An Abbotsford man has pleaded guilty to murdering his five-year-old stepdaughter because he wanted to spare his wife and family the anguish of a trial, his lawyer says.

Peter Wilson pleaded guilty to first-degree murder yesterday in U.S. Superior Court in Shelton, Wash., near Seattle.

Wilson was charged after the death of Clare Shelswell in late June.

Shelswell was killed while vacationing in Hoodsport, Wash.

Wilson, 30, was accused of slashing the girl’s throat after arguing with her mother about discipline.

He told investigators he takes medication for bipolar disorder and initially pleaded not guilty to the murder in July.

Investigators said Shelswell’s throat had been slashed through the windpipe and Wilson was “stoic” as he was taken into custody.

Gary Burleson, the prosecutor in the case, said the standard sentence for first-degree murder with no prior criminal record is about 20 to 26 years.

There’s an additional two-year sentence for committing the crime with a deadly weapon.

Burleson said because of the aggravating circumstances of the case, he intends to ask the court for an exceptional sentence.

“She was a vulnerable victim, she was dependent on him,” he said in an interview.
Wilson will be sentenced Oct. 22.

Burleson wouldn’t disclose what sentencing range he’ll ask of the court.

The maximum sentence is life in prison.


Wilson’s lawyer said there were no family members in court during yesterday’s proceedings.

He declined to comment on Wilson’s state.

Wilson was arrested after police were called to a Hoodsport cabin on June 27.