#04) 2002 AD (After Death)
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: 2002 A.D. (After Disappearance)
December 25 At 12:01, Det. Jon Evers returns to Scott and Laci Peterson’s home, where Doug Lovell is still taking photographs. At the same time, Det. Al Brocchini interviews Scott Peterson for a little more than one hour. The interview is videotaped and audiotaped. Brocchini asks why Laci Peterson would have been mopping the floor. Scott Peterson leans back in his chair, chuckles and replies, “She was very meticulous about it, with it being Christmas and with the dogs and the cats in the house.” Brocchini asks Scott Peterson if he had fired a gun recently. Scott Peterson replies that he had not fired a gun in a year, and that the gun Brocchini seized from Scott Peterson’s vehicle was left there from about a month before when he was pheasant hunting at Lone Pine. “Is that your gun?” the detective asks. “Mm-hmm,” Scott Peterson answers. “It’s seen better days,” he adds with a laugh. “It may be registered to my father.” Brocchini then asks him if it would be alright to check his hands for gunpowder residue. Scott Peterson asks if the outboard motor exhaust could result in him registering a false positive on the test, and Brocchini tells him that it could not. He complies, pulling up his sleeves and laying his hands out as the detective puts on rubber gloves and conducts the test. “You guys having any problems?” the detective asks. “Everything’s good,” Scott Peterson mumbles in reply. Brocchini says he is having a difficult time reconciling the fact that Scott Peterson spent time to take a shower despite saying he had not seen his wife when he got home and she had not answered her cell phone when he called her earlier in the day. The detective admits being concerned by that account. “What concerns me most is doing anything I can,” Scott Peterson retorts. Brocchini is told by Scott Peterson that he plans to meet with family members at about 8:00 a.m. to continue to search for Laci Peterson. During the interview, Scott Peterson sits back in his chair a couple of times with his hands in his jacket pockets. At other times, he has his fingers laced together on the table in front of him. He occasionally takes sips from a cup. At one point, he receives a call from Amy Rocha and answers, “Amy, what’s going on?” Near the end of the interview, Brocchini asks, “You have no idea where Laci is?” Scott Peterson calmly replies, “No.” At 12:12 a.m., Evers leaves Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. After the interview, or roughly around 1:00 a.m., Brocchini drives Scott Peterson to his home and lets him out in the driveway of an apparently empty home. At about 2:00 a.m., Brocchini is called by Scott Peterson, who asks if his handgun had been taken. Brocchini answers in the positive, saying that it is illegal to have a loaded gun in the glove box of the truck. Scott Peterson says he wishes he had been told that the gun was going to be taken. According to some reports, Scott Peterson does not spend the night at his home, but it back by morning. At daybreak, local authorities launch a massive search along Modesto’s Dry Creek. Water Rescue Units from local fire departments join in the search. According to Lt. Bruce Able, about thirty officers are involved in the search, including six Modesto firefighters who navigate Dry Creek in an inflatable raft and using water-rescue gear. Three police officers on horseback, two on bicycles and five canine units are also involved. Ricardo Córdova sees a pair of sandals a few yards from the driveway of Scott and Laci Peterson. According to Córdova, he points them out to an investigator, who seems to have little interest in them. According to Amber Frey’s phone records, she and Scott Peterson speak at least four times by phone; according to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak seven times by phone. According to some accounts, Scott Peterson calls Amber Frey at 8:23 a.m.; according to the National Enquirer, she calls him at this same time to wish him a Merry Christmas, with his behavior later being described in this fashion: “He romanced Amber during the call as if he hadn’t a care in the world.” According to Amber Frey, she visits her aunt and uncle at 2:00 p.m., then stops by her stepsister’s home. Scott Peterson calls his mother to inform her that Laci Peterson is missing. According to Laci: Inside the Laci Peterson Murder, he is “crying, blubbering, incomprehensible, save for a single word: ‘Laci.'” Modesto Police Department officers follow up their morning search with an even more thorough search during the early afternoon, with officers walking side by side through the park. They search the Dry Creek area from the El Vista bridge downstream to Beard Brook Park, south of Yosemite Boulevard. They also check homeless encampments along the creek, although noting that many of the homeless persons had fled—probably because of all the activity. Other officers and volunteers fan out through the La Loma neighborhood, checking alleys and yards, and volunteers begin putting up missing-person flyers and asking passersby if they had seen Laci Peterson. Her family postpones the opening of Christmas presents, and establishes a $25,000 reward for information leading to her safe return. In the morning, Connie Fleeman sees the truck and the boat she believes to be Scott Peterson’s again at the Crescent Food Market. Scott Peterson meets Janet Kenworthy and gives her a flier as both walk their dogs in the park; she gives him a hug and later states, “He about broke down in front of me—I did see tears, retain-your-composure efforts.” At about 1:30 p.m., Doug Mansfield interviews Scott Peterson. The interview concludes at about 4:15 p.m. Scott Peterson calls Brocchini at about 6:30 p.m. and asks him if the authorities were using cadaver dogs in Dry Creek Park to look for Laci Peterson, a remark that Brocchini finds surprising. He replies that the searchers were not yet acting on the assumption that she was dead, and that cadaver dogs had not been used. The Rocha family visits Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. Karen