SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A South Dakota man has been charged with second-degree manslaughter after police say he negligently shot his pregnant wife, killing the fetus.
Sheldon Pettibone, 22, of Sioux Falls told police he was cleaning his gun Sunday when it fired, shooting his wife, Melanie, who was about 18 weeks pregnant, the Argus Leader reported.
She was rushed to a hospital and the fetus was delivered by cesarean section but was dead. An autopsy found that the bullet hit Melanie Pettibone in the thigh and traveled to her uterus.
Police initially arrested Sheldon Pettibone for negligently discharging the gun, but on Wednesday he was charged with manslaughter. Pettibone appeared in court Thursday on the new charges. Bond was set at $50,000 cash only. Pettibone will be represented by a public defender, and the Minnehaha County public defender's office declined to comment.
Police say Pettibone admitted he was distracted by a football game on TV. He said it was possible the gun fired because of “operator error.”
Pettibone told police the gun fired when he released the slide and pulled it back a second time, and said it was “likely” the round was discharged from the gun in between the two movements. He told police his finger was “never within” the trigger guard.
Using a search warrant, police found a loaded magazine in a boot behind the couch where Pettibone said he was going to sit and watch the game and clean his gun.
Investigators also found a spent .40-caliber shell casing in the trash and an unloaded .40- caliber handgun with the slide locked back on the upper shelf of a bedroom closet. There were no rounds in the chamber and no magazine.
Melanie Pettibone told police she was sitting on the couch watching the football game, and her husband was sitting on the opposite side of the sofa, sitting with pieces of the handgun in his lap.
She heard a “loud noise” and felt a “sharp pain” in her leg, and she ran out of the apartment. She came back inside and told Pettibone she had been shot. Pettibone helped her to their van and went back inside the apartment. He returned after “a short period of time,” and applied a tourniquet to her leg before driving to the hospital.
In January, Sheldon Pettibone was arrested after authorities said he shot at people who he claimed had stole his phone. Police said he was charged with the reckless discharge of a firearm and discharging a weapon within city limits. Those charges were dismissed, and Pettibone pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was given a 30-day suspended jail sentence.