#32) April 2005
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: April 2005
April 1 PRWire announces that, according to a telephone survey seeking America’s Most Foolish Individual for 2005, Scott Peterson finishes second only to Michael Jackson, and ahead of serious contenders Martha Stewart, Paris Hilton, George W. Bush, Janet Jackson, Robert Blake, Dan Rather and Ashlee Simpson.
April 4 KTVU reports that Fabrizio Paolozzi, Stephen Aggarwal and Cody Scheel have listed The Shack for sale on eBay, promoting the connection to Scott Peterson. The article states that the online auction entry reads, “Restaurant for sale Sports Bar & Grill Scott Peterson.” Aggarwal defends the macabre association. “It’s just a way to get our name out there and let people know that the place is up for sale and to get more offers,” he says. Asked about the appropriateness of someone buying a restaurant because a serial killer once owned it, he replies, “It’s not my concern.” In the story, Scheel says that the advertisement has generated 8,000 hits, but no offers to buy at the listed $199,000 price. KTVU notes that The Shack is one of “more than 100 Peterson-related items listed.” Paolozzi says Aggarwal and Scheel are moving to San Francisco. In a CNN article concerning the civil suit being brought by the Rocha family against Scott Peterson, Adam Stewart, responding to the fact that the amount of the suit was raised from $5 million to $25 million, states, “You might say, ‘Well, why waste your time?’ but he’s a young guy and he has the potential to earn money.” Matt Geragos, contacted to comment for the article, is reported as “unavailable.” According to the story, Lt. Vernell Crittendon says that, should Scott Peterson be required to attend the civil hearing, San Quentin State Prison would allow him to go to Modesto, but the officer concedes it would be highly unlikely any convict would be called. “I have not heard of that occurring in my 28 years here,” Crittendon adds. Court TV reports that a hearing for the wrongful death suit is scheduled for April 18, 2005, contradicting other reports that placed the date as April 22, 2005.
April 5 The Modesto Bee reports that the latest cost figures show that the investigation and prosecution of Scott Peterson cost at least $3.83 million. Bumping up the total are salary expenses released by the Stanislaus County Office of the District Attorney, showing that prosecutors were paid $637,000 as they officially logged more than 20,000 hours on the trial, although officials note the team members typically worked much longer than the 40 hours a week for which they were paid. Inside Edition features interviews with Anne Bird and Amber Frey.
April 7 The New Times of San Luis Obispo runs an editorial criticizing the exploitation of Laci Peterson’s murder as a means to help promote the sale of The Shack.
April 8 Scott Peterson is approved for recreation at San Quentin State Prison. Lee and Jackie Peterson receive security clearance to visit their son in prison. Catherine Crier Live provides an update on Scott Peterson in prison.
April 11 A Modesto Bee article examines the typically lengthy time it takes to prosecute a murder charge, noting that the Scott Peterson case finished in a relatively short time—698 days from his arrest to his final sentencing. “That is a very short time for a case like that,” Tim Bazar says. The article points out that, among current cases, an average of 142 days elapsed between a crime and an arrest, and that arrests are made in about 85 percent of Stanislaus County homicides—far higher than the statewide average of nearly 57 percent.
April 12 Sharon Rocha and John Goold visit Tyler, Texas, to speak at the Northeast Texas Crime Victims’ Conference. “I still think about Laci every day,” she says. “I cry every day. I miss her.”
April 13 The world marks the two-year anniversary of the tragic discovery of Conner Peterson’s body. On the Record With Greta van Susteren airs Ron Grantski’s 911 call. Lt. Vernell Crittendon appears on The Abrams Report to discuss Scott Peterson’s life thus far while in San Quentin State Prison. Crittendon says the famous prisoner is “assimilating into his new lifestyle on death row very well.” Crittendon reports that Scott Peterson has been receiving “approximately 85 letters” a day—an impressive amount, but less than the number of letters received by Richard Ramirez or Charles Manson on their best days. KTVU also reports on Scott Peterson in prison, noting that he shares the prison’s adjustment center along with recent Bay Area additions Stuart Alexander and brothers Justin and Glenn Helzer. KTVU quotes Crittendon as saying Scott Peterson has received three marriage proposals and “a number of media requests for interviews.” The Abrams Report features a story on Sharon Rocha at the Northeast Texas Crime Victims’ Conference, as well as a segment on Scott Peterson’s life at San Quentin State Prison.
April 14 The world marks the two-year anniversary of the tragic discovery of Laci Peterson’s body.
April 18 David Beale, the former autopsy assistant with Pathology Support Services, pleads no contest to stealing human remains and possessing methamphetamine, adding a footnote to a discovery of human remains that, in June 2003, fueled speculation that a serial killer could have taken Laci Peterson. “This is a crime involving a great deal of callousness,” says Michael Sweet. The Modesto Bee reports that Catherine Crier, in a letter to lawmakers, urged passage of Senate Bill 1014. “From time to time, certain cases will tax a community’s ability to properly investigate and prosecute,” she is quoted as writing. According to the same article in the Bee, proponents of the bill are trying to get it moved from the Local Government Committee—chaired by opponent Christine Kehoe—to the Public Safety Committee, chaired by lead author Elaine Alquist.
