#29) January 2005
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: January 2005
January 1 An “employee error” results in copies of Amber Frey’s Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson going on sale prior to its release date. The Modesto Bee obtains a copy of the book from Richland’s Market.
January 2 The Modesto Bee reports that it has obtained a copy of Amber Frey’s Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson, and offers a prerelease review of the book. In the article, Roxie Astor of Anderson News cites “employee error” as the cause for the early distribution.
January 3 Amber Frey appears on NBC’s Today. Michelle Green appears on The Early Show, promoting People magazine’s exclusive excerpts from Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson. Adam Stewart publicly expresses Sharon Rocha’s displeasure over the book. “Displaying a picture of Laci on the cover of Amber Frey’s book portrays a lack of respect and insensitivity towards Laci and Laci’s family and friends,” Stewart states. “In addition to that, having Amber’s picture positioned between Laci and Scott is extremely hurtful and offensive to Laci’s mother and her family.” Gloria Allred and Lori Ellsworth do not return John Coté’s telephone calls seeking comment, and Mark Geragos refuses to make a statement. Ron Frey says he does not believe his daughter had anything to do with the book’s cover design. “It’s always important to have it appropriate to Mrs. Rocha,” he states. “To offend them with a book, that’s the last thing anybody should do.” He says he would change the cover if Sharon Rocha found it offensive, but points out, “I don’t speak for Amber, Gloria or ReganBooks.” He does, however, defend his daughter against charges that the book deal was only about making some quick cash. “This is a way of getting it out of her system,” he offers. “The more she talks, the better it is for her. This has been a nightmare.” He even suggests she may donate what she earned to charity. “If she’s going to live this luxurious lifestyle, that’s not appropriate in the least,” he contends. “I don’t think she’s going to do that.” Coté also contacts Det. Jon Buehler and Det. Doug Ridenour. Neither agree to comment on the book. “The chief’s going to make a decision on when it’s appropriate to talk,” Ridenour explains. The latest edition of the Globe purports to contain Scott Peterson’s “jailhouse confession”: “I killed Laci. I just snapped.”
January 4 250,000 copies of Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson are released for sale. Dateline NBC airs Matt Lauer’s interview with Amber Frey. Gloria Allred publicly defends the controversial cover of her client’s book. “All these images or similar ones have appeared together or separately in thousands of publications, on TV and on the Internet,” Allred says, “because these three individuals were essential to the criminal prosecution. Given that, we believe the depiction on the cover is appropriate.” Allred also defends her client’s right to tell her side of the story. “A lot of people are interested in Amber and her story,” Allred explains. “After two years of silence, I’m very glad she can tell it in her voice and in her own way.” Allred travels with Amber Frey and Justin Markovich for the taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Meanwhile, Don Hansen reports that embattled professor Stephen Schoenthaler remains on paid leave. Hansen confirms that the investigation into Schoenthaler’s practices has been completed, but says he cannot discuss the results. “The findings of the investigation are not public information,” he notes. “I do not know what those findings are.” Hansen says that the administrative process is not complete. “A finding has been made,” he explains. “Now it’s up to the parties involved to respond to all of it.”
January 5 Amber Frey tapes two episodes of The Oprah Winfrey Show. She then leaves for New York to appear on additional television programs.
January 6 In a Newsweek interview, Amber Frey explains why she wrote a book about her involvement in the Scott Peterson case. “This has given me an opportunity to be able to say in my voice and my truth and my life that I have lived,” she says. “People that don’t understand how incredibly hard this has been, not just for me, but for my family and all the people around me. I know that may sound selfish to some people, because there are so many people hurting. But I want people to know that I am human and that I do feel pain, and so does my family.”
