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Vigil held for American Fork infant allegedly killed by father

(Kim Raff | The Salt Lake Tribune) Emily Thompson writes Ryker David Petersen's name at a memorial for the 5-month-old before family and friends gather for a candlelight vigil in American Fork on April 7, 2013. Police say Ryker was shot to death on Friday by his father, Joshua Petersen.

By jennifer dobner

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 07 2013 10:20PM
Updated Apr 8, 2013 09:38AM

American Fork • Friends and family gathered Sunday evening for a candlelight vigil outside the American Fork home of Ryker Petersen — a 5-month-old boy whom police say died at the hand of his own father.

Ryker died from an apparent gunshot wound to the head on Friday at the home of his father Joshua Petersen, near 500 East and 500 North. A relative stopped Petersen as he attempted to turn the gun on himself, police said. Investigators believe Joshua Petersen may have been planning the alleged murder and attempted suicide for as long as a month.

On Sunday, about three dozens friends of Ryker’s mother, Amanda Merrill Pilling, hugged and offered prayers of comfort for the family. They signed a condolence book and left behind dozens of stuffed animals, which organizers said would be given to Ryker’s older siblings. Pilling did not attended the vigil, but five of her brothers were among the mourners, as were Joshua Petersen’s grandparents, Milo Merrill said.

"We talked and we hugged and it was great," said Merrill, one of Pilling’s brothers.

Merrill said Pilling is devastated by the loss of her son, but the family "will not let this sadness consume us."

Funeral plans were still being made on Sunday.

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