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City of Modesto, California News Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: Ivan Valencia, 209-595-0718
Release Date: Thursday, August 8, 2013, 12:00 AM

Modesto Firefighters and Police Respond to a Residential Fire and Discover two Deceased Persons.



City of Modesto

Police Department

Office of the Chief of Police

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Author: Sergeant Ivan Valencia

Modesto Firefighters and Police Respond to a Residential Fire and Discover two Deceased Persons.

On 08-08-13, at about 3:10 a.m. firefighters from the Modesto Regional Fire Authority  and Modesto Police officers were dispatched to a residential fire at the 4000 block of Divan Ct. A witness called 911 reporting flames coming from a window and possibly hearing screams.

When firefighters entered the residence they located a deceased male and female inside. Neighbors reported a third person living at the house, but it was determined the other person was not at home. There was an initial report of a Molotov cocktail being thrown at the house, but no evidence was found supporting the report.

Fire investigators and Modesto Police Detectives are conducting a joint investigation due to the loss of life. At this early stage of the investigation there are no obvious signs of foul play. The coroner’s office will continue the investigation and attempt to determine a cause of death.


As the investigation continues detectives have located evidence indicating the deaths may not have been accidental. Updates will be released as more information becomes available.


**Update 08/09/13 7:50 p.m.**

Detectives have now classified the incident as a homicide investigation. They continue to process evidence and are following up on leads. Due to fire damage the crime scene is complex. The cause of the fire is suspicious and still under investigation. Family members and friends have been interviewed and are cooperating with the investigation. At this time there are no suspects or persons of interest. The victims have been identified as David Scott Pettit and Janet Pettit of Modesto.

**Update 08/16/13 7:26 p.m.**

Detectives have learned the victims were deceased prior to the residence catching on fire. It appears the fire was set in an attempt to cover up the double homicide. Two family dogs also perished during the fire. A necropsy (post mortem exam) was completed and the dogs were found to have died from smoke inhalation.   

On the night of the fire, emergency personnel received reports of a third person possibly living at the residence. That person has been identified as the Pettit’s adult son who was at work.

At this time detectives believe there is more than one suspect involved and they are continuing to follow up on leads.

Police ask anyone who may have information regarding criminal activity to please call Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.  Tipsters can also text information to Crime Stoppers by sending a text message to 274637. Just type “TIP704” along with your message.