January 7 At the Modesto Police Department, the Carole Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation formally presents the $50,000 reward offered in the Laci Peterson case. Without naming names, Kim Petersen indicates that $25,000 will be given to Alena Gonzalez and two members of her family, and $25,000 will be given to Michael Looby and Nicole Belanger. None of the recipients attend the ceremony. Gonzalez tells a reporter via telephone that the $25,000 will actually be split among her and three members of her family, and that she intends to donate part of it to STAND! Against Domestic Violence. “Laci was definitely a battered woman,” Gonzalez concludes. Despite the absence of rewardees, Sharon Rocha addresses the audience to thank them for their courage. “You could have chosen to keep on walking,” she states. “You didn’t. You did the right thing. For that, we will be eternally grateful.” Sharon Rocha herself is praised by Francis Carrington. “I’d like to thank Sharon for the dignity she’s shown through this whole process,” Carrington says. CBS announces that it has bought the rights to develop a made-for-television movie based on Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson. “Having the rights to her life story, as well as her book, provides an opportunity to tell new dimensions of the story and give viewers a personal look into one of the most notorious crimes of the past decade,” says Bela Bajaria in a prepared statement. Ironically echoing earlier the earlier words of Gloria Allred, Amber Frey tells a reporter that her recently released book “allows me to tell my story in my voice.” She says she sees its release as a chance to “set the record straight” about her involvement in the case. “I had a great understanding as to why there needed to be silence,” she states, but notes, “It was extremely painful to go through this and basically have my hands tied.” She relates that she found it “humiliating” to sit in the courtroom and listen along with others to her audiotaped conversations with Scott Peterson, and that she feels unconfortable when speaking to a crowd. “I’m shy in large settings,” she confesses. “Public speaking is terrifying for me.” She acknowledges that the ordeal affected some friendships. “There has been some distance because I’ve had to be silent,” she says. “I felt like I always had to be very careful who I was around and who I talked to.” Nevertheless, she says, she is stronger than she was when she met Scott Peterson. “I have grown from this,” she contends. “Hopefully, people will learn from my mistakes as well as the positive things that I’ve done.” She states her intention to return to being a massage therapist after the commotion has passed, and thanks those who believed in her. “I’m happy that people want to know the truth, and that I have such great support out there,” she says.
January 9 Nancy Grace interviews Amber Frey In the first live interview of her book-promotion tour. She calls Scott Peterson a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and states that she is completely over him. “I have moved on,” she says. “I have moved forward.” Although acknowledging sadness at the death penalty verdict, she says she supports the jury’s decision. “Scott’s responsible for his actions, and the jurors were presented with all the evidence, and they decided that was the verdict,” she reasons. She contends that her book was an attempt to get people to see her as more than a stereotype based on her occupation and her ill-fated affair. “I have been the subject of ridicule,” she says. “People talk about me and they don’t know me.” She admits she is going to profit from the deal, but notes that she lost a significant amount of income when working with the authorities and dodging the media. “I owe it to my children to secure their future,” she argues. She tells Grace that the notoriety is often uncomfortable, noting that Ayiana Frey is old enough to recognize her on the tabloid covers lining the supermarket checkout aisles and sometimes yells, “That’s my mom.”
January 10 Amber Frey is interviewed by Dan Abrams. Gloria Allred accompanies her. Amber Frey recalls that Scott Peterson, on their first date, had already laid out his plans to be away over the 2002 holiday season. “To know that was just this whole facade was really bizarre and unbelievable to me,” she states. Allred denies that she sought out Amber Frey and offered legal services to her. “Her reputation was being attacked,” Allred states. “False statements were being made about her and it was very important to be able to have someone to set the record straight as she went along because at the end, she could have been ruined.” Allred says, “I wanted to help her because she was doing the right thing.” Amber Frey attends a book-signing event at Barnes and Noble Booksellers in Midtown Manhattan. Gloria Allred and Andrea Peyser, an outspoken critic of Amber Frey, attend the event. As Peyser presents a book to be signed, Allred reportedly steps in. “She knows the vicious things you’ve written,” she tells Peyser. “And she’s decided to do it anyway!”
January 11 Andrea Peyser writes a scathing column focusing on Amber Frey’s visit to Barnes and Noble Booksellers, calling the appearance just the latest stop on her “I’m a victim!” tour. In a New York Post article, Peyser describes Amber Frey as “the baby-voiced masseuse with a singular talent for turning a brief romp with a murderer into a book and movie career sleazier than the affair itself.” “I’ve had trouble with the ease with which Amber parked her wee daughter with a friend, overnight, before she went out to sing naked karaoke on a blind date with a total stranger called Scott,” Peyser writes. “And that now, after exacting fatal revenge on the scoundrel, she wants to be taken as some sort of role model for young women!”
January 16 Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson reaches No. 1 on the Publishers Weekly list.
January 17 Jonna Spilbor, apparently still seething from the guilty verdict against Scott Peterson despite what she calls a “striking paucity of forensic evidence,” turns her anger to Amber Frey’s Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson, inaccurately stating that it is “inexplicably fraught with gratuitous half-naked photos of the author.”
January 23 The San Jose Mercury News offers its own unflattering review of the “inane bestseller” Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson, saying, “It’s hard to see how this honors the memory of slain Laci Peterson and her unborn son,” and surmising that “Putting the lying skunk on death row is the fairy-tale ending” of the Scott Peterson case. The book reaches the top of the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list, and slips to No. 3 on the Publishers Weekly list.
