#06) February 2003
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: February 2003
February 1 Kirk McAllister tells reporters that he will offer no comment concerning Scott Peterson’s recent media blitz. Esther Maddoux, Laci Peterson’s great-grandmother, dies at Evergreen Rehabilitation Care Center. Although the Modesto Police Department is silent to the media, behind the scenes there is a flurry of phone activity between Scott Peterson and Amber Frey, and between Amber Frey, Det. Jon Buehler and others. She calls Scott Peterson’s number nine times (according to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, eight times) on two of his cell phones and speaks with him for nearly 90 minutes. He also calls her four times. She calls Buehler 19 times, with the calls lasting a total of 61 minutes. In the morning, she places two calls to Melvin King. She also calls Lori Ellsworth. According to the National Enquirer, many of these conversations concern Amber Frey attempting to get Scott Peterson to commit to a lie detector test. After Amber Frey speaks with Buehler at 12:06 a.m. for 14 minutes and again at 9:01 a.m., they feel confident enough to set up the test. She then calls King at 9:19 a.m., then calls Buehler, then calls Scott Peterson at 9:36 a.m. and speaks with him for 13 minutes. Within minutes of ending that call, she again calls Buehler. Shortly before 10:00 a.m., she calls King again to make the appointment—one that Scott Peterson will later back out of, stating that his attorney advised against it because he was being “framed” by the authorities. Scott Peterson drives to Fresno and is followed by Det. Al Brocchini. Scott Peterson parks in a school parking lot not far from the home of Amber Frey. He gets out of his car to confront the detective. Brocchini exits his vehicle. Scott Peterson thanks him for going on America’s Most Wanted in a segment about the search for Laci Peterson. “You got some explaining to do,'” Brocchini warns, asking Scott Peterson why he was stopping in Modesto. “You know, I just stop, break down on the side,” he replies. “You aren’t acting like somebody who is missing his pregnant wife,” Brocchini charges. He tells Scott Peterson he has photographs of him with “other girlfriends” besides Amber Frey. “Right—other girlfriends,” Scott answers. He then walks away. Later, he checks into the La Quinta Inn on Tulare Street in downtown Fresno. The Rocha family posts a message on http://www.lacipeterson.com, which reads, “We want to thank all of you who took a moment to think about Laci and Connor [sic], to light a candle, say a prayer or think a positive thought for their return during the worldwide candlelight observance.”
February 2 Scott Peterson stays at the La Quinta Inn on Tulare Street in downtown Fresno.
February 3 Scott Peterson checks out of the La Quinta Inn on Tulare Street in downtown Fresno. According to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak twice by phone. According to a February 6, 2003, Modesto Bee article, Scott Peterson checks in at the Hilton Hotel in Guadalajara, Mexico.
February 4 Mornings on 2 reports that Scott Peterson has traded in Laci’s Peterson’s primary vehicle—a 1996 Land Rover Discovery—for a white 2002 Dodge pickup truck. Expanding on that story, several of her close friends are quoted as saying he also met with a real estate agent—possibly as soon as within five days of her disappearance—to discuss selling the couple’s home. The KTVU report quotes her friends as saying that Scott Peterson seems to be getting rid of anything that has to do with his wife. Heather Sutton calls the Land Rover “totally Laci,” and other friends and family members support the contention that the vehicle was Laci Peterson’s primary vehicle, even though it was registered to Scott Peterson alone. Later in the day, Doug Roberts of Roberts Auto Sales on McHenry Avenue approaches the Rocha family and offers to give the vehicle to them. He confirms that Scott Peterson traded in the Land Rover as part of his purchase of the pickup. Kim Petersen, speaking for Doug Roberts and the Rocha family, says, “Doug donated the car to the family today because he wanted Laci to have a car when she came back.” Dennis Rocha stores the vehicle on his property. “If he had any consideration for her, he would keep the car if he knew she was coming home,” he says. Sharon Rocha and Ron Grantski refuse to comment on the matter, saying they will issue a statement at a later time. Meanwhile, Bob Walcutt of the Laura Recovery Center for Missing Children receives an e-mail from Jackie Peterson, asking for help in finding Laci Peterson. He will later say, “There already has been a great deal of searching, and I’m not sure there’s much more I can bring to the table. We want to help where we can, but we haven’t made a decision on whether we want to be involved in this.” According to a February 6, 2003, Modesto Bee article, Scott Peterson is staying at the Hilton Hotel in Guadalajara, Mexico. Amber Frey phones Scott Peterson at 9:20 p.m. and again at 10:02 p.m.; the second call lasts 15 minutes. She then phones Det. Jon Buehler at 10:17 a.m. and speaks with him for 23 minutes—the last of four calls to him during the day. At 11:19 p.m., she calls Scott Peterson back for a two-minute conversation. She places two calls to Sharon Rocha’s cell phone—one call lasting 22 minutes—and two calls to her home phone. During the day, she places several other calls: to René Tomlinson, to the Carole Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation and to Kim Petersen’s cell phone. The original warrant authorizing investigators to tap the phone of Scott Peterson expires. According to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak five times by phone.
