A 92-year-old retired attorney who fatally shot his sleeping son last year after suffering what his lawyer called “extreme psychological abuse” was placed on probation Thursday.
Richard Landis Peck, a former San Diego deputy city attorney, was ordered into home detention, with a GPS ankle bracelet, as a term of his three-year probation.
He originally was charged with murder but pleaded guilty in February to voluntary manslaughter for killing his son, Robert “Robbie” Peck, 51, at the Old Town home they shared.
Voluntary manslaughter is defined legally as taking the life of another person in the heat of passion, without malice.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Kathleen M. Lewis said she agreed to accept the plea bargain and dismiss the murder charge because of Peck’s age, frail health and what he suffered at his son’s hands.
“The victim was psychologically and emotionally abusive to the defendant over a period of months,” Lewis said, adding that Robbie Peck was an “extreme” alcoholic who threatened his father, kept him isolated from other family members, terrified the housekeeper and neighbors and tried to scare his father into having a second heart attack.
She noted that after his death, Robbie Peck’s blood-alcohol level was 0.39%, more than three times the limit at which California drivers are presumed intoxicated.
Richard Peck worked in the San Diego city attorney’s office and as a civil litigator at the law firm then known as Procopio Price. It is now called Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch.
Defense attorney Douglas Gilliland said at previous court proceedings that on the evening of the Nov. 14, 2018, shooting, the younger Peck smashed his mostly homebound father’s phone and threatened “you’ll see me again” before going to bed.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Daniel Shim described the father’s next action as “an execution” when he walked into his son’s bedroom with a shotgun and shot him in the head.
The elder Peck then walked outside and shouted for help, saying he’d just shot his son. San Diego police arrested him at his home on Juan Street near Sunset Road.
Outside the proceedings, Shim said the shooting was not self-defense because the elder Peck had other options, including obtaining a restraining order against his son.
Robbie Peck’s wife had begun divorce proceedings and locked him out of the house early last year. His father took him in, hoping he would go into alcohol rehab, his lawyer said.
Gilliland said the wife, Annette Peck, filed a civil wrongful-death lawsuit in January against Richard Peck on behalf of herself and her son, seeking “tens of millions of dollars” for the loss of her husband’s love, society and companionship.
Richard Peck’s daughter, Marilyn Peck Hall of Georgia, attended her father’s court hearings and said she believes that her father acted in self-defense.
“I always thought if you defend your life, you wouldn’t go down as a criminal, and that’s what they’ve done to my dad. He’s a felon,” Hall said out of court.
She said that by the night of the shooting, her brother had tormented their father by keeping him awake for three nights in a row. She also said that her father had called authorities several times to report his son’s abuse but that police declined to get involved in what they termed a family problem.
“I feel like law enforcement really let us down,” Hall said. She said that she is trying to get in-home help for her father and that he will be looking at moving into an assisted-living facility.
Repard writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.