April 19 Roy Wasden and Sharon Rocha are in Sacramento to lobby lawmakers to reimburse Modesto $2.3 million for costs associated with the investigation of the Laci Peterson case. A Modesto Bee article reports the cost of the Laci Peterson investigation as $3.83 million—an estimate that will continue to climb. Zap2It reports that CBS has shelved Martha: Behind Bars in favor of Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution, moving the latter’s scheduled airdate from May 22 to May 25, 2005.
April 20 The Senate Local Government Committee considers two bills regarding reimbursement for the Laci Peterson case, Senate Bill 9 and Senate Bill 1014, previously described in the Modesto Bee as one “which would open the door to reimbursement for all local agencies involved in the Peterson case, including Modesto.”
April 21 Mike Tozzi states that the Scott Peterson trial is likely the most expensive in the history of Stanislaus County. Larry Haugh tallies the cost for the Scott Peterson investigation and prosecution at more than $4 million after adding in the cost of county investigators and a $182,118 bill from San Mateo County for the trial. Haugh says Stanislaus County still has $54,118 outstanding from previous bills. In a Modesto Bee article, Sharon Rocha explains why she is lobbying state lawmakers for a bailout of local agencies that spent millions to put Scott Peterson behind bars for good. “It isn’t fair to the rest of the people,” she says. “Had it not been for all of the work they did from day one, he could have gotten away with it.” In the same article, Roy Wasden calls the state aid “critical to public safety in the city of Modesto” and notes that, without help, the Modesto Police Department could lose 15 of its 265 officers paid for out of a $46 million budget. “I’m going to hold positions open, not hire people…I hope I don’t end up laying people off,” he states. The article puts the Modesto and Stanislaus County costs for the case at about $2.3 million. In the report, Wasden argues that the state should have the resources to help out because it sets aside about $5 million a year to reimburse counties through the trial-subsidy fund but rarely uses all the money. To bolster his case, he points out that Calaveras County officials recently returned to the state $11.9 million ($8.4 million in unused funds and $3.5 million in interest) left over from the successful prosecution of mass murderer and sexual predator Charles Ng. “It’s not an area you can put a price tag on and say, ‘Gee, we’re just going to limit…justice,'” Wasden says.
April 22 Sharon Rocha and Roy Wasden attend a convention in New York to discuss relations between law enforcement agencies and families of victims. The Modesto Bee reports that the latest calculations show taxpayers paid approximately $4.13 million for the Laci Peterson investigation and subsequent prosecution of Scott Peterson. In the article, Ron Grantski expresses his appreciation, but says the expense was necessary for justice. “I firmly believe Scott thought this was a little podunk town, and he could get away with this,” Grantski suggests. “If it hadn’t been done professionally—and that’s where the costs come in—he wouldn’t have been convicted.” He says he worries that the high costs of the case will impact future investigations. “It just scares me to think if other police departments have to cut back on solving crimes because of money, how many criminals will go free,” he says. “That’s just not right.” According to the story, court costs for the Scott Peterson trial totaled $742,000, Stanislaus County prosecutors spent $1.37 million, and the Modesto Police Department spent $1.55 million.
April 26 Jim Brazelton announces he is seeking reelection in what will be Stanislaus County’s first contested election for district attorney since 1978. In a KCRA report, Roy Wasden speaks again about the long-term financial impact of the Laci Peterson case on the Modesto Police Department, and why he continues the fight for state reimbursement from a fund usually restricted to counties. “If you have one of these extraordinary cases, it will impact a chief’s budget and the ability to provide public safety for the rest of the community,” Wasden states. “I believe there is a fundamental fairness issue that access to that fund should not be restricted because you happen to live in the city versus the county.” On The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly tackles the subject of Scott Peterson’s first weeks in prison, interviewing Lt. Vernell Crittendon. Crittendon reports that Scott Peterson has now been allowed to receive and keep personal items, including a television, a CD player and books, and that he has only two photographs taped to his wall—both of Laci Peterson. Crittendon says that the prisoner is now being assessed to determine the most suitable group of death row inmates for him to be grouped with. O’Reilly asks about the safety of Scott Peterson, and Crittendon replies that San Quentin State Prison has a very good safety record, with the attack on Richard Davis being an exceptional incident.
April 28 A Modesto Bee article reports on the news that Jim Brazelton will seek reelection. Opponent Michael Cummins says he is not surprised by the news because he has noticed Brazelton working the crowd at various recent events. “I certainly look forward to a spirited debate on the issues,” Cummins says. Ray Simon, though, seems shocked about Brazelton’s announcement, and asks, “Why would he want to go through that again?” The story mentions Brazelton’s health as a potential issue, noting that, recently, “He had lost weight and his skin tone fluctuated between jaundiced yellow and ashen gray.”
April 29 At a preliminary hearing, John Whiteside rules that Scott Bernstein must stand trial for five felony and five misdemeanor counts related to his investigation of the Scott Peterson case. Debra Lamela testifies that she thought Bernstein was a federal agent when she gave him booking photographs of Scott Peterson and others. Nine other witnesses testify against Bernstein, including Lt. Mark Smith, Sarah Taberna, Evelyn Taberna and Sam Newnam. At the end of the hearing, Dean Archibald drops one misdemeanor charge. Whiteside tells Bernstein he does not have to appear for his scheduled May 19, 2005, arraignment.