#37) September 2005
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: September 2005
September 4 Monica Sanchez and her unborn child are killed in a crime that will eventually result in the charging of Jorge Gurrola in the first legal test of Arizona’s recently enacted “Laci Peterson Law.”
September 5 An editorial in the Midland Reporter-Telegram echoes the sentiments of a host of articles before it, praising Bob Costas for his bowing out of Larry King Live, noting the apparent prejudice of the media and questioning the newsworthiness of the Laci Peterson case.
September 6 An editorial at the Useless Knowledge Magazine site discusses the cases of Natalee Holloway and Laci Peterson, arguing that government officials in Aruba should not compare the two by noting how long it took to recover Laci Peterson’s remains. “The police and investigators actually wanted to solve that case,” the story contends. “They didn’t need or expect the Rocha family to fund their own searches, hire their own investigators, and beg and plead for them to keep them updated.”
September 8 The Toledo Blade takes its turn at denouncing the seeming prejudice in missing-person reporting as it contrasts the relative media coverage given LaToyia Figueroa and Laci Peterson.
September 12 The All Info About site issues a review of Catherine Crier’s A Deadly Game: The Untold Story of the Scott Peterson Investigation. The assessment states, “If you’re looking for an unbiased account of this case, you’ll have to look elsewhere.” The Philadelphia Daily News, rather than complain about inequities in the reporting of missing-person cases, uses the well-known cases to argue for renewal of the Violence Against Women Act. “We owe it to Nicole Brown Simpson,” the story says. “We owe it to Laci Peterson. We owe it to LaToyia Figueroa. And we owe it to the hundreds of thousands of other victims whose names and faces never make it onto our TV screens.” In Modesto, Gilbert Cano is sentenced to 17 years to life in prison for the murder of pregnant Martha Moreno. Hurl Johnson hands down the sentence after a plea bargain reduces charges to second-degree murder. The sentencing of Cano, originally charged by Rick Distaso with two counts of first-degree murder, bring cries of outrage from Moreno’s family members, but the judge defends the decision. “It’s not a perfect system and there’s no way in the world that the court can ever resolve what happened,” Johnson explains. “Martha should be here right now and she’s not.” Fladager points out that a first-degree conviction would have been harder to obtain and would likely have resulted in the same amount of time for Cano behind bars. “In any trial, there’s always a risk,” she says. “And there were elements in this case that we needed to take into consideration.” The victim’s sister, Guadalupe Banderas, vehemently disagrees, saying. “A criminal who has taken two lives should have no natural right to his own life.”
September 14 Susan Cooney, Stephen Schoenthaler‘s sister and defense attorney, states that she believes her brother will be cleared of the allegations against him related to the fabricated student data used to help Scott Peterson obtain a change of venue. “Having a hearing with everything on the record is certainly welcome,” she says concerning her brother’s case. “I believe he’ll be vindicated on the record when all is said and done.”
September 15 Time magazine runs an interview with Keith Ablow, who pushes his book, Inside the Mind of Scott Peterson. Ablow suggests that Scott Peterson had “very grave misgivings about fatherhood,” as do many men, but combined that with a learned lack of empathy that allowed him “to do very bad things.” Ablow admits he never got to interview his subject before psychoanalyzing him, but adds, “It’s my deepest hope that he would read this book and say something.”
September 16 Adam Stewart reports that the Stanislaus County Office of the District Attorney has returned to Sharon Rocha some items that once belonged to Laci Peterson. “It’s a difficult time all over again,” Stewart remarks. Although items used as evidence normally cannot be returned while there are appeals pending, Carol Shipley says Al Delucchi agreed to Sharon Rocha’s request to release some items not included in the trial exhibits. Shipley notes that the items were photographed and documented for legal purposes in case Scott Peterson wants to reference any of them in his appeal. The Modesto Bee reports that California State University, Stanislaus, administrators are still working to discipline Stephen Schoenthaler, and that California State Personnel Board members have ordered a new hearing on the matter. According to the article, Schoenthaler reanalyzed his work after excising the falsified data and determined that the conclusions of the change-of-venue survey did not significantly change. In a wide-reaching editorial that discusses Captain Spock, Joseph Stalin and Terry Schiavo, Northern Star suggests that focusing on murder victims such as Laci Peterson somehow keeps Americans from recognizing the plight of Iraqi detainees and the tragic ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Africa.