February 5 Investigators interview a pool contractor concerning bags of cement that Scott Peterson claimed were left behind by contractors working on the pool. The contractor denies that the cement belongs to them. Det. Al Brocchini asks Terry Scott to subpoena records from Orchard Supply, Home Depot, Lowe’s and other retailers to see what kind of purchases Scott Peterson made. At 2:30 p.m., members of the Rocha family hold a news conference in East La Loma Park. The news conference is largely concerned with the behavior and statements of Scott Peterson. Ron Grantski talks about the Land Rover, how they found out it had been sold and how it had been given to them by Doug Roberts. “We thought that, until we find out differently, the car should be here for Laci so she has something to drive,” Grantski says. He then expresses shock that Scott Peterson would attempt to sell the couple’s home: “The house is in both names, Laci’s and Scott’s. I find it hard to believe that he thought he could sell it without Laci’s signature. Of course, I find it hard to understand a lot of things Scott has done, so why should this be any different?” Significantly, Ron Grantski also states that he and the Rocha family do not support the toll-free tip line set up by Scott Peterson and his family. Grantski then addresses what has suddenly become a controversial matter—Laci Peterson’s due date: From the beginning of the case, her family said that February 10, 2003, was her due date, but in recent television interviews, members of the Peterson family have stated it as February 16, 2003. “He said since the first night he wanted the focus to be on Laci and not on him, but with the things he’s been doing, the focus is all on him,” Grantski says. “If you want to change the focus, Scott, cooperate with the Modesto Police. End this circus.” Brent Rocha then announces three searches planned for consecutive weekends in February 2003. “We would like to encourage volunteers to join in the searches for Laci,” Sharon Rocha states. “Where appropriate, we encourage searches by boat, horseback, quads, bikes, et cetera.” Roy Wasden says the volunteers will be appreciated. “We welcome all the help we can get in trying to locate Laci Peterson,” he says. Asked about reports that Scott Peterson is in Mexico, Wasden replies, “We are not discussing any aspects of the investigation.” According to a February 6, 2003, Modesto Bee article, Scott Peterson checks out of the Hilton Hotel in Guadalajara, Mexico. Susan Caudillo defends him on Court TV, saying that he probably had to trade in the Land Rover so that he would have a pickup truck for his job. “I’m sure he really didn’t want to sell Laci’s car,” Caudillo offers. According to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak twice by phone.
February 6 Ted Rowlands gets a call from Scott Peterson, who is checked in at the Hilton Hotel in Guadalajara, Mexico (according to a February 6, 2003, Modesto Bee article, Scott Peterson checked out of the hotel the previous day). Although reports circulate that he may be in Mexico to attend the U.S. Grains Council membership convention, the event is not scheduled to start until February 9, 2003. He answers his critics through Rowlands. “Yes, I traded in the car,” he admits. “We were planning on buying a new one when the baby arrived, and I needed a truck for work.” He also confesses to trying to sell the home he owns with Laci Peterson. “Who the hell would want to live in a house that’s unsafe, where your wife was kidnapped from?” he asks. A faxed statement from the “Laci Peterson Family” calls for people nationwide to search for her on February 8, 2003, but Kim Petersen states that the Rocha family believes the release came from the Peterson family—further evidence of the complete lack of cooperation between the two groups. According to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak three times by phone.
February 7 Scott Peterson’s whereabouts remain unreported by the media. His mother becomes more strident in her defense of him, suggesting that investigators are hounding him for no reason. KGO’s Jim Wieder interviews Jackie Peterson by telephone from her home. She states that her daughter-in-law did not like the Land Rover and was shopping for a Mercedes before she vanished. “What does that have to do with closing the Laci missing center and all the criticism?” she asks. “A car is just a car.” She also suggests that media reports about her son trying to sell his home were overblown. “Scott just mentioned the possibility of selling the home to a real estate agent at the search center one day, and that was it,” she explains. “He wasn’t serious.” She says she talks to her son every day, but she declines to reveal his location. She says he could be in Mexico, Egypt or Spain, making sales calls for Tradecorp. According to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson calls Amber Frey and speaks with her six times. He tells her he is in Visalia and may be going to Sacramento. He asks her repeatedly to meet with him. “Is there some way for us to see each other, Amber?” he pleads. “Do you think it would help?” She declines, saying, “At this point, all I could see is it just damaging me even more.” She blames her refusal on the media, but he persists, suggesting they meet at a family friend’s vacation home at Lake Arrowhead. Sheri Dunn says she expects a big crowd for the planned search the following day. “It’s not a fair world, so we have to bond together,” she says. “So yes, I expect a big crowd to help—100 people or more.” Jackie Peterson sends an e-mail message to the Modesto Bee. “We have the California Registered Nurses Association’s help in e-mailing all their registers to view Laci’s web site and note the urgency of delivery date,” she writes. “They also are attempting to do this on a nationwide level with their counterparts.”
