and other memories of the infant.

“I think it’s a situation like this, that’s all a mother needs is just the love and to know that people are here for them,” said Kristeena Petersen, a longtime friend of Pilling who helped organize the vigil.

Police said the shooting happened at a home near 500 North and 500 East about 1 p.m. Friday. Officers were called to the home and found a 5-month-old boy who had been shot in the head with a rifle.

The infant was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, then flown to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City where he was pronounced dead.

“Through our investigation we learned Joshua’s intent was to kill his son and then in turn, kill himself. But he did not do that,” American Fork Police Sgt. Gregg Ludlow said Friday.

He was about to shoot himself when a family member intervened, Ludlow said.

The family of the victim is taking donations through a PayPal account set up by Ryker’s aunt Karen Fifield:jkfifield@gmail.com

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