#35) July 2005
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: July 2005
July 1 The sale of 523 Covena Avenue to Gerry Roberts becomes final. “It’s probably the most controversial home in the world,” he boasts to a reporter. He reveals that, while the sale was pending, vandals cut gas lines to the outdoor barbecue grill and the gas meter, and also apparently drove a vehicle into the brick wall on the property. “There was a bit of craziness,” he acknowledges. “I realize the home and its occupants touched so many lives.”
July 2 The Associated Press reports on the sale of Scott and Laci Peterson’s former home. In the article, new owner Gerry Roberts reveals that he wrote a letter to Sharon Rocha and Lee Peterson, praising the bungalow’s charm and saying, “I will honor this home and plan to keep it in my family for many years to come.”
July 5 Sharon Rocha, through attorney Adam Stewart, files paperwork with the Stanislaus County Superior Court, asking that it compel Scott Peterson to turn over the money from Laci Peterson’s insurance policy. “You can’t murder or slay your spouse and then say, ‘Hey, I want the life insurance,'” Stewart remarks. Pat Harris argues that Scott Peterson does not want to relinquish the money because he is appealing his conviction.
July 7 Gerry Roberts calls the Modesto Police Department to report that a worker at his home (according to some accounts, a friend or two friends) found a knife inside a cabinet near the swimming pool in his back yard—the former residence of Scott and Laci Peterson. According to Roberts, the friend was searching for an outlet in a cabinet void where there used to be a small refrigerator, and put his hand on the floor in a corner apparently obscured from sight. Det. Craig Grogan and a crime-scene investigator arrive at the home. Roberts asks Grogan how investigators missed the knife during their searches of the home. Grogan stares back, not answering. Grogan interviews the worker, taking notes and recording the conversation.
July 8 After a media inquiry, Modesto Police Department detectives decide to send the knife found at 523 Covena Avenue for forensic testing.
July 11 In its July 11, 2005, issue, the Globe suggests “Scott Slit Laci’s Throat” in their cover article. The story claims that Scott Peterson confessed to a fellow inmate the circumstances of Laci Peterson’s death. The article includes several photographs of Laci Peterson as a child. An editorial in The Daily Tribune argues for the death penalty, stating, “I only hope that Laci and Connor [sic] were dead before Scott Peterson dumped their bodies into the Pacific Ocean.” Rick Applegate responds to a report that a knife has been found at 523 Covena Avenue. He states there are “no obvious signs of blood or tissue on the knife.” Bakersfield resident Rochelle Mackey—just eight weeks pregnant—is found shot to death, beginning an investigation that will eventually result in murder charges being filed against her boyfriend, Conroy Hayes in a case that will test the limits of California fetal-protection laws.
July 12 The story breaks nationally that authorities are conducting forensic tests on a 10-inch knife reportedly found at the former home of Scott and Laci Peterson. “You could tell there had been liquid on the blade” and a “red stain on the handle,” says Gerry Roberts in one of the stories. “Whether it’s barbecue sauce,” Roberts says, “I don’t know.” Rick Applegate notes that the discovery came shortly after the Globe ran an article announcing that Laci Peterson’s throat had been slit. “It is somewhat believed that this knife was put, planted or placed there recently by a person or persons unknown,” Applegate says. “There is nothing to make us believe the knife was used in the crime.” Roberts says he is considering releasing photographs of the knife to a tabloid magazine. “It’s surprising how police overlooked it,” he remarks, but also downplays its importance. “I don’t know what people’s’ big deal is about it,” he says. Liana White is reporting missing, the first news in a case that will draw comparisons to the Laci Peterson case.
July 13 The National Enquirer runs a story about the knife found at 523 Covena Avenue. In the article, Gerry Roberts claims to know Amy Rocha’s boyfriend. “I told him about the knife and he told Amy,” Roberts says in the story. “Laci’s parents called me up to get the details. They want to know how she died. It’s more closure for them.”
July 14 Scott Peterson is moved from the adjustment center to his cell on Death Row at San Quentin State Prison.
July 17 Loretta Dillon, in a review of Silent Witness: The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo’s Death, compares Michael Schiavo to Scott Peterson. “Schiavo lies carelessly and frequently,” she writes, “And reminds us of Scott Peterson when he cannot seem to get the details straight of the early morning hours when he allegedly found Terri unconscious on the floor of their apartment.” A body is discovered by a search team led by Michael White, but authorities refuse to say whether it is the remains of Liana White.