Servas tells Det. Jon Buehler that she put McKenzie in Scott and Laci Peterson’s back yard at about 10:30 a.m. on December 24, 2002. The Modesto Police Department holds a news conference. “We have organized volunteers for a systematic search and it is our hope to find Laci and bring her home,” says Roy Wasden. Det. Al Brocchini states investigators do not believe Laci Peterson left without notifying anyone in her family. “That is completely out of character for her,” he says. The official tip line is established at the Modesto Police Department. According to an account in the March 1, 2004, issue of the Globe, Scott Peterson hosts Lee and Jackie Peterson and Karen Servas for Christmas dinner of turkey and tortellini. According to this story, Scott Peterson opens a bottle of wine as he cooks the tortellini and, at dinner, tells his parents that investigators advised him to not take a polygraph examination because he was “too emotional”—behavior that Servas finds so disconcerting that she later departs her home and stays with friends. Also according to the same Globe account, Stacey Boyers visits with Scott Peterson (according to some accounts, she visits on December 26, 2002) in the early evening, noting that he spends “an unusual amount of time vacuuming, especially around the couch, armchairs, and washer and dryer.” According to her trial testimony, Boyers notes that Scott Peterson spends what she believes is an undue amount of time vacuuming, especially in the laundry area. As other volunteers come and go from the house with missing-person fliers, he continues to vacuum. Boyers asks him why he is so intent on cleaning. He turns around and tells her, “I can’t keep the house clean enough.” According to Glen Pearce, Steven Todd visits Rudy and Susan Medina’s home several times in preparation for the burglary of it the following morning. Todd determines that the couple is out of town.
December 26 According to Glen Pearce, he is awoken by Steven Todd in the early morning. Pearce drives Todd in a Chevrolet Corsica to Covena Avenue. By their own account, around 6:30 a.m., Glen Pearce and Steven Todd burglarize the home of Rudy and Susan Medina, across the street from Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. According to Todd, the two men carry a safe containing $50,000 worth of jewelry and other items out the front door and onto the front lawn. According to Pearce, he waits in the car as Todd uses a dolly to move the safe. Their movements are apparently not noticed by the reporters now encamped around Scott and Laci Peterson’s home, just across the street. (This fact will later cause some to suspect that the robbery did not occur on this date, and the Medinas themselves, for unknown reasons, will also later state they do not believe the robbery occurs on this date.) According to some reports, the two robbers leave expensive jewelry that is in plain sight. The Red Lion Hotel volunteer command center opens. Search organizers move operations from Scott and Laci Peterson’s home to the Red Lion Hotel, but set up a command post at East La Loma Park. According to René Tomlinson, the move is to give the family privacy and to offer a centralized location with more phone lines. Law enforcement agencies add more personnel to the search, bringing the total to about fifty. Eight mounted officers from the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department join their counterparts from the Modesto Police Department. The Modesto Police Department uses five of its own dogs. McKenzie is taken through East La Loma Park, but does not lead his handler anywhere. Investigators and searchers take in neighborhoods next to Dry Creek Regional Park. City maintenance workers lift manhole covers to aid in the search. Early in the day, teams of officers perform a grid-pattern search in and along Dry Creek, spacing themselves evenly and slowly while walking across fields and paths, through small orchards and through the water, in a hunt for clues. By the following day, they search between Claus Road and the La Loma Bridge, just east of downtown Modesto. Officers continue to use the helicopter to search the Dry Creek Park area by air. A police officer interviewing people along the park’s Peggy Mensinger Trail, and elsewhere around the park, speaks with a woman residing on the park’s border who says she heard screams about 10:15 a.m. on December 24, 2002. Family members and volunteers begin to come in from around California. “Christmas is over for us,” says Brent Rocha. “We all feel empty and want our sister returned.” According to an article in the March 8, 2004, National Enquirer, Stacey Boyers and Lori Ellsworth visit Scott and Laci Peterson’s home, where they receive from Jackie Peterson what they believe to be a surprising shopping list that includes paper towels, napkins and garbage bags—items that Jackie Peterson says are not in the home, but which Boyers and Ellsworth believe Laci Peterson would not have been without, especially during the holiday season. The reward fund increases overnight to $125,000, with family and friends adding $75,000 more and the Carole Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation contributing $25,000. Scott Peterson writes and posts to volunteers a thank-you note that many will later characterize as odd. Sharon Rocha states that he is “overwhelmed by the support of the community.” He leaves a news conference shortly after it begins, apparently upset that reporters are asking questions about his fishing trip to Berkeley. According to family members, he now refuses to speak to the media. The Modesto Bee runs its first major article on the case, stating that investigators located people who said they saw Laci Peterson in East La Loma Park about 10:00 a.m. The article also reveals that Karen Servas said she spotted McKenzie, with a “muddy leash,” about 10:30 a.m.