February 8 Friends and relatives of Laci Peterson meet with approximately 500 volunteers and law enforcement officials (according to The Murder of Laci Peterson, “more than 350 people”) at 9:00 a.m. at the Orchard 24-Hour Restaurant parking lot in Vernalis to kick off a large-scale volunteer search at the Delta Mendota Canal and surrounding areas. At about 10:00 a.m., Scott Peterson calls law enforcement to report vandalism to the Tradecorp Warehouse. A Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson states that the damage appears to have been done intentionally, possibly by a vehicle, but that nothing was taken from the warehouse. There is a large dent in the metal door, which is bent so that it no longer closes properly. The door frame is cracked, and some of the wall next to the door is also damaged. Scott Peterson states that he removed all valuables from the warehouse the last week of January 2003. According to the March 8, 2004, National Enquirer, a tipster calls the Modesto Police Department, informing them that Scott Peterson was seen unloading items at Security Pubic Storage. The Delta Mendota Canal search concludes at about 3:00 p.m., having found a woman’s dress and some other items, but nothing related to the Laci Peterson case. According to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak six times by phone. He tells her about the vandalism at the warehouse. He offers to provide money for her to take a short vacation for her birthday. He tells her that he is going to Tulare for a few days for a “big farm show.” She says she is going to an office party being held since so many of her co-workers share February birthdays. During one call, he promises her again that he will eventually provide answers to “all the things you want to know,” then cryptically adds, “I wish I could tell you, but you’ve…you’ve guessed the answers to all of them.” He tells her he is planning to go on national television, but is waiting until after the President’s State of the Union address. “I want maximum coverage, obviously,” he explains.
February 9 Sgt. Chris Fuzie reports that nothing of significance to the Laci Peterson case turned up during the previous day’s search at the Delta Mendota Canal and surrounding areas. “The search goes on,” he says. “We will continue to do everything we can to bring her home.” The U.S. Grains Council membership convention opens in Guadalajara, Mexico. Scott Peterson is seen in front of his home placing a large, yellow sign that reads, “MISSING $500,000 REWARD,” and that has a description of his wife. Scott Peterson composes a note to Sharon Rocha, asking that the Tiffany lamps be returned to him: “Laci loves our lamps, and they should be in our home when we bring her home.” Terri Western tells a reporter about a planned gathering, saying those involved want to keep the event private. “We aren’t prepared to handle thousands of people and a rush of media,” she says. “It’s something that Laci’s friends really wanted to do.” During the evening, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey talk on the phone for 34 minutes. According to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak twice by phone.
February 10 Laci Peterson’s “first” due date brings a great deal of national attention and personal sadness. At Village Yoga Center, Laci Peterson’s former fellow students meet for about an hour to share stories about their former classmate. They cry, pray and hang a plaque to commemorate the day. At the end of the memorial, the group releases a bouquet of blue and yellow balloons. “Wouldn’t it be neat if they landed where she is?” asks Indi Wilcox. “Everyone thinks about how Laci is gone,” Elizabeth Te Velde says, then adds, “I can still feel her energy here.” Debbie Wolski notes that the group is feeling “emptiness” without Laci Peterson. “I really thought I could get through this without crying,” she says through tears. Beginning at approximately 6:00 p.m., about two dozen of her friends and family members hold a candlelight vigil in honor of her and Conner Peterson at East La Loma Park, surrounded by at least as many members of the media. “On behalf of Laci’s family and friends, this day means a lot to us,” Heather Sutton states. “We thought it would be appropriate to join together and light candles to honor Laci and Connor, and to carry this message to everyone praying for their safe return.” She reads the poem, “Footprints.” After a group prayer, she plays “I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne. Sutton then thanks those who came, and asks all reporters to depart. “Thank you to each one of you for being here this evening,” she says. “I know it means a lot to her family and friends. And to Laci, your family and friends will not give up until you and Conner come home to us.” Scott Peterson apparently marks the day privately, emerging from the house only to place a box full of Laci Peterson buttons on his front lawn. “It’s hard to go on,” he tells a KTXL reporter. Shawn Sibley calls Amber Frey to wish her a happy birthday. According to some sources, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak at least four times by phone. He calls her at 8:55 a.m. He wishes her a happy birthday and tells her that he will call again. He calls again at 9:30 a.m. and again at 9:31 a.m. as she is driving to work. He asks her how far she is from “Children’s Hospital.” When she tells him that she has already passed it, he expresses frustration, and asks her to call him back when she leaves work. At 12:01 p.m., she calls him back. He tells her that he is at the bank, working on the Tradecorp payroll. She says she is on her way to eat lunch because she has been unable to confirm a time for a hair appointment. He leaves her a birthday gift of jewelry, along with books for her daughter, hidden in the bushes outside a children’s hospital. Two warrants are sealed by the courts: each for one of Scott Peterson’s vehicles. Ironically, Amber Frey turns 28—although her age was widely reported as that when she gave the news conference on January 24, 2003. According to Ava Frey as quoted in the National Enquirer, “Amber cried all that day. It was a cruel coincidence—and she was devasted.” According to Amber Frey, she goes to her friend’s home for a birthday party in her honor, but is upset that Shawn Sibley and other friends do not attend the party, and later finds out that she has not been invited to Sibley’s wedding. She drinks a bottle of wine and sleeps over. Nancy Grace guest-hosts Larry King Live with Janey Peterson, Mark Geragos, former prosecutor Wendy Murphy, Marc Klaas, Ted Rowlands and forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner. Janey Peterson defends Scott Peterson’s actions, including the selling of the Land Rover, the attempted selling of the couple’s home and the trip to Mexico. Mark Geragos states that, if Scott Peterson is found to be not responsible for the killing of his wife, a lot of pundits will have to apologize for convicting him in the media. Nancy Grace replies, “I’ll be the first one in line, Mark. I’ll be the first one in line.” A Modesto Bee article states, “Scott and Laci Peterson already know the baby’s sex—a boy—and have picked a name, Connor or Conner.” The sentence reflects a trend from using the former spelling to the latter. The U.S. Grains Council membership convention in Guadalajara, Mexico, enters its second day.
