▶ Watch Video: A Sister’s Fight for her Brother

In January 2021, a California man was sentenced to two life terms for the murder of his parents, leaving his sister devastated, but now, the case has taken a turn after an appeals court decided to overturn his conviction and remand the case for a new trial.

Prior to this development, “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty reported on the case in “A Sister’s Fight for her Brother.”

When Brandon Pettit, now 35 years old, was arrested in August 2013 for the murders of his parents in Modesto, California, there was no physical evidence directly tying him to the crime. Instead, police and prosecutors based their case on things the then-25-year-old Pettit had said and done shortly before and after the murders, including statements he made to police in a videotaped interview prior to his arrest. Now, more than two years after his conviction, a California appeals court has ruled that those statements Pettit made during that police interview should not have been admitted at his trial because police should have read him his Miranda rights.

In a 44-page decision issued last week, the Court of Appeal of California remanded the case for a retrial, writing, “We conclude based on all the relevant factors, particularly the nature of the questioning, a reasonable person in [Pettit’s] position would not have felt free to terminate the interview and leave, and therefore… the interview was custodial. Accordingly, [Pettit’s] statements were taken in violation of Miranda and were inadmissible to prove guilt.” The court further found that the statements in question were harmful to Pettit’s defense.

In September 2020, Brandon Pettit was found guilty of the murder of his parents. He was sentenced to two life terms without the possibility of parole.

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The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case. Under California law, they have 40 days to file a petition with the state Supreme Court to seek review of the appeals court’s decision. Independent of that, the state Supreme Court has 60 days to act on the case on its own. If the decision by the appeals court stands, the case will be remanded for a retrial, and it will be up to the district attorney’s office as to whether they retry the case. In response to a request for comment Friday, John Goold, the public information liaison for the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office, said they are currently reviewing the appellate decision and their options. “No decisions have been made yet on our end,” Goold said.

Scott and Janet Pettit, both 59, were found dead in their Modesto home in the early hours of August 8, 2013, by firefighters who were called to the scene on reports of flames shooting out of a bedroom window. Investigators quickly discovered the fire was no accident. Scott and Janet Pettit had been shot — a total of seven times — and accelerant was found scattered throughout their bedroom.

Scott and Janet Pettit

Lauren Pettit

Just over a week after the murders, police announced the arrest of the Pettits’ only son, Brandon, and someone police described as Brandon Pettit’s friend, Felix Valverde, who was 26 at the time. At trial, the prosecution’s theory was that Brandon Pettit had paid Valverde to commit the murders because, they argued, Pettit was after his parents’ money and specifically, his dad’s prized 1961 Corvette. But Pettit’s defense at trial suggested that Valverde was the sole perpetrator of the murders. Lauren Pettit, Brandon Pettit’s only sibling and his biggest supporter, testified in his defense and said her brother loved their parents. She also poked holes in the alleged financial motive, telling the jury that their parents were in debt at the time of their death and that the Corvette that her brother was alleged to have wanted was already partially in his name. A clinical psychologist also testified on Brandon Pettit’s behalf. The psychologist said Brandon Pettit had Asperger’s and explained how that could have contributed to questionable statements and behavior he exhibited before and after the murders, including during his interview with police.

Felix Valverde has pleaded not guilty. He was set to be tried alongside Pettit, but shortly before the trial, a judge found him incompetent to stand trial. He was placed in psychiatric treatment to determine whether his competency could be restored and this past August he was found competent. Court records indicate his trial is now scheduled to begin in February 2023.

Prior to Brandon Pettit’s trial, Pettit’s defense attorney had sought access to Valverde’s competency records to see if they contained any exculpatory evidence. A judge denied the request at the time, but as part of their ruling last week, the appeals court found that the judge should have conducted a review of the records before ruling on the defense’s request.

Brandon Pettit is currently incarcerated in a California state prison. If the appeals court’s decision stands, he would be transferred back to a local jail where he could seek bail pending a retrial. If prosecutors decide not to retry him, he will be released from custody.