—a time estimate she will later change—and provides a description of Laci Peterson, including her clothing: a long-sleeved white shirt and black pants. Roy Wasden states that McKenzie’s leash was muddy, as if, in the words of the Modesto Bee, “it had been dragged for some distance.” Mike Chiavetta tells police that he believes he saw McKenzie the morning of December 24, 2002. Ron Grantski asks Scott Peterson if he is having an affair and he denies it. Dennis Rocha reportedly asks Scott Peterson for a meeting to discuss Laci Peterson but, upon arriving at the couple’s home, Scott Peterson tells him to wait inside, then leaves without speaking to him. Investigators decide to use bloodhounds to track where Laci Peterson, and possibly McKenzie or others, could have gone the morning of December 24, 2002. At about 1:00 p.m., Cindee Valentin receives a call from Lt. Peter Slaviero asking her to coordinate a response to the Modesto Police Department to search for Laci Peterson. She arrives at the command post at approximately 3:00 p.m., where she is briefed by Capt. Christopher Boyer, then taken to Scott and Laci Peterson’s home to collect scent articles for Merlin. Boyer interviews Scott Peterson, who tells him not to write in his notepad on the table as the two discuss the last time Scott Peterson saw his wife and what her expected routine was that day. Scott Peterson states that his wife normally wore one of his jackets when she went walking, but that he was not sure if any of the jackets were missing from the home. Scott Peterson, after conferring with Lee Peterson, asks for a receipt when providing scent items. At least one of the bloodhounds so repeatedly leads its handler to a spot in the driveway and alerts in such a way that its handler becomes convinced that Laci Peterson had most recently left the couple’s home in a vehicle, not on foot. Around 5:00 p.m., Valentin brings Merlin to the front of Scott and Laci Peterson’s home, where she lets the dog sniff Laci Peterson’s sunglasses and gives him a command to search. The dog does not follow the dirt path usually taken by Laci Peterson. Instead, he immediately heads north on Covena Avenue, then west on Highland Drive and into the back yard of 1326 Highland Drive, positioned diagonally from the back of the Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. He comes out and continues west on Highland Drive, crossing Santa Barbara Avenue, doubling back and heading south down Santa Barbara Avenue. Merlin turns southeast on La Loma Avenue and continues to Yosemite Boulevard. He turns west on Yosemite Boulevard, continues to Santa Rosa Avenue and turns south. There, Merlin enters the first parking lot on the west side of the street, but then leaves the lot and continues south on Santa Rosa Avenue. He goes into the Mid Cal parking lot, again exits and continues south to the gate of E&J Gallo Winery. Officers get permission to enter the facility. Merlin goes through the gate heading south and then turns east, going up to a warehouse. The dog pulls on his harness, indicating the strength of the scent had begun to wane. At this point, Valentin stops the search. After the dog begins nosing around a trash bin in the area, investigators search with flashlights and climb into it. Back at the command post, Valentin discusses Merlin’s actions with Sgt. Ron Cloward and Det. Al Brocchini, telling them that the manner in which the dog ran indicated he was following a trail of someone in a vehicle. Brocchini asks Valentin if Merlin was capable of picking up a trail to the Tradecorp Warehouse. Valentin agrees to run Merlin provided she is not told the location of the warehouse. According to Valentin, the dog is then taken to the intersection of Kansas Avenue and North Emerald Avenue, not far from the Tradecorp Warehouse. Valentin again offers Laci Peterson’s sunglasses for Merlin to sniff, and gives him the search command. From there, the dog heads south on North Emerald Avenue, crossing Kansas Avenue and stopping at a storage yard. Merlin is then taken to the Tradecorp Warehouse, where he immediately takes a trail headed east out of the warehouse area, south onto North Emerald Avenue and Kansas Avenue before turning west onto Maze Boulevard. Brocchini calls off the search. According to an article in the Modesto Bee, investigators take it from there, deciding to scour the Tuolumne River all the way to the San Joaquin River. At about 5:00 p.m. (by some accounts, 4:00 p.m.), Rudy and Susan Medina return from a trip out of town. They have to show identification to be allowed onto Covena Avenue. Arriving home, they discover their home has been burglarized. They find a set of French doors has been damaged, notice a hole in a wall and find their safe and other items missing. At 5:30 p.m., they report to the police the burglary of their home. At 7:45 p.m. (according to The Murder of Laci Peterson, at 7:45 a.m.), Modesto Police Department officers, accompanied by FBI crime scene investigators, arrive with a search warrant at the home of Scott and Laci Peterson. Diana Campos sees a flier about Laci Peterson’s disappearance, says to herself, “I know that girl,” then realizes the description matches that of a woman she saw walking in the park on December 24, 2002. According to articles from ABC and in the Modesto Bee, officers had been forced to obtain a warrant when Scott Peterson would not voluntarily allow them to search the home. Investigators put up yellow tape to mark the home as a crime scene and then seize two personal computers, “patio umbrellas” and other items. Investigators are also seen spending about an hour going in and out of a home near Scott and Laci Peterson’s home—a home that will later be revealed as Rudy and Susan Medina’s home. At 10:00 p.m., workers prepare to haul Laci Peterson’s 1996 Land Rover Discovery SE and Scott Peterson’s 2002 Ford F-150 pickup to be examined elsewhere. During this time, according to Amie Krigbaum’s preliminary hearing testimony, McKenzie is “just going crazy.” The house remains sealed overnight, as Scott Peterson reportedly stays with friends—probably Mike and Heather Richardson. By his own account, Eric Olsen resigns from Tradecorp. According to Amber Frey’s phone records, she and Scott Peterson speak at least fourteen times by phone between 3:00 and 9:00 p.m.; according to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak sixteen times by phone.