February 11 Amber Frey awakens at 5:40 a.m. She drinks some Gatorade and tries to go back to sleep, but has bad dreams. She gets up for the day around 8:00 a.m. The Rocha family appears on two national cable shows. Appearing on Fox News, Ron Grantski demands that Scott Peterson answer all the questions of the family and of law enforcement. “He has questions he has to answer for us and then the police,” Grantski says. “He needs to do that. The focus is supposed to be on finding Laci…constantly the focus is on him.” News reports surface that wood has been nailed over the door at Scott Peterson’s vandalized warehouse. Several media outlets report that Scott Peterson and attorney Kirk McAllister have parted ways. Det. Craig Grogan and Det. Al Brocchini review evidence photographs, and particularly note 144-A, showing a pair of pliers with a hair sticking out of them. They discuss whether or not the hair has a root. In the evening, two Modesto Police Department investigators visit Scott Peterson at home for about 10 minutes without commenting on the reason for the visit. Jim Brazelton is interviewed by KGO’s Jim Wieder. Brazelton says, although much of the investigation has focused on Scott Peterson, the Office of the District Attorney has not reviewed the findings. “I want to digest all this stuff,” he says. “If it’s there, fine. If it’s not, I’d be the first one to tell you it’s not.” Brazelton indicates he would consider a murder prosecution if the evidence warrants it—even if Laci Peterson’s body is not located. “Over the years, there has been a number of cases without a body, but you need a lot of circumstantial evidence.” Ted Rowlands speaks to members of the Peterson family, who confirm that Scott Peterson has continued to refuse to take a lie detector test despite being urged to do so by members of the Rocha family and Modesto Police Department investigators. They also state that they continue to support him and his decision not to take the test. Sharon Rocha says that the Rocha family has not decided the locations for the two announced upcoming searches. The U.S. Grains Council membership convention in Guadalajara, Mexico, enters its third day. The National Enquirer bearing the issue date of February 11, 2003, runs an article claiming that, days before she disappeared, Laci Peterson found a photograph of Scott Peterson with a girlfriend and contfronted him in a fierce argument.
February 12 Sharon Rocha, Brent Rocha and Amy Rocha hold a news conference with local media where they are again critical of Scott Peterson, saying they still have questions in their minds over whether or not he was involved with her disappearance. Brent Rocha refers to the fact that Scott Peterson has yet to be cleared as a suspect. “Well, they haven’t eliminated him as a suspect. There must be a reason why. They have eliminated other people, including Amber Frey, rather quickly. So I don’t know for sure the direction their investigation is going, but it would seem he’s still within that parameter.” Sharon Rocha, however, emphasizes that she harbors no ill will toward the Peterson family: “They care very much for Laci. They want to bring her home, too.” Ted Rowlands reports that a source close to the case has told him that Scott Peterson continues to be the main focus in the case and that, even without a body, an arrest “could come in a matter of weeks, not months.” When Ted Rowlands asks Scott Peterson by phone if he is worried about the reports suggesting that he will be arrested soon, he replies, “Not at all. They have to have something to arrest me on. I’m not worried.” Det. Doug Ridenour publicly debunks the rumor, stating that he knows of no imminent arrest or new break in the case. Manuel Valencia also disputes the earlier claim by Ted Rowlands that “80 to 90 percent” of the forensic testing of evidence collected from Scott Peterson’s person, vehicles, home and warehouse had been analyzed and the results turned over to the Modesto Police Department. “I wondered where that came from,” Valencia says. “We are just working through the evidence.” Det. Al Brocchini and Det. Craig Grogan ask Det. Dodge Hendee if he remembers whether or not there was a root on the hair found in the pliers discovered on Scott Peterson’s boat. Hendee says that he does not remember, so he and Brocchini go to the evidence property room and ask the clerk there to see the hair. Both detectives use a magnifying glass, provided at the evidence property room, to look at the hair, and they discover that there are two hairs, not one. After their examination, they package the hair into a small evidence box, put it back in the evidence envelope and return it to the clerk. Lake Pardee area officials state that they believe no search of the area is necessary because no part of the lake was accessible to the public in the days surrounding Laci Peterson’s disappearance—an announcement that influences a change in location for the February 22, 2003, search. The U.S. Grains Council membership convention in Guadalajara, Mexico, enters its fourth and final day. Amber Frey’s cellular phone goes out of service because, according to her, she owes “like $800.” A Modesto Bee article quotes Kelly Huston concerning the damage to the Tradecorp Warehouse. “It looks like someone took a car and rammed it into the walk-in door,” he offers, noting that the parking spaces are perpendicular to the building, but that the damage appears to have been done by a vehicle coming at an angle. “There’s also a large space between the parking and the door, so it would be pretty difficult to hit the door.”
