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Peter James WILSON





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Child killer - After having an argument with his wife about disciplining Clare
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 27, 2010
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1981
Victim profile: Clare Shelswell, 5 (his stepdaughter)
Method of murder: Cutting her throat
Location: Hoodsport, Mason County, Washington, USA
Status: Sentenced to 55 years in prison on October 21, 2010

B.C. man given 55 years in U.S. court for stepdaughter's murder

By Rochelle Baker - Abbotsford Times

October 22, 2010

B.C. man was sentenced to more than 55 years in a U.S. prison Friday for slashing the throat of his five-year-old stepdaughter while vacationing in Washington state over the summer.

Peter James Wilson, dressed in white prison-issue clothing, quietly listened to Mason County Superior Court Judge Toni Sheldon as she sentenced him to 640 months in prison, with an additional 24 months for use of a deadly weapon in the slaying of Clare Shelswell.

The judge outlined the reasons for Wilson's "exceptional sentence," citing Clare's vulnerability, the stepfather's abuse of trust and the destructive nature of the crime for the family.

Wilson, 29, was arrested on June 27 after Mason County sheriffs found Clare lying dead in a pool of blood, her throat slit, at a holiday home in Hoodsport, Washington.

The little girl's body was discovered after police received a frantic 911 call from her mother, Sarah Wilson.

Wilson who has both U.S. and Canadian citizenship was arrested at the scene.

During her victim-impact statement, Sarah Wilson told an emotional courtroom about losing her young daughter, described as a bubbly, smart, loving, creative, vibrant five-year-old girl whose favourite food was pickles.

"Clare's death has been shocking and devastating beyond comprehension to me and my family," she said, noting her daughter would never celebrate her sixth birthday.

"I'll never get to take her dress shopping and she'll never attend her prom. I won't get to teach her how to drive. I will never see her off on her first date or help heal her heart with a bowl of ice-cream after her first breakup with a boyfriend."

Calling Clare's death "senseless," Sarah Wilson also described how the event had left her with nightmares, and how she and her older daughter, Suzy, have started counselling.

"The life and experiences that James has robbed from Clare, and the joy that he has taken from me and my family by ending her young life are irreplaceable."

At the time of Clare's death, U.S. officials said Wilson told officers he knowingly killed the little girl with a knife found in the kitchen after having an argument with his wife about disciplining Clare and her eight-year-old sister.

Ron Sergi, Wilson's defence attorney, said his client fully acknowledged his responsibility for the crime and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances to spare his family the anguish of a trial.

"He apologized to his wife and family. He loved his family," Sergi said. "He lost control. He never saw this type of conduct coming; he was as surprised as anyone else by this . . . he asked for forgiveness, well aware he wasn't deserving of it."

Wilson, who suffers from bi-polar disorder, had anger issues; Sergi said the disorder was not deemed an adequate defence for the crime.

He also noted that had Wilson opted to go to trial on a charge of second-degree murder, the outcome likely would have been the same.

Sarah Wilson told the court no sentence could bring Clare back, or compensate for the family's devastation.

"All I can do is trust that the sentence James receives today will reflect the significant and devastating impact of his actions and our tremendous loss," she said.

Meanwhile, Clare's biological father, James Shelswell, said from his Calgary home Friday that he is focusing on his two remaining children during this tough time.

"That's keeping me going," he said, noting he has been given time off work since the homicide.

"Nothing can ever replace Clare," he said. "Hopefully, (Wilson) stays in there for 55 years or never gets out. At least he can sit there and think about what he did."

With files from Rafe Arnott and the Calgary Herald


B.C. stepdad pleads guilty to slashing 5-year-old's throat

By Rafe Arnott - Abbotsford Times

September 13, 2010

Peter James Wilson pleaded guilty in a Shelton, Wash., courtroom Monday to first-degree murder for slashing the throat of his five-year-old stepdaughter, Clare Shelswell.

Wilson, 29, of Abbotsford, B.C., appeared calm and lucid and answered all questions from the court, Mason County prosecutor Gary Burleson said.