December 27 The Laci Peterson case officially transforms from a local into a regional and national phenomenon, as Roy Wasden discusses the case on Good Morning America and the San Francisco Chronicle prints its first story about the case. Authorities continue an intensive search for Laci Peterson in the Modesto area. Boat and dive teams make their way down the Tuolumne River from Modesto to the San Joaquin River, searching in the Tuolumne River Regional Park. Along the way, teams of investigators on the ground talk with neighboring landowners and residents. A helicopter crew searches the Tuolumne River from Fox Grove, near Hughson, to the San Joaquin River. Investigators go to the Berkeley Marina to check out Scott Peterson’s alibi, but reportedly come up empty-handed. Diana Campos calls the Modesto Police Department to report her sighting and, at about 10:15 a.m., Det. Phil Owen interviews her. At about 12:05 p.m., Owen interviews John and Karma Souza by phone. At 2:30 p.m., local investigators, now bolstered by FBI crime-scene analysts, serve a search warrant on the Tradecorp Warehouse and continue a second day of searching at Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. At about 6:30 p.m., Det. George Stough interviews Diane Jackson by phone. She states that, on the morning of December 24, 2002, she saw in front of 516 Covena Avenue “three short of stature, dark-skinned but not African American guys” that she believed were acting suspiciously. According to Det. Al Brocchini’s preliminary hearing testimony, he notices that the patio umbrellas that had been in the back of Scott Peterson’s truck are now in the backyard leaning up against the back fence, and that the blue tarp that once wrapped them is now in a shed underneath a gas leaf blower. According to a report filed by Eloise Anderson and an article in the National Enquirer, the cadaver dog Twist comes to full alert at the blue tarp, but says it was placed over a lawn mower. Anderson gives the “show me” command to Twist, and she hits a container that appears to Anderson to contain fertilizer. Anderson moves the container and again asks Twist to check. Twist again alerts on the shed, and at the “show me” command, indicates the blue tarp. Anderson removes the tarp and again asks Twist to check the area. After a thorough search, Twist again alerts and responds to the “show me” command by lying down next to the lawn mower at the base of some shelves. According to a report filed by Anderson, Twist shows “mild interest” in a duffle bag in Conner Peterson’s nursery closet and alerts in the home’s family room twice, but is unable to pinpoint an area there. Anderson takes Twist to East La Loma Park, but the dog shows no interest. Anderson then takes Twist to the Tradecorp Warehouse. Twist shows interest by three milk crates up against a wall in the warehouse, checking several times in each container, along the edge of the workbench where she could reach and along the edge of Scott Peterson’s boat closest to the workbench. Twist demonstrates frustration by barking but does not go to her full alert or pinpoint a particular spot. Anderson later notes that the “chemical smell made searching very difficult.” The search of the Tradecorp Warehouse concludes at about 6:30 p.m. Investigators seize Scott Peterson’s boat from the Tradecorp Warehouse location. Among the potentially significant findings: a pair of pliers with a 5- to 6-inch hair wrapped around them. Scott Peterson calls Eric Olsen to ask him about his sales contacts (by some accounts, this conversation takes place on December 26, 2002), leaving a voice mail message. At two news conferences, Scott Peterson does not appear with the rest of the family, but they come to his defense. Lee Peterson states that his son is “totally distraught, really tired” and being stressed by the accusations and questions about his own behavior. “It weighs on him that not only his wife and baby are gone, but that he’s under suspicion,” he says. He also informs reporters that his son has provided detectives with a launch receipt that verifies his trip. Later, he adds that his son has also turned over to investigators a receipt from a Bay Area gas station. Jackie Peterson also dismisses any idea that her son should be a suspect in the disappearance of his wife. “There’s no possibility that he would be involved. They were like honeymooners even after being married 5 years. They doted on each other. We all wanted to be like them.” Concerning Scott Peterson, Det. Doug Ridenour states what will become the Modesto Police Department mantra for the next four months: “At this point, he is not a suspect.” Police officials state they have no evidence of foul play in Laci Peterson’s disappearance, but urge local farmers and ranchers to scour their orchards and fields for anything “out of character.” An article in the Modesto Bee states: “Family members and area residents reported that Laci Peterson took daily walks. Under her normal routine, she would go a short distance from her home to a dirt path that leads to East La Loma Park, one of several parks that make up Dry Creek Regional Park.” According to Amber Frey’s phone records, she and Scott Peterson speak at least four times by phone; according to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak seven times by phone. Amber Frey visits a friend at his work site, the day before she presumably has plans to leave with him on a vacation to Hawaii.
