Local News

Petrick Will Not Face Death Penalty For Wife's Murder

Posted October 16, 2003

— Prosecutors will not be seeking the death penalty against Robert Petrick, who is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife.

Assistant District Attorney Mitch Gerrell announced the decision in court Thursday.

Last January, Janine Sutphen, a cellist with the Durham symphony, disappeared. Days later, Petrick reported her missing. Police searched the couple's home for days, but they never found Sutphen's body.

Four months later, two fishermen found Sutphen's body at Falls Lake. Sutphen was wrapped in a tarp and duct tape and her legs bound in chains.

In order to proceed with the death penalty, prosecutors must prove at least one aggravating factor. Despite the condition in which her body was found, Gerrell said there was proof she died that way.

Financial motive is another factor in seeking the death penalty. Gerrell says investigators have spent the last few months looking into the couple's finances and they do not think money was a motive for murder.

"In the process of picking a jury qualified to hear a death penalty case, we may end up with a jury that's less favorable to the state," assistant district attorney Mike Nifong said.

Gerrell did say the district attorney's office is willing to consider a plea bargain, but Petrick's lawyer told WRAL, at this point, he and his client are not willing to bargain.

The case could go to trial next spring. If convicted, Petrick faces life in prison.

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