Obituary: John C. Pettit / Former longtime Washington County district attorney

July 13, 1935 - Oct. 30, 2010

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John C. Pettit, a longtime district attorney for Washington County, died Saturday at UPMC Presbyterian.

Mr. Pettit, of Canton, died of pulmonary fibrosis, a lung ailment. He was 75.

A native of Washington, Mr. Pettit served 24 years as district attorney and held a number of posts with national, state and local legal organizations, including the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, serving as its president.

Mr. Pettit, a Democrat, lost a bid for a seventh term as district attorney in 2007 to Republican Steven Toprani. During the campaign, Mr. Toprani raised as an issue a federal investigation at the time into allegations surrounding Mr. Pettit's actions as prosecutor.

Mr. Pettit had faced an FBI probe and subsequent grand jury investigation that included whether he had shown preferential treatment to friends and political supporters as district attorney.

He was never indicted.

He had also been criticized for his use of questionable jailhouse informants in murder cases, which led to a case being overturned several years ago.

Mr. Pettit graduated from Washington High School, the University of Pennsylvania, and The Dickinson School of Law. He was on the wrestling team while at Penn and belonged to the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

He served in the U.S. Army Reserves.

As a practicing lawyer, Mr. Pettit served many years as a partner at Patrono, Ceisler, Edwards and Pettit before starting his own private law practice.

Survivors include his wife, Sandra Hart-Pettit; two sons, Jesse D. Pettit of Collier, and Kit F. Pettit of Upper St. Clair; a daughter, Shannon White of North Olmsted, Ohio; a sister, Maxine Beechem of Tucson, Ariz.; and three grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday and 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Piatt & Barnhill Funeral Home, 420 Locust Ave., Washington. The funeral will be held Wednesday, at a time yet to be scheduled, in the Church of the Covenant, 267 E. Beau St., Washington. Burial will be private at Washington Cemetery.

Bill Schackner: or 412-263-1977.


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