December 28 Investigators push the search for Laci Peterson into thousands of acres of wetlands west of Modesto, focusing on where the Stanislaus and Tuolumne Rivers merge with the San Joaquin River near the west end of Highway 132, and along those same rivers in three local counties. About 50 officers and volunteers work on foot, on horseback, on quad runners and in a helicopter. “We’re looking for a needle in a haystack,” says Sgt. Tim Helton, one of the equestrian officers. A man sees a woman resembling Laci Peterson, urinating by a fence near Claus Road and Scenic Drive. A man is holding the woman and shielding her with a blanket. This man then takes the woman to a van, where another man pulls her in. The witness is at first reluctant to call in the sighting as a tip, but is later persuaded by his wife to do so. Investigators return to the Berkeley Marina to further check on Scott Peterson’s alibi and look for clues. Capt. Christopher Boyer, Eloise Anderson and Ron Seitz meet there. Boyer gives Laci Peterson’s sunglasses case to Anderson, and gives Laci Peterson’s pink slipper to Seitz. According to an article in the National Enquirer and backed by preliminary hearing and trial testimony, the trailing dog Trimble is taken to the Berkeley Marina and, after sniffing at Laci Peterson’s sunglasses case, picks up a scent at an entrance to the boat launch area that Scott Peterson said he used. According to the account, Trimble then tugs hard on the harness, taking her handler, Anderson, to the westernmost pier at the launch area. The dog continues along the pier, stopping at one pylon, then checks the wind current and stares out over the water, thereby “indicating the end of the trail.” Back in the city, bicycle patrols continue to look for clues in the vicinity of Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. Modesto Police Department spokespersons state they believe the home of Rudy and Susan Medina was burglarized between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on December 24, 2002—an estimate that they will later say is wrong—but that there is no established link between the burglary and Laci Peterson’s disappearance. They also express doubt that Laci Peterson went to East La Loma Park, despite witnesses who said they believed that they saw her there. The Rocha family holds a news conference, making emotional pleas for Laci Peterson’s safe return and expressing hope for that eventuality. “I love you very much. We want you home,” says Dennis Rocha. “It’s tearing our family apart. Christmas Eve, of all times, to pull something like this. We’ve got to get her back.” Sharon Rocha adds: “We are going to find Laci and she’s going to be fine. And then we are going to finally have Christmas.” Along with Kim Petersen, the Rocha family announces that the reward in the case has grown to $500,000 because of a $375,000 contribution from an anonymous donor. Despite the statement from police officials that they can find no link between the nearby burglary and Laci Peterson’s disappearance, Brent Rocha states he believes the burglary should not be overlooked in the search for his sister. “I think that’s our best lead,” he tells reporters. He defends Scott Peterson against reporters’ questions of whether he could have been involved in Laci Peterson’s disappearance: “No way. Absolutely not.” Brent Rocha also claims that his brother-in-law has been helping in the search and “definitely is scared for Laci.” In a Modesto Bee article, Susan Medina states that she and her husband, Rudy, were gone from sometime December 24 until about 5:00 p.m. December 26, 2002, and discovered upon their return that someone had broken in and stolen a safe holding $50,000 worth of jewelry. According to the article, it is the Medina home that police officers have been going in and out of the past 2 days. Jill Smith, a sexual assault counselor, provides the Modesto Police Department with a report about a conversation she had approximately 2 weeks earlier with a rape victim who stated that her attackers performed a satanic ritual and promised a “Christmas Day death” that would make the newspapers. Tom Harshman calls the Modesto Police Department with a tip about a Laci Peterson sighting. According to Amber Frey’s phone records, she and Scott Peterson speak at least three times by phone; according to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak five times by phone. Although Amber Frey will later tell Scott Peterson she has plans to leave this day on a vacation to Hawaii, she does not leave. Suspicious of Scott Peterson, she and a friend do an Internet search to try to dig up further information about him. She later says she found “too many Scott Petersons” and nothing related to the missing Laci Peterson.