July 18 Developments in the case of Liana White continue to suggest comparisons to the Laci Peterson case. “If they’re thinking it was the husband, forget the husband,” says the woman’s husband, Michael White, in an Edmonton Sun article. Even though he is being treated as a person of interest in the case, he says he will continue to support the investigation, and that he is comforted by the fact that his family knows that he is innocent. “I know my family knows,” he says. He does confess, however, to being sleepless and by nightmares. An article in the Toronto Sun states, “White says he’s no Scott Peterson.” Before the day is over, however, Michael White is charged with second-degree murder. In announcing the arrest, Macleans quotes an anonymous neighbor of the Whites, who offers a description that would have fit Scott and Laci Peterson: “They mowed their lawns, they held barbecues, they worked on fixing up their house and they helped out their friends and neighbours.” Jim Brazelton remarks that he feels as if he’s “going out on a high note,” referring to the prosecution’s victory over high-priced Mark Geragos in the Scott Peterson trial. “I’m a little burned out on fighting with the county,” he moans. “I’m tired of the politics and a little sick of dealing with the press.” He notes that he is enjoying his time in Portland, Maine, where he is a scheduled panelist at the three-day summer conference of the National District Attorneys Association. “I’m being treated like a hero out here,” he says. “When I go back home, I’ll be treated like a dog again.” LaToyia Figueroa is last seen before her reported disappearance—a case that will soon become a cause célèbre for media fairness in missing-person cases.
July 19 Inman News reports that Gerry Roberts has lost his job with Prudential California. The report quotes Rick Applegate regarding the knife turned over by Roberts. “We still don’t know who put the knife there originally,” Applegate says. “We know through our investigation that Gerry Roberts did not put it there.” Applegate reiterates that there is “zero possibility” the knife was used to murder Laci and Conner Peterson. The Bangor Daily News reports that Jim Brazelton is expected to speak on the topic of prosecuting high-profile cases during the summer conference of the National District Attorneys Association. Michael White makes his first appearance in court as investigators confirm the body found the previous day was that of his missing wife. An editorial in the Sun-Sentinel continues the ripping of major news outlets for focusing on only certain types of victims, citing Laci Peterson as one of those, but then, in contradiction, claiming that “the American public will always stop dead in its tracks when it hears of such unfortunate occurrences by the mere usage of two words: ‘She’s blond.'”
July 20 LifeSiteNews reports on the Liana White case, saying that Det. Michael Campeau has lamented that in Canada, unlike California, a person cannot be charged for the death of an unborn child. “One more would have arrived next winter, but the unborn fetus died with her mom,” Campeau says in the story. “No charge was laid in connection with the fetus’s death.”
July 21 Scott Peterson composes a letter to his supporters that will later be placed on the web site of the Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The note reads, “For me, the amount of support we have received is just incredible. Those who have decided to reach out to our family have made such a difference. The thoughtfulness and benevolence shown is a source of strength and spirit, an affirmation of considerate community. In every conversation among our family there is always the mention of your thoughts and letters. At mail call, I am encouraged by, and enjoy hearing, from people. I wish I could respond to express my gratitude, and continue to correspond. However, people having sold my notes, and sometimes fabricating content, preclude me from doing so. It is an irritating, unfortunate situation. I am tremendously appreciative of your kindness, it has such a wonderful positive effect upon our family.” An editorial in Los Angeles City Beat calls Amber Frey’s Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson “unintentionally hilarious.” LaToyia Figueroa is officially reported missing.
July 22 The alternative web site What the Huck asks readers to provide information on a person named “Ernie Sierra,” whom they describe as someone “that may have a connection to the Peterson case.” An editorial in The Oregonian criticizes the abundant violence in television crime dramas, which often cater to viewers who, according to television producers, “get an extra-big charge when they can identify directly with the stories” shown. “Hence, the female victims on the dramas,” the article states. “And (now that you mention it) the endless news coverage given to the murder of Laci Peterson.”