January 24 Attorneys meet to set a date for the wrongful death suit filed by the Rocha family against Scott Peterson, but that action is delayed by Roger Beauchesne because of a delay in Scott Peterson’s formal sentencing. Beauchesne sets the new date as April 18, 2005. Judy Lucier informs the media that he will not be formally sentenced on February 25, 2005, as planned. She says that attorneys will still meet on that date, but that the formal sentencing will be delayed until March 11, 2005. According to some reports, an outbreak of influenza among members of the defense team has delayed the necessary paperwork. Pat Harris states that Mark Geragos has not been able to work on the case because of the death of his father, and will not meet a February 4, 2005, deadline to file a motion to set aside the guilty verdict and death sentence. Al Delucchi approves the postponement. Reached later, Geragos denies that his father has died, but acknowledges he did have a stroke. “Last time I checked and we put a mirror under his nose he was still breathing,” Geragos remarks. Geragos says his father is already back to work. Adam Stewart tells a reporter that the Rocha family is pressing on with the wrongful death suit. “We are after damages,” he states. “We are after accordability. We’re after preventing him from profiting in any way, shape or form. I think there are a lot of people who stand to make money off this case, and we believe Scott is in line to be one of them.” During the afternoon, Stewart and Pat Harris met at Scott and Laci Peterson’s former home to take an inventory. Several Modesto Police Department patrol cars arrive in the neighborhood as the attorneys walk through the home. “I think we’ll be able to settle some of our differences,” Stewart remarks. “Not all of them.” Janet Maslin reviews Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson for the New York Times., concluding that the book “displays little insight into Mr. Peterson’s character, motives or behavior.” The Modesto Bee, using the California Public Records Act, obtains a report from California State University, Stanislaus, on the investigation of Stephen Schoenthaler. The October 13, 2004, report shows he was found guilty by a three-member panel of committing academic and scientific misconduct.
January 25 A Modesto Bee article reports on the discipline recommended for Stephen Schoenthaler, stating that he faces being demoted to associate professor, suspended for a semester without pay and placed on three years’ probation. Neither Schoenthaler nor his attorney comment for the story. In the article, Paul O’Brien states, “I think the Schoenthaler case is going to be a watershed in terms of convincing people to err on the side of caution.”
January 26 Amber Frey and David Markovich arrive at the Fresno County Courthouse to attend a hearing before James M. Petrucelli regarding the custody of Justin Markovich. Amber Frey is accompanied by Gloria Allred and Judith Lund. Allred initially asks Petrucelli to hold the entire hearing in private, saying, “The policy behind this section is for the protection of the child.” The judge refuses. “We handle, on a daily basis, hundreds of confidential filings in hearings in our open courts, and we never seal any of the hearings,” he tells Allred. “Certainly, in a case such as this, I don’t expect that you’re asking for special treatment.” Most of the case is settled with a mediator behind closed doors, with the public proceedings lasting only about 10 minutes. “The country of official residence of the child is the United States of America, and there is not a risk of abduction,” the judge states. He then wishes both parents good luck. About a half-dozen news agencies attend the hearing. At the end of the hearing, Amber Frey and her attorneys leave via a staff exit. Ron Frey tells a reporter that his daughter wants to move out of her former boyfriend’s home, blaming the separation on his refusal to get married. “You can’t just rent the cow—you got to buy the whole farm.” The two parties reach an agreement that includes visitation rights for David Markovich.
January 28 In a letter to the Modesto Bee, Roy Wasden defends Det. Al Brocchini from charges of incompetence leveled at him by Scott Peterson’s defense team during the trial. Wasden also takes aim at the media, who seized those charges and ran with them. “This preposterous claim of misconduct was amplified by the entertainment talking-head media personalities who lacked specific knowledge of the case or the evidence when viewed in total context,” Wasden writes. In conclusion, the chief notes, “Brocchini, as well as every member of the Modesto Police Department, has my full confidence and appreciation for a job well done.”
January 29 At 3:00 p.m., Amber Frey appears at a book-signing event back in her hometown, at one of Fresno’s Barnes and Noble Booksellers.
January 30 Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson falls to No. 5 on the Publishers Weekly list. Scott Bernstein allegedly tries to stop a driver on Route 202 in Pomona, New York. The driver trails Bernstein to his home. There, Bernstein reportedly breaks the driver’s car antenna and tries to pull him from his vehicle.