December 29 Det. Doug Ridenour says that authorities have received 340 tips in the Laci Peterson case and are investigating the promising ones. “She didn’t just vanish,” he states. “No one just vanishes. I believe there’s someone out there who saw something or who knows where she may be.” Modesto Police Department officials announce that they are searching along Highway 132 and the Berkeley Marina. Modesto Police Department officials also state that they have been unable to locate anyone who saw Scott Peterson at the Berkeley Marina on December 24, 2002. One official states that they have identified 175 high-risk parolees and sex offenders in the area and have begun interviewing them. But Sgt. Ron Cloward’s estimate is much lower: “We developed a list of about 50 and have talked to 29 so far,” he says. “We want to know who they might have been with and where they were on Christmas Eve.” He adds that the local search has focused on Modesto neighborhoods generally north of Scenic Drive and east of McHenry Avenue. Equestrian, water and air searches are suspended for the day to allow for rest and routine maintenance. At the police command post in the park, Cloward passes out maps to volunteers, who then walk specific neighborhoods seeking clues. In support of this effort, a steady stream of volunteers shows up throughout the day at the Red Lion Hotel command center. Stacey Boyers tells reporters that a core group of 15 to 20 persons has staffed the command center continually since it opened three days ago. “It’s amazing how this community has come together to help us,” she says. “We’ve had 50 sign up today and probably more than 600 in the last few days.” From the Herculean volunteer effort and donations, about 10,000 flyers are posted and 15,000 more are reportedly being printed. In a televised news conference, Dennis Rocha pleads tearfully for his daughter’s safe return, at one point begging her presumed abductors to exchange her, no-questions-asked, for the $500,000 reward money. “Take the money,” he says. “Take the money and go. Just bring back my daughter unharmed.” Eloise Anderson writes up her report concerning Trimble’s actions at the Berkeley Marina—an account that will later be published in the National Enquirer. According to Amber Frey’s phone records, she and Scott Peterson speak at least four times by phone; according to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak five times by phone. According to Amber Frey, she sees Ava Frey and her boyfriend. According to Shawn Sibley’s trial testimony, she and Amber Frey attend a birthday party. According to Amber Frey, the party she attends is at Doug Sibley’s home, and is also attended by Richard Byrd (more likely, Byrd calls her while she is at the party). Amber Frey receives four calls from unidentified numbers from 9:01 p.m. to 1:40 a.m. the next day, with the calls ranging in length from two to 16 minutes.
December 30 Richard Byrd calls Amber Frey at 1:40 a.m. to tell her that her boyfriend Scott Peterson is married and a person of interest in the disappearance of Laci Peterson (according to some erroneous sources, this call comes the previous day; according to various sources, Amber Frey is told by her sister, her father, a friend, or a client who is also a private investigator; according to Laci: Inside the Laci Peterson Murder, Amber Frey finds out the truth about Scott Peterson when she sees him on television and then contacts a private investigator). Amber Frey calls the Modesto Police Department at 1:43 a.m. concerning her relationship with Scott Peterson. She speaks to them for 22 minutes, part of the time with Det. Al Brocchini—her first of what will be more than 200 calls to the Modesto Police Department over the next six weeks. Scott Peterson calls her at 2:36 p.m. and 2:28 p.m. According to the National Enquirer and Laci: Inside the Laci Peterson Murder, Amber Frey voluntarily takes a lie detector test and passes. Brocchini and Det. Jon Buehler accompany Amber Frey to Radio Shack where they purchase recording equipment for her to tape conversations she has with Scott Peterson. During the investigators’ meeting with Amber Frey, Shawn Sibley is also present and is interviewed by them. The Modesto Police Department command center at East La Loma Park remains active. Officers and volunteers search back roads and alleys near the park, and are sent to search areas in northwest Modesto, being given “five to six blocks to search at a time” according to the Modesto Bee. Officers on horses search the Modesto Reservoir and Turlock Reservoir. Searchers return to the wetlands to investigate three bodies of water west of Modesto adjoining Highway 132 in the vicinity of Mape’s Ranch. Members of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department Underwater Search and Rescue Team inspect a section of the San Joaquin River about one-half mile north of the Old Fishermen’s Club on Highway 132, about 16 miles from Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. Dive team members also search sloughs along the river and explore a large pond on Mape’s Ranch. According to dive team member Mark Cardoza, the reason for the search in that vicinity is that the specially trained bloodhound made a beeline down Maze Boulevard (Highway 132). “We are looking at all the areas where people could pull off the side of the road and not be seen,” he says. Sgt. Ron Cloward supports following the nose of the bloodhound: “I’ve worked on cases where those dogs have located people 6 months after they disappeared,” he tells reporters at an afternoon news conference. Dog handlers publicly report that they believe Laci Peterson left her home in a vehicle, not on foot. Helicopter searchers fly over the California Aqueduct