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Vigil held for American Fork infant allegedly killed by father

Published April 8, 2013 8:56 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

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.

jdobner@sltrib.com