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Pair arrested on suspicion of killing karate studio owner

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POSTED August 20, 2013 1:58 a.m.

RIVERBANK — With a history of being a security guard with a license to carry a firearm and reported past boasting of phantom employment within the fire service, investigators have arrested Brandon Pettit, 25, in connection with the murder of his parents. The bodies of his mother and father were discovered after an Aug. 8 house fire in Modesto.

The deaths of well-known Riverbank Karate for Kids business owner Scott Pettit and his wife Janet, both 59, were classified as homicides by Modesto Police investigators last week. On Saturday, Aug. 17, police announced the arrests of the Pettit’s son, Brandon Pettit and his friend, Felix Valverde, 26, of Oakdale on suspicion of murder, arson and conspiracy.

Investigators are withholding the cause of death, but some witnesses in the neighborhood reported hearing gunshots from the residence on the evening of the fire.

“I cannot believe that Brandon would be that stupid to kill the hand that feeds him,” said family friend and Riverbank business owner Daryl Daniel. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Modesto Police, assisted by Stanislaus County District Attorney investigators, stated in a press release that family and friends were cooperative during their initial investigation. On Friday, Aug. 16 they announced that the fire was set in an attempt to cover up the homicides.

On Aug. 16, police also stated that there had been a third person living at the residence and identified that person as the Pettit’s 25-year-old son, Brandon, who was reportedly at work the night of the fire.

The Oakdale Leader/Riverbank News has learned that Brandon Pettit worked the midnight shift as a security guard in the Modesto area. A check with the state licensing division for security officers shows that Pettit was licensed to carry a firearm and friends have confirmed that Pettit did own firearms.

Modesto Police Sergeant Ivan Valencia said he could not comment on a motive or confirm if the homicides were as a result of a shooting.

Valverde graduated from Oakdale High School in 2005 and worked at the Oakdale Sears store. Representatives at the store confirmed Valverde was employed as a delivery person at the time of his arrest.

Subjects who knew Brandon Pettit relayed that he claimed to work as a firefighter or “had ties” to a fire department where he did volunteer work.

A social media site for Scott Pettit shows a photo of Brandon with an upper arm tattoo of the firefighter Maltese cross vector.

A website titled My Firefighter Nation shows a profile picture of Pettit in firefighter gear with a notation that he worked at “Anderson Airfield Fire Department.” According to the FAA, the only Anderson Airfield is in Waynesville, Ohio and is privately owned with no fire department.

Daniel said he was aware that Brandon would spend time at the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Station in Riverbank, but did not work there in any capacity. Battalion Chief Paul Spani denied knowledge of Pettit being at the fire station.

When contacted about the association, Valencia said he “had heard through the investigation” of Brandon Pettit’s claims to firefighting.

Brandon Pettit and Valencia are being held at Stanislaus County Jail without bail and are scheduled for arraignment in Superior Court on Tuesday, Aug. 18.

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