September 17 Robert Kennedy Jr., proponent of crime-celebrity Michael Skakel and opponent of George Bush, speaks as part of Sundance’s Tree Room Author Series. He criticizes how today’s events are being reported by the news conglomerates. “Their only obligation is to their shareholders,” he contends. “How do they do that? By not giving us the news that we need to make decisions but by entertaining us with sex and celebrity gossip. They give us people like Michael Jackson, Laci Peterson, Kobe Bryant.”
September 18 Sharon Rocha throws the ceremonial first pitch before a San Francisco Giants home game at the Eighth Annual Strike Out Violence Day at SBC Park. “It’s unfortunate that any of us even have to be here for this reason,” she states. “But along with the Family Violence Prevention Fund and Giants Community Fund, they are making a difference in our community.” A photograph of Laci Peterson is shown on the stadium’s big screen. In an editorial, the Richmond Times-Dispatch unofficially names Taylor Behl as the heiress of the media crown worn previously by Natalee Holloway, Jennifer “Runaway Bride” Wilbanks, Laci Peterson and Chandra Levy.
September 19 Amber Frey and Anthony Flores appear in a Madera County courtroom as he petitions to stop court-ordered child support payments. Glenn Wilson represents Flores. Amber Frey represents herself. Considering a July 2005 DNA test proving with 99.9 percent certainty that Christopher Funch, not Flores, is the father of 4-year-old Ayiana Frey, Commissioner Nancy Staggs agrees with the petition. “They are going to be stopping all collection proceedings for child support that have been going on for the last few years and lifting the stay on his driver’s license which has hindered his work,” Wilson explains. Flores, who was described as a deadbeat father in Amber Frey’s Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson, says that she “made it very difficult during the whole time to have any kind of relationship or visitation” with the child he long thought was his. Reporters ask Flores how he feels after the ruling. “Stunned,” he admits. “Confused. I feel a bit foolish. My family right now is taking it hard.” Flores tells reporters that not being able to drive cost him employement opportunities, but that he did not plan to sue over that because he was “not a money chaser.” He does, however, state that he is angry and feels “betrayed” about references to him in Amber Frey’s book. “I otherwise feel I was being cheated on,” he says. “She was very convincing when she told me I was the only person who could be the father.” He says the court’s ruling puts him in a position to demand a response. “There’s a lot of questions now I’d like to have answered,” he states. “I want an apology.” In Los Angeles, Gloria Allred defends Amber Frey. “Amber in good faith always believed that Mr. Flores was her child’s father,” Allred states. She points out that Flores never took a DNA test. “He needs to take responsibility for his failure to do so,” she suggests. In addition, Allred reports that Funch has “happily acknowledged paternity” and that Ayiana Frey has “been welcomed into his family” with “love and enthusiasm.” Allred adds that Amber Frey is “looking forward to this new and more positive chapter in her child’s life.” Outside the courtroom, Wilson speaks in less glowing terms. “You’d think that Amber Frey’s notoriety would have died down,” he muses. “Unfortunately, she’s like a bad penny—she keeps coming back.” He tells reporters that Flores, just a week prior, was planning to seek visitation rights before finding out that he could not have been Ayiana Frey’s father. “Amber always asserted to him that he was the only guy she was sleeping with during that time period, so Anthony’s never had any reason to question it,” Wilson notes. “Anthony’s big thing is that his reputation has been harmed. This poor guy can’t go anywhere without people pointing at him.” Amber Frey refuses to comment to reporters. A review in Daily Southtown of the Chicago Bears-Detroit Lions game shows further evidence that the personalities involved in the Laci Peterson case have moved into the nation’s vernacular: “There were more holes in Detroit’s defensive front than in Scott Peterson’s defense argument.”
