Provo • A 21-year-old American Fork man accused of allegedly shooting and killing his 5-month-old son is struggling emotionally, his defense attorney said Monday.
Following Joshua Petersen's initial court appearance Monday, his defense attorney, Dusty Kawai, said he has been in close contact with Petersen since his arrest earlier this month, trying to evaluate the man's mental state.
"This is a very difficult time," Kawai said. "[Petersen] is absolutely devastated. I've never seen anyone that sad."
Kawai would not speak specifically to Petersen's mental state during the shooting or whether his mental competency will be questioned prior to trial. Kawai said he is waiting for police reports and information from prosecutors, and said he has not spoken specifically about the shooting with Petersen.
"It would spiral him even further down," he said of Petersen. "… He calls me and he is just bawling. He's weeping."
Petersen was charged last week in 4th District Court with first-degree felony aggravated murder for the April 5 slaying of Ryker Petersen.
During Monday's hearing, Judge Claudia Laycock told Petersen that, if convicted, he could face the death penalty or up to life in prison. Prosecutors have not yet declared if they will seek the death penalty.
Deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson said after the hearing that a decision regarding the death penalty will be made after Petersen is arraigned and enters a plea to the charge, which will occur after he has a preliminary hearing.
Police say Petersen shot his son in the head with a .22 caliber rifle then tried to turn the gun on himself at his home near 500 East and 500 North in American Fork. A family member reportedly intervened before he was able to take his own life.
During a bail hearing for Petersen earlier this month, American Fork Sgt. Gregg Ludlow said Petersen had been planning to kill the child for about a month.
Petersen will appear in court again on April 29 for a scheduling hearing. He is being held without bail at the Utah County Jail.