July 23 In the wake of the Liana White case, the Winnipeg Sun reports that Maurice Vellacott has announced plans to push for a change in Canadian law so that it will be a crime to murder a wanted fetus. “You kill a cat and it’s punishable, but as it stands now, a mother can be killed all the way up to nine months pregnancy, and short of that baby coming out the birth canal, there is no punishment,” he complains. As in the United States, the call for action is criticized by abortion-rights supporters. Kripa Sekhar says she and others view Vellacott’s social conservative group as exploiting the White case to “push the values they have always held, which is the right to life as opposed to right to choice.” The Wilmington Star-News reports on the continuing problem of getting widespread coverage for missing persons who do not fit a certain profile.
July 25 Christian News Today reports on the Knights of Columbus honoring state representative Rebecca Hamilton and state senator Daisy Lawler for their work in securing the passage of Oklahoma’s House Bill 1686, which contained a “Laci Peterson” law.
July 27 The Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty posts Scott Peterson’s new web site. Newsweek runs an article about computer forensics, which argues, “The most high-profile case in which digital data was used to prove criminal intent may be that of Scott Peterson.” The story contains a quote from John Colbert of Guidance Software, the company that developed the software used by the Modesto Police Department to uncover files on Scott Peterson’s computers. An opinion piece in The Arbiter declares “The Laci Peterson murder—and that of her unborn fetus—and subsequent conviction of her husband, Scott, has conveyed a judicial interest in fetal homicide” and warns that such laws “lay a foundation for the Supreme Court to possibly reopen and retry Roe v. Wade.” An article at the Useless Knowledge Magazine site, noting that authorities in Aruba are draining a pond in the search for Natalee Holloway, points out “if they do find her in the pond, there will be eerie similarities drawn between Natalee and Laci Peterson’s final resting place.” The story suggests that the finding of Laci Peterson’s body near the spot where Scott Peterson admitted being on the day of her disappearance was devastating to his defense. Brandy Parker, eight months pregnant, is murdered in Alabama, spurring efforts to enact a fetal-homicide law in that state.
July 28 USA Today reports on the case of LaToyia Figueroa, who has become a cause célèbre for media fairness in missing-person cases. Richard Blair, who helped organize an e-mail campaign to get major media outlets to cover her case, recalls his inspiration. “When I heard about her, the similarities between her case and Laci Peterson’s really struck me,” he says. “And I thought, ‘It’s been five days—why hasn’t anybody picked up on this in the media?'” His efforts are successful, as four major broadcast networks run Figueroa‘s story on their morning programs. In a WAFF report, Steve Marshall explains that Alabama law does not allow for a murder charge in the case of Brandy Parker’s unborn child, despite the fact that she was due to have a C-section two weeks before she was shot to death. “Even though she was at least eight months pregnant, potentially, that still doesn’t give us the ability to charge murder under these circumstances,” Marshall explains. “Hopefully folks in Montgomery will understand the limitations that are currently still placed upon us and maybe take some action to do what we’ve tried to get done for several years.” Jim Brazelton tells the Modesto Bee that Birgit Fladager would be “an excellent choice” to replace him. Dose magazine becomes the first media outlet to report the existence of Scott Peterson’s new web site.
July 29 Multichannel News reports that Time Warner Cable will present Court TV’s Scott Peterson: A Deadly Game special on its video-on-demand service on August 1, 2005. The Associated Press releases its first report concerning Scott Peterson’s new web site, hosted by the Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The Modesto Bee reports that Birgit Fladager will seek the office of district attorney for Stanislaus County.
July 30 The San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News are among the newspapers running articles concerning Scott Peterson’s new web site.
July 31 The New York Post calls Scott Peterson’s web message a “sappy mix of gratitude and petty grumbling.” BlackAmericaWeb runs an editorial sounding off on the now-familiar theme that missing persons of color are often overlooked by the news media. Loretta Dillon reviews Keith Ablow’s book, Inside the Mind of Scott Peterson, concluding that it largely consists of his “fantasies and inanities.” She writes that “Ablow’s analysis is based on a false premise, along with specious assumptions, hearsay, unsubstantiated rumors presumed to be fact, and Ablow’s creative fantasies.” She also notes that he depicts Laci Peterson as “shallow, superficial, out of touch with her feelings, in denial of her alleged painful childhood, devoid of nurturing skills, with no psychic connection to a man with whom she lived for eight years, and as a perfectionist whose chief ambition in life was to ‘make things pretty.'” Dillon further asserts that the book has “no constituency.” More than 400 international investigators, coroners, prosecutors, crime scene technicians and investigators gather for a week-long convention in San Francisco, whose agenda includes lessons learned from the Laci Peterson case.