and the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct. Det. Doug Ridenour reports receiving a “credible tip” that Laci Peterson was seen the afternoon of December 24, 2002, shopping at Copeland’s Sports Fitness Super Store. Consequently, investigators spend much of the day looking at videotape from the store’s security cameras. Scott Peterson, in a tape recorded telephone call, tells investigators that Laci Peterson knew about his boat and had seen it. “Can’t go out and buy somethin’, you know, without tellin’ your wife,” he explains. “She came and saw it at the warehouse.” Asked if Scott Peterson being able to produce a receipt from the Berkeley Marina has eliminated him as a suspect, Ridenour states, “At this point, we are not ruling him or anybody out.” Meanwhile, Roy Wasden concurs with Brent Rocha’s statements of December 28, 2002, concerning the need to investigate the home burglary as a lead in the Laci Peterson case: “We really feel a compelling need to get the burglary solved to see if that moves us any closer to finding Laci,” he says, adding that authorities expect to soon release a description of three people and a vehicle seen in the area of the burglary. A law enforcement official reports that nearly 300 tips have come in, though none has produced a solid lead. David Ramirez and another officer, responding to witness sightings of a suspicious van in the La Loma neighborhood on December 23, 2002, interview Mary Ann Renfrow and her homeless family at their campsite at the Woodward Reservoir outside Modesto. The family claims their van had broken down and was in the shop for repairs or otherwise inoperable from December 22 to December 29, 2002, and had not been in the La Loma neighborhood. The family tells Ramirez that they have been camping at Woodward Reservoir for about 3 weeks. Rayoune Miranda, Renfrow’s son, admits being in Modesto the previous week to get parts for the vehicle. He states that, at the time, Yosemite Boulevard was closed, presumably during the search for Laci Peterson. The officers examine the van, take fingerprints of the family and leave—the last time the family will be contacted concerning the case for nearly 5 months, at which time law enforcement officials will interview Rayoune Miranda, and Mark Geragos will repossesses the van by making a $600 payment to cover Mary Ann Renfrow’s overdue amount. Peggy O’Donnell is interviewed by a Det. Dennis Holmes. Susan Levy visits the Red Lion Hotel to show support for the family and friends of Laci Peterson and to plead for her safe return. Based in part on yesterday’s comments from Stacey Boyers at the Red Lion Hotel volunteer command center, the Modesto Bee also reports that more than 600 volunteers have distributed leaflets, answered telephones and searched East La Loma Park and Tuolumne River Regional Park. The same article also repeats the story about Karen Servas finding McKenzie and returning him to Scott and Laci Peterson’s yard, stating, “The neighbor didn’t realize that anything might be amiss.” In a separate story, the Modesto Bee quotes Brent Rocha, defending his brother-in-law for his silence against a rising tide of suspicion: “He can’t talk to the media. He’ll break down. He’s too emotional to do that.” Speaking about himself, Brent Rocha says, “I think the helplessness is setting in.” According to Amber Frey’s phone records, she and Scott Peterson speak at least twice by phone; according to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak five times by phone. He calls her at 5:01 p.m., but says little before hanging up due to what he says is a poor connection. He calls back 2 minutes later, telling her that he is in flying to Normandy and will be in Paris the following day.
December 31 Scott Peterson’s family acknowledges that he has hired an attorney to represent him. Authorities using dogs, horses, helicopters and rafts join with hundreds of volunteers in a huge search of parks and abandoned buildings. Investigators continue to question registered sex offenders and paroled convicts. The Modesto Bee reports that investigators have interviewed 155 registered sex offenders who live in southeast Modesto; in a later story, this will be modified to state that investigators are continuing the effort, as some of these offenders listed the Modesto Union Gospel Mission on Yosemite Boulevard as their address, but were not there. According to Sgt. Ron Cloward, the neighborhood search expands into the neighboring towns of Salida and Ceres. Members of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department Underwater Search and Rescue Team search parts of the California Aqueduct and the Delta Mendota Canal, as well as the Fox Grove Fishing Access on the Tuolumne River near Hughson and the Orange Blossom Recreation Area on the Stanislaus River outside of Oakdale. Modesto Police Department officials do an about-face from earlier statements and admit that they suspect Laci Peterson was the victim of a crime. Although doubting that Laci Peterson ever made it to East La Loma Park, they state they believe she disappeared between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. Det. Jon Buehler states, “As we continue to profile Laci’s background, gather witness statements, recognize her close relationship with family and friends, investigate the circumstances of her disappearance—in view of the timing with the holiday season, it is becoming more apparent that her disappearance is the result of foul play.” Det. Doug Ridenour echoes those sentiments: “We are hopeful that we will find her alive. But seven days after the fact, we are not as optimistic.” Answering the now-inevitable questions about Scott Peterson, Ridenour says, “It would be wonderful to be able to