Shaun Allen Peterson was a felon, a defendant in more than 50 criminal cases in Washington alone. The charges against him ranged from petty offenses, such as driving without a license, to burglary, drugs, domestic assault and multiple thefts.
But his family says that rap sheet doesn’t tell the whole story of Peterson the man – a good friend and family man whose opportunities were limited by his criminal record, bipolar disorder and a stubborn methamphetamine addiction. He had hoped to one day be clean.
The 40-year-old Olympia resident never realized that goal. He was shot multiple times early Monday morning and left for dead in a southbound lane in the 1700 block of Capitol Way, blocks from the Capitol.
Peterson had been handcuffed when he was shot, said his mother, Judy. The coroner told her there was no sign of a struggle. Sixteen shell casings were found near the body, family members said.
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Police have issued an first-degree murder arrest warrant for the suspected killer, Robert J. Maddaus, 40, of Rochester. They also are looking for two people they think witnessed the crime – Daniel C. Leville, 39, and his girlfriend, Falyn M. Grimes, 26. The witnesses, along with Peterson and Maddaus, were involved with methamphetamine, Olympia Police Lt. Jim Costa said.
No one in the Peterson family could imagine why someone would want him dead.
“None of us will ever be the same,” his mother said, reading from some notes she had written in memory of her son. “People who knew Shaun and were his friends thought the world of him. … Behind every addict there is a real person.”
Shaun Allen Peterson was born Aug. 1, 1969, court records show. He was born in Bremerton, his mother said.
“He was a beautiful child with blond, curly hair and big, blue eyes and long eyelashes,” Judy Peterson said. “And he was the love of everybody’s life.”
Judy Peterson is a native of England but moved here to be with her husband, who was in the Air Force. The family settled in South Sound because her husband played basketball for Saint Martin’s College, she said. She and her husband divorced when Shaun was 5. Shaun has a sister two years younger than him, but their mother didn’t want to talk about the relationship between her children.
“That was really hard, (Shaun) being raised by just me,” she said.
“He’s never had a relationship with his dad,” Judy Peterson said later, “but he tried.” Shaun’s girlfriend, Randi Henn, said he saved money to go stay with his dad, but it “didn’t work.”
Shaun was athletic and full of life, she said. He loved to fish and played soccer, and he attended Olympia High School as a teen.
But he dropped out of school; his mother is not sure exactly when. He later received his GED.
His family described him as a handsome boy who was popular with women. He had two children when he died – an 11-year-old son with his wife, Jessica, and a 6-week-old girl with Henn.
Shaun, who had boundless energy, later would be diagnosed as bipolar, his mother said. By then, he already had a criminal record, she said, but “he wouldn’t stay on his medicine.”
His family didn’t want to talk about his court record or how he first got into trouble with the law.
LONG CRIMINAL RECORD
Shaun Peterson is named in more than 50 criminal court cases statewide, from Spokane County to Western Washington.
His criminal record stretches from at least 1984 in juvenile court to a possession-of-stolen-vehicle case that was pending at the time of his death. At 14, he faced charges for allegedly taking a motor vehicle without permission, the first criminal case against him found in court records. A year later, he was charged with second-degree burglary.
As an adult, Shaun Peterson was charged with theft on at least eight occasions, shoplifting three other times, and burglary three times. Some of the court cases included multiple charges.
Many of his offenses were relatively minor: 12 of them were for third-degree driving with a suspended license from 1997 to 2000.
By the time of Shaun’s final court case, he had spent more than five years in prison. He was imprisoned seven times from 1990 to 2008, according to Chad Lewis, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections. His last incarceration was from August 2005 until May 2008, serving time for felony harassment-domestic violence and tampering with a witness.
PROBLEMS OUTSIDE PRISON
Henn considered Shaun an entrepreneur who sometimes got in trouble trying to make a living.
“It wasn’t as if Shaun was in trouble to be in trouble,” she said.
Court records describe Shaun as someone who often stayed with others, including off and on at his mother’s house. In multiple court papers, he was listed as indigent.
Judy Peterson said her son was kind, helping out around the house when he lived with her. Shaun was known in recent years for doing odd jobs, but it was difficult for him to find work with his criminal record.
“It’s easier to get discouraged in that kind of situation than to get encouraged,” Henn said.
He also was a longtime meth user. Henn said he took a “maintenance dose” of meth before he was killed.
“Meth is the devil’s drug, and it steals souls,” she said.
Both of the women in his life said they also struggled with drug addiction. Jessica Peterson said she met her husband growing up in the same neighborhood, near Lions Park on Olympia’s east side, hanging with the same crowd. Although they were separated for more than nine years, they never divorced, Jessica Peterson said. The divorce papers are on her night stand, she said.
“I called him weekly,” she said.
Henn said she met Shaun when she cared for his dog the last time he was in prison. She fell in love, at first by reading letters from him and visiting him while he was in prison, then seeing him in person.
“I was in a really bad spot when I first met him,” Henn said. “He gave me a new meaning of friendship.”
She said that he was trying to clean up his act for his baby girl, who was born about five weeks before his death.
“He told me just a couple weeks ago, ‘That’s what my arms are for – to hold my baby boy and my baby girl,’” Henn said.
The last time Henn saw Shaun alive was Sunday. He told her he was going to meet a friend at Fred Meyer at 700 Sleater-Kinney Road S.E. in Lacey. She said he told her which friend, but she didn’t want to say his name to a reporter. Costa, the Olympia police lieutenant, said he didn’t know who Shaun was meeting.
She last talked to Shaun at 10:30 that night. He said everything was OK. She said she woke about 1 or 1:30 a.m. Monday and was going to call him, but decided against it.
About 2:43 Monday morning, police received calls from several neighbors who said they had heard gunshots. They raced to the scene and found Shaun’s body lying on Capitol Way.
About 8 or 8:30 a.m., Henn received a call from Shaun’s cell phone, but it wasn’t Shaun on the line; it was the police. Seeing that someone from her number had called him, they wanted to know who she was.
“Is he OK?” she asked.
“Is he alive?” she said.
“No, he’s not,” was the officer’s reply.
Police found Henn’s 1993 Jeep Cherokee – which Shaun presumably drove – later that day at the parking lot of Fred Meyer in Lacey.
“What he was going there to do or who he was going there to meet is still a question for us,” Costa said. How Peterson got to Capitol Way also is a mystery, Costa said.
Henn said it would be unusual for Shaun to walk in that area of Capitol Way, especially in the middle of the night.
Police think Maddaus alone shot Shaun and got away in a dark green 2002 Volkswagen Jetta, with license plate 699-ZJT.
“We don’t know much more than the public does,” Judy Peterson said. “Nobody’s safe until they’re caught.”
Now Shaun’s family can but watch and wait for justice.
“Shaun, you are in our hearts,” Judy said, reading from her handwritten notes. “We love you and you will not be forgotten.”
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869