February 13 The Peterson family holds a news conference at Montgomery Field in San Diego to raise awareness for the search efforts. “We cannot ignore that Laci’s pregnancy might have had something to do with her abduction,” Susan Caudillo says. “With her due date being this month, we feel it’s critical to continue our efforts in looking for Laci everywhere we can.” She asks that people print out fliers from the web site http://www.lacipeterson.com and participate in the weekend search at Don Pedro. When asked why Scott Peterson is not at the news conference, Jackie Peterson replies, “Scott is looking for Laci. That is his whole purpose.” Susan Caudillo concludes the conference on a spiritual note. “Paul the Apostle encouraged his brothers to not grow weary in doing good,” she says. “Your prayers and encouragement have kept us from growing weary as we look for Laci. We thank you for your goodness in helping us.” The two hairs found wrapped around the pliers in Scott Peterson’s boat are submitted to a California Department of Justice crime lab along with two of Laci Peterson’s hairbrushes. Nancy Grace guest-hosts Larry King Live with Brent Rocha, Amy Rocha, Ron Grantski, Mickey Sherman, Wendy Murphy, Marc Klaas, Ted Rowlands and Michael Welner. Amy Rocha reports on what Laci Peterson was wearing December 23, 2002. Brent Rocha states that he has not spoken with Scott Peterson in approximately three weeks, and firmly believes he has been screening the Rocha family’s calls during this period. “We were just like another reporter,” Brent Rocha suggests. Sharon Rocha is reported as being ill, but calls Scott Peterson, recording the conversation for the Modesto Police Department. She asks him about the events of December 23 and 24, 2002. She questions why he did not act sooner after realizing that his wife was not home. “It’s just odd you didn’t notice anything when you walked in the house,” she states. “You took a shower and didn’t bother to call until afterward?” The Modesto Police Department receives their first tip, numbered “115,” provided via the Peterson family tip line. According to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak twice by phone. She begins using another phone. Scott Peterson calls her at 9:16 p.m. He offers to provide her with credit card information so that she can pay her large phone bill, but she declines. She says she is going to send him a book, and he provides her with an address.
February 14 Doug Lovell uses a special vaccum to collect cement residue from the bottom of Scott Peterson’s boat. According Amber Frey, she receives seven calls from Scott Peterson and calls him back, but according to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, the two do not speak by phone. Amber Frey’s cell phone is out of service and she is using another phone. A Modesto Bee article states, “The two sides of the family, instead of appearing together in interviews and at press conferences, seem to be going their own ways.” The article
February 15 According to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak twice by phone. Amber Frey’s cell phone is out of service and she is using another phone—the last day of the service problem. Amber Frey calls Scott Peterson at 2:42 a.m. to tell him she is back in town. He asks her to read back a note that he had written to her. The second of three planned large-scale Saturday searches organized by Laci Peterson’s family begins at 9:00 a.m. at Lake Don Pedro. According to The Murder of Laci Peterson, “about 130” show up. The meeting place is the Fleming Meadows Recreation Area. Among the volunteers are more than two dozen persons with private boats. No trace of Laci Peterson is found.
February 16 According to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak once by phone. She writes him a note, saying, “This has been so hard. I can only hope that this all comes to an end soon.” She tells him that she prays for him, and suggests that they both read The Purpose-Driven Life and exchange observations about it.
February 17 Jackie Peterson explains that Laci Peterson’s due date was changed from February 10 to February 16, 2003, and that, because first pregnancies often go past the due date, she is probably still pregnant. In addition, she expresses strong belief that her daughter-in-law is being held captive until the delivery of her baby. “There’s no other explanation,” she says. “If everybody were looking, they’d find her because she’s pregnant…there’s just someone somewhere in this country who knows where she is.” She continues to defend Scott Peterson’s recent behavior, explaining that Laci Peterson wanted to trade in the Land Rover because she considered it unsafe. Remarkably, Jackie Peterson reveals that she and Lee Peterson went out car shopping with Scott and Laci Peterson just days before she disappeared and that she had picked out a Mercedes to replace the Land Rover. Jackie Peterson changes her story slightly about her son selling the couple’s house, now saying that the rumors came about merely as a result of a “flip statement” he made about not wanting to live in the house once his wife is found. She emphasizes that her son is searching daily for his wife by walking through remote areas and posting fliers. She complains about the closing of the volunteer command center. “That put people to stop looking for her, which makes no sense to me,” she states. The media pressure and the loss of her daughter-in-law have taken a toll, she explains. “I’d like to crawl into bed and cover up my head but I can’t do that,” she says. “I can’t until I find Laci.” Doug Ridenour reports that “nothing’s changed” in the investigation, which he says “continues to go well.” According to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak once by phone.