eliminate Scott from the investigation. Mr. Peterson is still considered a suspect.” He refuses to comment on whether or not Scott Peterson has taken a lie detector test, but police officials acknowledge that they have confirmed the validity of a time-stamped parking receipt he provided, obtained from a vending machine at the Berkeley Marina. They also admit two of their more promising leads have seemingly dried up. First, video surveillance tapes from Copeland’s Sports Fitness Super Store have not shown Laci Peterson shopping there December 24, 2002. Second, the timing of the neighborhood burglary makes it unlikely that the crime had any relation to Laci Peterson’s disappearance; investigators now place the time of the burglary between 10:30 a.m. on December 24 and 4:00 p.m. on December 26, 2002. Related to this, the Modesto Police Department issues a press release announcing the reward of $1,000 for information leading to the identification of the persons who burglarized a residence in the 500 block of Covena Avenue—what will later be revealed as Rudy and Susan Medina’s home—between December 24 and December 26, 2002. The release states that the suspects are three short, dark-skinned—but not African American—males. The release also states that police are looking for an older model full-sized van, tan or light brown in color, with one or possibly two doors that open in the rear. Det. George Stough states that witnesses reported seeing three suspicious-looking persons in front of Scott and Laci Peterson’s home at about 11:40 a.m. on December 24, 2002, but acknowledges that this sighting was more than an hour after Karen Servas had returned McKenzie to Scott and Laci Peterson’s yard. Still, he says, investigators want to be sure the burglars were not involved with the Laci Peterson case. “If we got a call from the suspects saying that they saw something happening over there but they are afraid to come in, we might be able to work out a deal,” Stough says. The Modesto Bee makes a headline out of the story that the handler of a bloodhound told detectives that Laci Peterson left her home not on foot but in a vehicle. The article reports that investigators have received more than 500 tips, but only a few of them are credible. According to Mark Geragos, a watch resembling one owned by Laci Peterson is pawned at The Pawn Shop. According to Amber Frey’s phone records, she and Scott Peterson speak at least twice by phone; according to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak six times by phone. According to the National Enquirer, Scott Peterson shares romantic calls with Amber Frey at 11:42 a.m. and 2:59 p.m. During these calls, Scott Peterson is telling Amber Frey he loves her and is still pretending to be a widower of about 1 year. According to prosecutors, one of the calls lasts until about 10 minutes before a scheduled public vigil for Laci Peterson. In this call, he tells Amber Frey he is calling from a business trip in Europe, saying, “Our relationship will grow. I have confidence in that.” According to the article, her recent discovery of his true identity combined with the fact that he was at the time preparing to attend a candlelight vigil for his missing wife and unborn son, made Amber Frey have to “bite her lip to stop herself from screaming, “You liar!'” He calls her at 3:05 p.m. to describe an “unreal” New Year’s Eve celebration near the Eiffel Tower. He calls again at 4:18 p.m., telling her he has found a “a quiet alley” and can talk. He describes “a mass of people all playing American pop songs” and tells her about “Pasquale, a friend of ours from Spain” who is there along with the previously mentioned Francois and Jeff. When asked by her whether he has made any New Year’s resolutions, he replies, “I’ll have to come up with something good.” She tells him that she is going to Shawn Sibley’s, but he does not reply and the line goes dead. He calls again at 4:20 p.m. and, even though Amber Frey speaks to him, he does not reply but leaves a message saying that it is 9:00 a.m. where he is and that he will call her when it is midnight in California. At 4:30 p.m., a public candlelight vigil is begun for Laci and Conner Peterson near the tennis courts in East La Loma Park. Around the park, improvised memorials are set up, including one with candles encircling a tree with a large yellow-and-blue bow tied to its branches and holding one of the Laci Peterson reward posters. According to police estimates, between 1,200 and 1,400 (according to some sources, “more than 1,000) friends, former classmates, teachers and well-wishing strangers gather in the soggy field, surrounded by television units and the Modesto Police Department’s mobile command center. Many attendees wear pale yellow and blue ribbons—the yellow to symbolize hope; the blue to represent baby Conner. Roy Wasden joins the Rocha family on a flatbed trailer, which serves as the stage. Members of the Rocha family and the Peterson family take turns speaking to the audience in a ceremony that features songs and prayers. Sharon Rocha addresses the crowd, saying, “Just keep looking for her. Don’t give up.” Amy Rocha tells reporters, “Everyone is real hopeful. No one is giving up at all.” After the ceremony, Dennis Rocha leaves the stage and wades into the crowd to shaking hands and exchange hugs. He thanks everyone for coming to the vigil and says, “I want to meet you all.” Conspicuously, Scott Peterson attends the vigil but does not sit with other family members on the stage and does not address the audience or give a statement to the media. According to a later article in the Modesto Bee, he is seen laughing and smiling a good deal of the time. He tearfully greets friends and family after the ceremony.