California Musician and Wife Found Dead in Mojave Desert

by Shelby Scott

On Sunday afternoon, east of California City, a local musician and his wife, Larry and Betty Petree, were found dead in the Mojave Desert. So far, authorities do not suspect criminal activity. However, the state in which the couple was found is what makes their deaths all the more shocking.

According to the New York Post, authorities believe the Petrees ran out of gas while navigating the desert and became stranded on the side of the road. Larry Petree, upon officials’ arrival, was found sitting in the driver’s seat. Even stranger, though, authorities located Betty outside of the car, leaning against one of the rear tires.

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office, leading the investigation, plans to release the couple’s cause of death at “a later date.”

Who Was Larry Petree?

Larry Petree doesn’t have the same kind of resounding name in the wider country music community compared to megastars like Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard. However, he still boasted a serious reputation on the small scale. According to the outlet, Larry Petree had just recently performed with the band the Soda Crackers at the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame benefit concert. In addition, the the 88-year-old had been a beloved member of the Bakersfield Sound era in the 1950s. Petree previously played steel guitar. Now, following his death and that of his wife, friends had plenty of positive memories to share.

“He always had a smile on his face,” recalled Kim Hays, a friend of the late couple. In speaking of the Petrees, who’d been together for more than 60 years, she continued, “He was just a sweetheart of a guy and he was always there to help other people. I can’t believe they’re gone and in such a bizarre fashion.”

Some of Petree’s music associates also spoke about his recent passing and also praised some of his final performances. Zane Adamo, the Soda Crackers’ fiddler, also mourned Larry Petree’s death. On Facebook, he wrote, “We had the honor of having Larry as our steel guitarist at our first ever show in Bakersfield.”

More significantly though, he added, “[We] had the even greater honor of playing with him for his last show a few weeks ago. We send our condolences to the Petree family and the greater Bakersfield Sound community.”

More Details From Investigators:

The essential facts of Larry Petree’s death are listed above. That said, KGET provided a handful of other details regarding the couple’s deaths.

At this time, the outlet reports authorities remain unsure of the couple’s original destination. And, because responding officials did not suspect criminal activity, detectives did not come to the scene.

Regarding Petree’s death, the elderly steel guitar player had shown signs of confusion at a previous performance. Reportedly “always punctual,” the musician appeared slightly disoriented and had to be found and lead to his show. The outlet suggested that perhaps this confusion led to his and his wife’s premature deaths in the Mojave Desert.