February 18 Modesto Police Department investigators go to the Scott and Laci Peterson home at around 8:00 a.m. to serve new search warrants to Scott Peterson. Investigators see him driving down the street in his Dodge truck and stop him. At their request, he returns to the home, where officers then serve him with a warrant to search the home, the yard and his truck. Det. Doug Ridenour states, “Discoveries during the investigation have necessitated the revisiting of the scene,” but does not elaborate on what those discoveries were. After serving the warrants, Modesto Police Department investigators begin a meticulous 2-day search of Scott and Laci Peterson’s home, stating that their hope is that the search will either implicate Scott Peterson or clear him. Investigators find two packed bags containing clothes, a pair of shoes, $1,081 in cash in an envelope, $1,000 in cash in a Ziploc bag, a bottle of wine, a watch and a wedding ring in the side pocket of one of the bags. During the search, he asks police officers for some personal and work-related items from inside the home. He then leaves in a vehicle driven by an unidentified person, returning in about 45 minutes in a rented black Chevrolet Tahoe. Over the next hour, investigators talk to him in the driveway of his home. At other times, he sits in the Tahoe or on a nearby brick wall, as detectives will not let him reenter the house or the back yard without an escort. At around 10:15 a.m., while talking to detectives, he throws up his arms in “apparent frustration,” then goes into his back yard with detectives. At about 10:30 a.m., he leaves in the Tahoe, taking two duffel bags and a clear plastic bag filled with the clothes and other items that investigators had packed for him at his request. During the day of searching, Scott Peterson returns to the home twice. First, he delivers cat food. Second, he brings items that the investigators had requested. At one point during the search, a UPS worker attempts to deliver a package for Laci Peterson from a wine-of-the-month club but is turned away by Modesto Police Department officials. At about 11:30 a.m., an officer drives Scott Peterson’s Dodge truck to the Modesto Police Department station, where it stays for about 4 hours. By noon, law enforcement officers have sealed off both ends of the 500 block of Covena Avenue to keep out spectators. At about 12:30 p.m., police officers bring Amy Rocha to the house. At about 1:30 p.m., Turlock Police Department Detective Kipp Loving puts about a half-dozen brown paper grocery sacks of evidence into a car headed to the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force. At about 2:30 p.m., Amy Rocha exits the house, looking “distressed” (by some accounts, crying) and offering no statement to the media. Det. Doug Ridenour states investigators asked her to help them, but he does not say what they asked her to do. According to the February 10, 2004, issue of the National Enquirer, investigators telephone Amber Frey and ask her to describe an overnight bag that Scott Peterson had with him when she first met him in November 2002—a bag they found with a bottle of champagne in Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. At about 4:30 p.m., several officers remove from the home about 45 assorted packages of evidence, including a manila envelope, a lunch sack, several boxes, dozens of brown grocery bags and one large green garbage bag (according to a KGO report, they remove “seven grocery bags”; according to a Modesto Bee report, they remove “about 50 bags of evidence”). These items are cataloged into the Modesto Police Department evidence truck, marked “crime scene team.” According to the March 8, 2004, National Enquirer, investigators also search Scott Peterson’s storage locker at Security Pubic Storage. There they find items such as rope, shrink wrap, a Buck hunting knife and his wedding album, which was “discarded in a waste basket.” The day of searching ends about 6:00 p.m., but the home is sealed and guarded for the night, as investigators state they will return the next morning to resume their work. According to the National Enquirer, and later confirmed by trial testimony, Scott Peterson calls Dish Network to cancel his service. Larry King Live welcomes Ted Rowlands, Nancy Grace, Mark Geragos and Marc Klaas to discuss the case. The Modesto Bee runs an interview with Donna Raley in which she contrasts the amount of media coverage given her stepdaughter’s disappearance and the Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy and Yosemite murders cases. “What is it about these other people that makes them so much more valuable than my child?” she asks.
February 19 Overnight, news media vehicles and reporters from around the world camp outside Scott and Laci Peterson’s home, drawing complaints from neighbors. As a result, police officers prevent access to the block on Covena Avenue where the home is located, forcing reporters to broadcast from a somewhat greater distance. According to Steve Jacobson’s preliminary hearing testimony, Scott Peterson and Amber Frey speak once by phone, when Amber Frey calls Scott Peterson at 7:36 a.m.—the last call of record she makes to him, and one in which she tells him to quit calling her. “I think it would be best if you and I didn’t talk anymore until there’s resolution,” she says. Although she seems to expect an argument, he readily agrees. “It’s the right thing,” he tells her. He says, “Goodbye for now,” and she replies, “Goodbye, Scott.” The call ends a 93-day period in which the two exchanged at least 241 calls. Investigators arrive at Scott and Laci Peterson’s home to resume their work at about 9:30 a.m. Detective teams wearing rubber gloves measure the home’s driveway, yard and front side, while others gather more evidence inside. A police technician identifies one of the men taking measurements as an investigator with the district attorney’s office. Det. Doug Ridenour states: “Part of the search warrant requires you to take measurements so you can figure out where you got items from. That’s so you can put items back where they came from during a court trial or any other situations that may arise.” Concerning the elimination of Scott Peterson as a suspect in the case, he says, “We’d like to and are hoping we are going to be able to do that at some point.” Early in the afternoon, a police officer drives away in Scott Peterson’s truck, according to Ridenour to return it to him at an undisclosed meeting place. At about 2:00 p.m., members of the Modesto Police Department carry out about a dozen brown paper bags marked as evidence and take them to the evidence truck for cataloging. At about 3:30 p.m., the evidence truck drives away, and at approximately 5:00 p.m., Ridenour announces the search has concluded. He later states a total of “94 or 95” pieces of potential evidence were removed during this 2-day search. Items reportedly taken include a Bass shirt, a Feast of Love book, a bi-colored cross-woven purse, a Superbowl pass key, a telephone book, a photo binder, and a bottle of Viagra. At the conclusion of the search, the home is officially returned to Scott Peterson. He tells Dan Abrams of MSNBC, “I hope the police are doing everything they can to find Laci, and I trust that they are. I am missing my wife and my child. I can’t drive, I can’t sleep. Sometimes I feel I just can’t do it. I feel like I’m in a dark corner, and I just can’t function.” Scott Peterson makes similar comments to KTVU, telling Ted Rowlands, “I just want my wife and kid back.” Ridenour dispels rumors of an imminent arrest, saying he knows of no breaks in the case that would suggest such a scenario. Brent Rocha tells the media plans are still in place for a search on February 22, 2003. Larry King Live welcomes Janey Peterson, Nancy Grace, Mark Geragos, Henry Lee, Marc Klaas and Ted Rowlands to discuss the case. Janey Peterson again defends Scott Peterson and the revelations of his affair with Amber Frey: “None of our lives…would measure up very well if they were into the scrutiny that Scott’s life has been under.” She announces the 866-LACI-INFO tip line, stating that the family started it because they did not want to look back and regret not having done something that they could have done. She explains that the new tip line provides anonymity for those who do not wish to call the police directly, is toll-free and is easy to remember. She also points out that all information is forwarded to the Modesto Police Department.
