Share story

The two Seattle women are heartbroken: one because her husband of more than 20 years has been slain; the other because her son is accused of the murder.

On the same day David L. Peterson’s suspected killer — a 17-year-old Ballard High School student — was ordered held in detention for investigation of homicide, the most important women in their lives were expressing compassion and sorrow for each other’s family.

“I feel heartbroken for his family,” said Kimberly Dawn Pettigrew Peterson. “I’ve known now for a week and now his mother and his family is just finding out about this. I’m sure they are heartbroken themselves.”

Pettigrew Peterson, the widow of David Peterson, 54, said that as a mother and a person of faith she has forgiven her husband’s killer and feels nothing but grief for his family.

The teen’s mother, Yvette Watkins, acknowledged she knows little about the allegations, but said her son had been a good and respectful student from a two-parent household who had been taught the difference between right and wrong.

She said he had taken a turn for the worst over the couple of months, but she had not seen this coming. Contrary to media reports, she said he was not homeless.

“Our heart goes out to the Peterson family. They have been torn apart,” Watkins said. “And we’ve been torn apart, too. A piece of my heart has been snatched out of my chest.”

Her son, a decorated member of the Ballard High football team, is accused of shooting Peterson in the chest while stealing his cellphone during a Feb. 23 confrontation on a Greenwood street. He was arrested Saturday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as he was about to board a flight for Atlanta, Seattle police say in an affidavit of probable cause that outlines the case against the suspected shooter.

The boy told police after his arrest that he did the shooting, according to the affidavit.

During a detention hearing Monday at the King County Juvenile Detention Center, the boy waived his appearance as a judge found probable cause to order him held until a decision is made on charges. Dan Donohoe, spokesman for King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, said charges are expected to be filed Wednesday.

Under state law 17-year-old suspects facing serious, violent offenses can be charged automatically in adult court.

The Seattle Times generally does not name juvenile suspects unless they’ve been charged in adult court.

According to the affidavit, Peterson had gone for a routine walk on Feb. 23, a Sunday evening,

When Peterson was near the intersection of North 85th Street and First Avenue Northwest around 8:30 p.m., police say the 17-year-old tried to rob him of his cellphone. Peterson refused to give up the phone and called 911 as the teen walked away, the document says.

When the teen heard Peterson calling, he allegedly returned and shot Peterson in the chest once, then took the phone, according to the affidavit.

Peterson was dead on the ground, and several witnesses identified the teen as the killer.

Seattle police originally said they were searching for three suspects — two black males and a white female — who had been seen running from the area.

Just before Peterson was killed, Susan Zielinski, a waitress at the nearby restaurant the Baranof, said three people — two black males and a white female — came into the restaurant just before closing and asked for a to-go order. She said that while she was looking away the three grabbed a drop bag of cash from the register and ran off.

Zielinski told KING-TV she believes the 17-year-old shooting suspect was one of the three people who stole the cash.

Police said Monday they are no longer looking for additional suspects in Peterson’s slaying.

“Detectives talked to the other two and determined we have the shooter,” Seattle police spokeswoman Renee Witt said.

On Friday, Seattle police served a search warrant at a home in the 9000 block of Fourth Avenue Northwest after learning the suspect had run there after the shooting. Lead detective Cloyd Steiger told KIRO radio that police had learned the teen “had run to that house after the shooting and the gun, at one point, was hidden there.”

Steiger said the gun has not been recovered.

Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Teresa Whipple confirmed the teen suspect was enrolled at Ballard High. She said counselors have been made available for students who wish to discuss the shooting or the arrest.

The teen played on the school’s varsity football team, listed as a 6-foot-2, 190-pound linebacker and tight end. He was an All-KingCo Conference linebacker as a senior.

At his memorial service last weekend, Peterson, a former soldier, was remembered as a man of faith; someone with strong opinions, but who delivered them kindly, according to the officiating minister Dale Amundson.

According to Amundson, Peterson’s widow said they met when they both worked at a gas station in San Diego and she described him as a “doer.” If he was moved to help someone, he did so with something tangible, a meal or a coat, she told Amundson.

“He always had a smile on his face and wanted to make people leave feeling good,” Amundson said.

Peterson’s widow, Pettigrew Peterson, and his brother attended Monday’s court hearing at the King County Juvenile Detention Center.

“I think it’s my responsibility to my brother and his family,” said Greg Peterson of Minnesota. “It’s a very significant tragedy in our life, and we’re not just going to walk away from this.”

Christine Clarridge can be reached at or 206-464-8983.

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.