After putting out a house fire in the early morning hours of Thursday, Aug. 8, crews from the Modesto Regional Fire Authority called police and arson investigators to the 4000 block of Divan Court due to two unidentified bodies found inside the master bedroom.
The blaze was called in by a number of neighbors after 3 a.m. A witness called 911 reporting flames coming from a window and possibly hearing screams.
When responders arrived at the two-story home, flames were coming from an upstairs window. When firefighters entered the residence they located a deceased male and female inside. Neighbors reported the couple’s son also lived at the house, but it was determined that he was not at home.
Early on reports said there was a Molotov cocktail thrown at the house, but no evidence was found supporting the report.
Initially, police would not classify the cause of death for the couple, later identified as Riverbank Karate for Kids owner Scott Pettit and his wife Janet, both 59, but on Friday evening ruled the case a homicide.
Scott Pettit was actively involved in a number of community events in Riverbank and recently hosted a National Night Out stop at his downtown business. Janet Pettit was a neonatal nurse practitioner and clinical nurse at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto and recently earned her Ph.D. in nursing.
Crime scene investigators have processed the home for evidence and detectives from Modesto Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office, and other fire investigators are following up on leads.
Due to fire damage, officials said the crime scene is complex.
“At this time there does not appear to be any crimes other than the homicide and arson,” Modesto Police Sergeant Ivan Valencia said. “As the investigation continues, we’ll have more information.
Police have been tight-lipped regarding the investigation and have not commented on the cause of the fire or how the couple died.
According to Valencia, family members and friends have been interviewed and are cooperating with the investigation.
As of press time, there were no suspects or persons of interest.
Police ask anyone who may have information regarding criminal activity to 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.