February 20 Modesto Police Department investigators serve Scott Peterson with another search warrant—this one for the Tradecorp Warehouse. Police enter the area immediately to perform another search and to question persons who work near his office/warehouse. Investigators ask about quick-drying cement and also examine a nearby dumpster. Det. Al Brocchini calls the Peterson family’s privately sponsored tip line with a legitimate tip previously received by the Modesto Police Department—a test to see if the tip will be investigated, turned over to the Modesto Police Department or buried. According to an Amber Frey telephone conversation, Ayiana Frey’s birthday. Rumors circulate that Laci Peterson’s body has been found. According to various reports, the remains were recovered in Fresno County or Madera County. One rumor asserts that the body was found under Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. In the afternoon, Det. Doug Ridenour address the rumors. “There is a rumor about a body being found,” he states. “No one has contacted this department, and we have not responded to any inquiries regarding that rumor.” He tells the media there are no further plans to search Scott and Laci Peterson’s residence. “There is no significant change in this case as we speak right now,” he remarks.
February 21 A local news agency reports that the Modesto Police Department has asked Scott Peterson for DNA, but this assertion is immediately denied by authorities. Det. Doug Ridenour calls the report “just a bunch of rumors.”
February 22 Amber Frey calls Diane Sawyer’s office. In the last of three searches in February organized by the Rocha family, volunteers search the waterways and wilderness areas of the New Melones Reservoir, but come up empty in their attempt to find any trace of Laci Peterson. “We had about 100 people, six teams of horses and 10 boats searching the reservoir,” Ron Grantski states. They converge on the staging area at the Black Bart Day-Use Area of the reservoir’s Glory Hole Recreation Area at 9:00 a.m. Searchers on horseback descend to the southern end of the reservoir near French Flat Road, while searchers on foot and in vehicles cover the northeastern area near Rose Creek. The boats cover the main body of the reservoir all day until the search concludes around 3:00 p.m. “We didn’t find anything,” Grantski reports.
February 23 Police are notified of an alleged sighting of Laci Peterson at Stagnaro Brothers Seafood on the Municipal Wharf in Santa Cruz. The call to police is made about 20 minutes after the alleged sighting. Security officers and three police units respond immediately, and at around 3:00 p.m., determine that the woman sighted was not Laci Peterson.
February 24 Brent Rocha and Amy Rocha appear on NBC’s Today and talk about their continuing search for Laci Peterson and their feelings about Scott Peterson. Brent Rocha states that his relationship with him changed after the admission of the affair, but not necessarily because of it: “It wasn’t because of the affair. I think the affair…what that did was lead us to ask other questions and pose questions to Scott. And when he was not able to answer those questions, and maybe he gave us different answers to those questions and contradicted himself, I think that’s when we really started to question Scott’s actions.” Det. Craig Grogan writes a report about Sarah Taberna and checks stolen from Scott and Laci Peterson, stating, “Scott told me he felt the checks may be linked to his wife Laci’s disappearance, and the suspects that took the checks may also be responsible for abducting his wife.” Sarah Yoshida tests pliers found on Scott Peterson’s boat.
February 25 A diver, driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, spots a body on the coast and reports the finding to authorities. Late in the afternoon, Carmel Police recover the partially clothed body of a woman floating off Garrapata State Beach about 10 miles south of Carmel and about 150 yards offshore. Modesto Police Department officials say almost immediately that they believe the discovery has nothing to do with the Laci Peterson case. The National Enquirer bearing the issue date of February 25, 2003, runs an article summarizing what the tabloid writers say are new revelations in the case. Among these are that Scott Peterson’s boat had no trace of salt water (a claim later contradicted by other sources), that Laci Peterson’s blood was found in Scott Peterson’s truck, and that detectives are investigating a tip that he ordered three 55-gallon drums to be delivered to his warehouse in December 2002. Appearing visibly tired and emotionally drained on CNN’s Larry King Live, Sharon Rocha, Ron Grantski, Brent Rocha and Amy Rocha tell a national television audience that they will be taking time to regroup and will stop organizing volunteer searches for the foreseeable future. Ron Grantski says that the constant searching has taken a toll on his family. “We never lose hope,” he says. “We want to have a chance to regroup as a family and decide what we are going to do later.” Sadly, Sharon Rocha says, “There is nothing normal about our lives now or will there ever be. Our lives have been changed forever.” She admits she recently had a vision of her daughter returning home. “I opened the front door and I walked in and I just stopped, and Ron literally walked right into me because I saw Laci on the sofa turn around and say, ‘Hi Mom!’ And it was so real.” Although acknowledging that Scott Peterson’s recent actions have been “very disturbing,” Brent Rocha says it is “premature” to comment on whether Scott Peterson was involved in his wife’s disappearance. The program also features Nancy Grace, Mark Geragos, Henry Lee, Marc Klaas and Ted Rowlands. Klaas calls Scott Peterson “a miserable two-bit little creep.”
