Spokane, Washington – Today, Chief U.S. District Judge Stanley A. Bastian sentenced Clifton Frank Peter, 37, of Wapato, Washington, to 600 months in federal prison, to be followed by a 5-year term of court supervision after he is released, and restitution in the amount of $86,170. Earlier this year, Peter pleaded guilty to three counts of Second-Degree Murder. In announcing the 50-year sentence, Chief Judge Bastian described the murders as “horrible if not monstrous.” He also stated, “This case was senseless, pointless, [and] a horrible act – leaving three people dead and their families traumatized for life.”
According to information disclosed during court proceedings, Peter is an enrolled member of the Confederated Bands and Tribes of the Yakama Nation and has a violent criminal history. In 2011, he was convicted in Yakima County Superior Court of First-Degree Robbery with a Deadly Weapon and Theft of a Motor Vehicle and was sentenced to 36 months of imprisonment. In 2013, he was convicted of Second-Degree Unlawful Possession of a Firearm and sentenced to 9 months of imprisonment.
On June 1, 2020, Peter was at his home, which is located within the external boundaries of the Yakama Nation. Peter spent the day consuming alcohol and playing video games. He became visibly upset while playing a video game and began yelling; his family members decided to leave the residence due to his outbursts.
Peter attacked his mother as she attempted to leave, and then took her vehicle. As Peter backed out of his driveway, he nearly collided with a vehicle being driven by a person identified in court proceedings as Victim 1. Peter exited his vehicle and shot Victim 1 with a shotgun. Victim 1 died due to the shotgun blast. Peter then re-entered his mother’s vehicle and, traveling northbound, slammed into the back of another vehicle that was occupied by people identified in court documents as Victims 2 and 3. Peter got out of his mother’s vehicle and shot Victims 2 and 3 with the shotgun. Victims 2 and 3 each died as a result of the gunshot blasts.
After the murders, Peter attempted to hide the shotgun before walking to the residence of a family member. Peter told a family member that he had “done something bad,” and his family member refused to allow him to enter the residence. Deputies from the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office and officers from the Yakama Nation Police Department quickly responded the crime scene, and officers apprehended Peter. Members of the Washington State Patrol arrived and assisted with the crime scene, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation assumed jurisdiction over the investigation.
U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref condemned Peter’s acts as senseless violence that undermine the safety and strength of the Yakama Nation and all of Eastern Washington: “Three people are dead. Two children have been orphaned without any immediate family in the United States. A family patriarch will never see his grandchildren graduate from high school or walk his daughter down the aisle,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “Violence like this is not normal, and it cannot be normalized. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to prosecute violence throughout Eastern Washington, in the big cities and small towns, on the farms and on the Palouse, and on every Indian Nation. I commend the collaborative efforts of the Yakama Nation Police Department, the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington State Patrol, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their seamless partnership in this case, which resulted in a significant sentence. But for the families of Mr. Peter’s victims, nothing will ever be the same again. No sentence could ever bring back their beloved family members, but I hope there is some comfort in knowing that today, the Court removed from the Yakama Nation a dangerous offender whose hair-trigger response to being angry at a video game was to murder three people in cold blood.”
“The FBI, along with our partners, have made combating violent crime in Washington a priority,” said Richard A. Collodi, Special Agent in Charge of the Seattle Field Office of the FBI. “Three innocent people were murdered in what can only be described as utterly senseless acts. Today’s sentence is particularly resonant, given the nature and violence of Mr. Peter’s crimes.”
This case was investigated by the Yakima Resident Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This case was prosecuted by Richard C. Burson and Tom Hanlon, Assistant United States Attorneys for the Eastern District of Washington.