WACO, Texas (FOX 44) – Carnell Petetan has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the September 23, 2012 shooting death of his estranged wife Kimberly, who was killed in front of her nine-year-old daughter.
Petetan was released from prison on parole only five months before the murder. He served nearly 20 years for attempted murder when he was released.
The 46-year-old Petetan was tried in 2014 and a McLennan County jury in Judge Ralph Strother’s 19th District Court found him guilty, sentencing him to death. Even before his initial sentencing, questions were raised about the possibility of his intellectual disability. This became a critical issue in the case after the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that the death penalty is unconstitutional for anyone who is intellectually disabled, regardless of the facts of the crime.
In 2021, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Petetan’s conviction for Capital Murder, but reversed his death sentence and ordered a new punishment hearing. The Court ruled that, during the punishment phase of the 2014 trial, the evidence was insufficient to show that Petetan was not intellectually disabled.
Upon taking office in January of 2023, McLennan County District Attorney Josh Tetens and his staff started reviewing Petetan’s case. Prosecutors decided to only seek a second death sentence if evidence conclusively ruled out intellectual disability. Tetens retained an experienced neuropsychologist to evaluate Petetan for intellectual disability. This evaluation included a review of Petetan’s school and juvenile records. Those records from Petetan’s youth indicated potential intellectual disability.
Ultimately, the neuropsychologist could not rule out that Petetan is intellectually disabled.
A different neuropsychologist retained by Petetan’s lawyers determined that Petetan is intellectually disabled.
Since Petetan’s intellectual disability could not be disproven, prosecutors elected not to proceed with another lengthy trial and many years of appeals. Because Petetan’s original guilty verdict was affirmed on appeal, he will automatically receive a sentence of life in prison without parole and he can no longer appeal.
The victim was living apart from Petetan following alleged physical abuse. The two were married in 2010 after they became pen pals while Petetan was serving his 20-year sentence for attempted murder.
On the day of the murder, Petetan forced his way into Kimberly’s apartment in an attempt to convince her to retract a report of domestic violence she made to police ten days earlier. Kimberly eventually tried to escape from the apartment, along with her daughter, at which point Petetan shot and killed her. The daughter was then abducted but later released unharmed.