February 26 Despite statements by authorities to the contrary, the rumor resurfaces that Laci Peterson’s body may have been found. At around 8:15 a.m., KTLA in Los Angeles reports on the finding of the woman’s body near Carmel. The rumors come to an abrupt halt when the Monterey County Coroner’s Office identifies the body as that of Susan Driscoll. Monterey County Sheriff’s Department deputies report that her car was found parked at a turnout near Rocky Point. Det. Doug Ridenour, in response to a lack of Scott Peterson sightings, states, “The police department does not know where he is, we do not have a mandate to know where he is at all times.” Reportedly, Scott Peterson spends his time in San Diego or San Luis Obispo. In the front lawn of Scott and Laci Peterson’s home, the large, yellow sign that reads, “MISSING $500,000 REWARD,” appears damaged. By this time, it has turned into a memorial, as passersby place flowers and religious icons near it. Several media outlets report that Bruce and Christine Peterson, the couple who sold Scott Peterson his fishing boat, had been brought in by the Modesto Police Department early in the investigation to look over the craft. At this point, investigators have received more than 8,000 leads, tips and suggestions in the case. Wray Ladine rules that investigators should not be allowed to see the contents of an envelope, addressed to Kirk McAllister, found at Scott and Laci Peterson’s home.
February 27 Jackie Peterson states that she does not find it to be a revelation that there may be something that looks like cement residue in the bottom of her son’s boat. She attributes the residue to a cement anchor, and notes that her son has already stated that he made one. A Monterey County Coroner’s Office spokesperson reports that Susan Driscoll’s death was due to drowning, although the circumstances surrounding her death are still under investigation. The Modesto Bee runs a story by reporter Patrick Giblin that is supportive of Scott Peterson’s version of events and critical of the Modesto Police Department. According to the story, Vivian Mitchell states she saw Laci Peterson walking her dog on December 24, 2002, sometime between 10:00 and 10:15 a.m. Vivian Mitchell recalls she was standing by her kitchen sink when she saw the woman with her golden retriever. “I had glanced out the window, and the sun had come out and it was a very nice day,” she says. “It had been raining recently, so the sunshine brought out all the dog walkers.” According to the story, she then hollered to her husband, Bill, “Oh, look, it’s the lady with the golden retriever.” Bill Mitchell corroborates his wife’s story, saying he went to the window and saw the dog go around the corner. “It looked like the dog wanted to go one way, and she was going another,” he says—meaning the dog wanted to go toward Yosemite Boulevard but that the woman was leading it south on Buena Vista Drive toward La Sombra Avenue. The Mitchells speculate the woman must have come from Kewin Park. Although they admit they do not know Laci Peterson personally, they provide a description that matches her widely publicized description: “She was short, had on a white top and dark colored trousers, slacks,” Vivian Mitchell says. “Her hair was dark, dark colored. But later when I saw the pictures of Laci Peterson, I thought that was her for sure.” In speaking with a reporter from the Associated Press, Lee Peterson seizes on the revelation of the Mitchell’s sighting to criticize the Modesto Police Department and their handling of the case. “How do you follow up on a lead if you don’t return someone’s calls?” he asks. “It makes me wonder about their competency.” Members of an identity theft ring, pretending to be relatives of Laci Peterson, begin using stolen credit cards to pay for a hotel room. Det. Mike Hermosa writes a report about Sarah Taberna, who was found with checks belonging to Scott and Laci Peterson.
February 28 Lee and Jackie Peterson are interviewed by KFMB and suggest that the sighting by Vivian and Bill Mitchell backs up Scott Peterson’s story and shows that investigators have been focusing on him to the exclusion of other leads. “The truth is coming out finally and it validates Scott’s statements to the police that he made saying he had nothing to do with Laci’s disappearance,” Jackie Peterson says. “It’s bittersweet because all this time has been wasted.” Lee Peterson characterizes the most recent search of Scott and Laci Peterson’s home as “harassment,” claims that investigators have put his son’s job “at risk” by seizing computers and vehicles used in his employment, and states that his son is now “virtually homeless” and has lost 25 pounds. He questions the need for taking such items as new clothing. He also uses words such as “bankrupt” to describe the house, leading some observers to speculate that Scott Peterson is no longer working for Tradecorp, a speculation later refuted by Jackie Peterson but supported by other sources. Reports are that he has not been observed at his residence since the February 18, 2003, search and is reportedly staying in the San Diego and San Luis Obispo areas. The California Department of Justice crime lab receives for testing hair or fiber samples taken from the ropes found among Scott Peterson’s property. Det. Al Brocchini writes a memo recommending that Tradecorp investigate Scott Peterson’s finances.