September 20 In Arizona, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announces the first indictment under that state’s newly enacted “Laci Peterson Law” as Jorge Gurrola is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of Monica Sanchez and her unborn child.
September 21 All Info About discusses the latest craze: “Funchwatch.” An editorial states, “The fascinating thing about the legal wrangling over the paternity of Amber Frey’s daughter isn’t the identity of the father, or even that Amber was demanding $175 a month from the wrong guy for four years, but the fact that this is a news story at all, and that every day we’re learning more about Christopher B. Funch.”
September 22 Arnold Schwarzenegger signs into a law Assembly Bill 27, which lays out rules for repayment in change-of-venue situations—legislation prompted by the spat between Stanislaus County and San Mateo County over expenses in the Scott Peterson trial.
September 27 Adam Stewart, representing Sharon Rocha, and Lara Yeretsian, representing the interests of Scott Peterson, appear before Roger Beauchesne to work out the disposition of Laci Peterson’s life insurance money. The judge refuses to rule on the matter, and asks the opposing parties to return to court October 21, 2005, for a decision. Beauchesne says Adam Stewart needs to add a copy of the judgment against Scott Peterson to Sharon Rocha’s petition. “I know what I’ve read in the paper and seen in the news media, but I can’t take judicial notice of that,” Beauchesne explains. Although agreeing to the judge’s demand, Stewart remarks, “I don’t think there’s a genuine doubt that there was a conviction of murder and that Mr. Peterson is in San Quentin State Prison.” Yeretsian disagrees. “The burden is not on us to establish that there was a felonious and intentional killing,” she argues. “They don’t have anything. They haven’t met their burden, and they need to do that.” After the hearing, Stewart states the reason for his client’s petition. “We shouldn’t have to wait a quarter of a century to find out whether he’s exonerated or put to death,” Stewart says. In an article in the San Jose Mercury News, Gene Mullin celebrates the signing of Assembly Bill 27 into law. “Hopefully in the future, we can make it easier for counties to take the trials, which is important if we need to move a big murder case to make sure the defendant gets a fair trial,” he says. A letter to the editor in the Canton Repository suggests that lie-detector tests be mandatory in criminal investigations. “Persons who should have taken a voluntary test include O.J. Simpson, Kobe Bryant, Ted Kennedy, Robert Blake and Scott Peterson,” the message states.
September 28 The Associated Press reports that Matt Dalton is planning to write a book about the Scott Peterson case. According to the story, Presumed Guilty is planned for release by Atria Books on December 13, 2005. A news release from Atria Books states cryptically, “What Dalton has uncovered will astound even Scott Peterson’s harshest critics.” An article in The Argus quotes Gene Mullin about the signing into law of Assembly Bill 27. “AB 27 is a compilation of lessons learned from the Peterson trial,” he says. “AB 27 ensures that counties hosting expensive high-profile trials from distant jurisdictions are not burdened with the costs. The new law sets out a procedure and a timetable for counties that host high-profile change-of-venue trials to be paid in a timely manner. It will, I think, in the longterm, make counties more willing to take on these types of cases.”
September 29 Bend.com announces that Jim Brazelton will be speaking October 10, 2005, at Summit High School in Bend, Oregon, in support of the Deschutes County Victims Assistance Program. The Canada Free Press praises the Toronto Sun for showing class in apologizing to a wrongly accused man, Sean Hine, a former “person of interest” in the disappearance of his girlfriend, Alicia Ross. “When it seemed as if it was only a matter of time before Sean Hine joined Scott Peterson and Michael White in a prison cell,” the story reads, “Daniel Sylvester, the 31-year-old next door neighbour of Ross and her family, went to a police station with his lawyer.”