The minimum sentence Wilson could receive is 22 years, but Burleson said he plans on seeking an "exceptional sentence" for Wilson because of the gruesome nature of the crime, the child's age and helplessness.

Ron Sergi, Wilson's defence attorney, said his client made the decision to plead guilty on all charges to spare his family the agony of going through a trial and reliving the tragedy.

Wilson was arrested June 27, after Mason County Sheriffs found Clare lying dead in a pool of blood, her throat slit, at a holiday home in Hoodsport, near Lake Cushman, Wash.

The little girl's body was discovered after police received a frantic 911 call from her mother, Sarah Wilson.

A news release from the sheriff's office stated Peter Wilson told a detective he knowingly killed the little girl with a knife he found on the kitchen counter after having an argument with his wife about disciplining Clare and her eight-year-old sister.


Death 'too good' for man accused of killing B.C. girl: Father

By Andrea Woo - The Vancouver Sun

June 30, 2010

VANCOUVER The Canadian father of a little girl slain in Washington State over the weekend says "death is too good" for the man accused of slashing her throat.

"What goes around comes around, and I hope it comes around," said James Shelswell, father of Clare Louise Shelswell. "He should be made to suffer. Somebody who does that to a five-year-old girl?"

Clare was on holiday with her family in Hoodsport, Wash., when she was attacked.

Her stepfather, Peter James Wilson, 29, remains in a U.S. jail and is expected to face a first-degree murder charge in her death.

"You're not supposed to outlive your kids," said Shelswell, sobbing. The Vancouver Sun contacted him Tuesday at his home in Calgary.

"You're supposed to be gone before them. That's the way it should be, you know? You're 80, they're 40."

Police in Hoodsport said they arrived at the family's rented vacation home shortly after 6 p.m. Sunday to find Clare's body in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor, her throat slashed with a kitchen knife.

A "stoic" Wilson was arrested at the scene, said police. He later confessed, according to a statement released by the Mason County Sheriff's Office.

The statement said that he killed the girl following a fight with his wife about disciplining Clare and her older sister.

The statement said Wilson told his wife "not to worry" and that he would "take care of things" before taking Clare downstairs. A short time later, the mother heard a scream and went downstairs where she found her daughter lying in the kitchen clutching her throat.

Shelswell, 48, said he last saw his daughter two years ago in Vancouver, during a family outing to the Vancouver Aquarium.

"The kids were having a great time," he said. "We saw all the fish and goofed around. Even the lady at McDonald's commented, 'Jeez, you've got good kids.' "

That visit was only the fifth in five years, Shelswell said, after his wife, Sarah Wilson, divorced him and moved to Abbotsford, B.C., from Calgary with the girls, limiting his visits.

"Every time I phoned, it was a big hassle to see them," he said. "I just kept paying everything. It burns me; it just burns me. You're paying all this money and you can't see your kids. I should have hired a lawyer, but I've only got so much money."

Shelswell said he found out about his daughter's murder through his brother, who learned of it from media reports and called him from his home in Abbotsford at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

"(Her mother) didn't call me, the Americans didn't call me. The last name of the kids is Shelswell. They could have called me; I am the father," he said angrily.

Shelswell had only met his ex-wife's new husband a couple times and did not know about his bipolar disorder, or that he was on medication.

Wilson made his first appearance in a Washington court Monday where his bail was set at $3 million. He remained in jail on Tuesday.

Public defender Ron Sergi, who was assigned to the case, said the unusually high bail reflects the serious nature of the allegations.

He said Wilson, who has both Canadian and U.S. citizenship, could face the death penalty if convicted of the slaying.

With files from Darah Hansen


Peter James Wilson of Abbotsford, is seen during his arraingment in Mason County
Superior Court on July 12, 2010.


Hoodsport, Wash.. June 28, 2010 - Police investigate the murder of five-year-old Clare Shelswell of Abbotsford, allegedly murdered by her step father Peter James Wilson, while on vacation in Washington.


The victim

Five-year-old Clare Shelswell



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