#08) April 2003
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: April 2003
April 1 The National Enquirer dated April 1, 2003, runs a story stating that Scott Peterson continued to call Amber Frey—even after she came forward at a televised news conference and accused him of lying to her about his marital status. Scott Peterson calls in a police complaint about graffiti.
April 3 Jackie Peterson, responding to reports that Scott Peterson has been spotted in San Diego, states that her son no longer stays at his Modesto home. Asked if he was living in San Diego with his family, she replies, “I’m not going to answer that.”
April 4 Roger Beauchesne rules in favor of a media motion filed by KTVU, the Modesto Bee and other media outlets, to release all or a portion of the documents filed to obtain eight search warrants in the Laci Peterson case. Modesto Police Department officials are clearly unhappy with the ruling. “It would certainly chill information coming forward from people who might be even in jeopardy of their lives if that information were disclosed,” says Roy Wasden. “Clearly, it’s not appropriate to have that information out in the media.” Sources close to the case tell Ted Rowlands that officials are carefully building a “no body” prosecution against Scott Peterson, but an arrest could be months away. Reflecting the relative lull in the case, the Modesto Bee carries a story concerning how quiet Scott and Laci Peterson’s Covena Avenue home now is. One neighbor says she last saw Scott Peterson there mowing the lawn two weeks ago. “It is offensive to me,” Brent Rocha is quoted as saying. “Basically he is saying he doesn’t care about the life he had with Laci. It seems like he just abandoned that life so easily.”
April 6 The Peterson family’s toll-free tip line receives an anonymous call stating that Laci Peterson has been seen in Tempe, Arizona. The female tipster says she saw someone who looked like Laci Peterson in or around a vehicle parked in front of a house. Jackie Peterson calls the Modesto Police Department tip line, but discovers it is not staffed on weekends. She then calls the Tempe Police Department directly to report the sighting and ask for help. Officer Jon Rennerfeldt arrives at the provided address about 2:05 p.m., conducts interviews and leaves about 3:00 p.m., unable to locate Laci Peterson or anyone matching her description.
April 7 Det. Al Brocchini interviews Heather Richardson.
April 8 KGO runs an interview with Ava Frey in which she reveals Scott Peterson continued to have contact with Amber Frey after Laci Peterson’s disappearance. She expresses sympathy for the Rocha family, saying, “My mother and I have been actively involved in the search since January.” The television station releases two photographs of Scott Peterson with Amber Frey, taken December 14, 2002. The Globe dated April 8, 2003, runs an article claiming that Laci Peterson was murdered in her own kitchen, and that traces of vomit speckled with blood matching her DNA were found on a kitchen mop. According to an unnamed source, “The presence of the vomit brings up the nightmare scenario that this beautiful young woman was punched in the stomach prior to her death.” The article asserts a pivotal piece of evidence may be the clothing Laci Peterson’s wore to Salon Salon the evening of December 23, 2002: “The key question is: ‘Were the clothes that she wore at the salon found in the house when police searched it after Laci vanished?’ If they weren’t there, it would indicate Laci never got undressed for bed that night.”
April 9 Jackie Peterson states, “Scott is desperate to find Laci,” and confirms that the Peterson family hired noted psychic Noreen Renier.
April 10 In a reversal of his April 4, 2003, decision, Roger Beauchesne rules that he will not release any information from search warrants issued in the Laci Peterson case. “It is paramount that the investigation be thorough and unhampered, in part because of the potential penalty of death,” he writes. In a separate but related ruling, he announces that some of the documents from a search warrant in the investigation of Modesto Mayor Carmen Sabatino will be unsealed in 10 days. The judge orders the remaining documents in both cases remain sealed for 90 days. “Investigation techniques, clues and focus on future avenues of inquiry by law enforcement personnel would unduly alert any potential suspect,” he writes.
April 11 The Modesto Bee reports on Roger Beauchesne’s decision to keep the search warrants sealed. “I’m disappointed in the decision, but not surprised,” Joe Demma says. “The judge said in open court he disagrees with the law that says the warrants should be made public.” The article notes that Beauchesne conducted two closed hearings before determining that all documents related to search warrants would remain sealed.
April 12 The Modesto Bee and other newspapers run a story about the possible Laci Peterson sighting in Tempe, Arizona. Scott Peterson, using the alias “Jacqueline Peterson” on Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability forms, negotiates to buy a 1984 Mercedes convertible from Mike Griffin in Ocean Beach after finding the car advertised for sale for $5,000 in the San Diego Auto Trader. Scott Peterson pays $3,600 cash for the vehicle with 36 $100 bills, providing Griffin with a number for what he says is a Florida driver’s license. Griffin questions the feminine-sounding name. “Are you buying this for your wife? Are you French?” he asks. Scott Peterson offers that it was “a ‘Boy Named Sue’ kinda thing,” referring to the 1969 #2 hit by Johnny Cash about a brawling youth bent on killing his father for giving him a girl’s name. “I said, ‘Are you buying this for your wife?'” Michael Griffin said he asked after seeing Peterson had written “Jacqueline Peterson” on a release of liability form for the vehicle. A strong storm hits the San Francisco Bay.
April 13 At about 4:15 p.m. (according to some accounts, at about 5:00 p.m.), Michael Looby and Nicole Belanger are walking their dog on a shoreline trail near Sea Breeze Drive when they see what will later be determined to be the body of Conner Peterson in a tidal pond bordered by condominiums and an industrial area, about 250 yards east of the last house in Richmond’s Marina Bay, south of the city’s Breakers residential district. The small, light-colored object is about 15 feet from the water, in the mud in a marshy area usually covered with bay waters. The couple throws rocks at the window of a home at 52 Sea Breeze Drive to get the attention of Keith Woodall, who then calls the authorities. It is reported that the body is in very poor condition but still has the umbilical cord attached, a detail that will continually be questioned in the coming months. The body is taken to the Contra Costa County coroner’s office.
April 14 At 8:40 a.m., the autopsy on Conner Peterson begins. Capt. Christine Dean notices details about the body, such as “little blondish eyelashes” that she will recall years later. Alena Gonzalez, while walking her dog, finds Laci Peterson’s partial remains lodged in concrete rip-rap at Point Isabel, a popular East Bay Regional Park District dog-walking park. At 11:43 a.m., Gonzalez calls 911. After the discovery, approximately twenty investigators converge on the scene. As a result of the finding, Roy Wasden’s pager goes off as he is eating in a Mexican restaurant. Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department officials dispatch canine teams trained to detect human remains. Jackie Peterson calls the Modesto Police Department after hearing media reports about the discovery. “We’re praying that it’s not Laci,” she states to a reporter via telephone. “We, of course, feel bad for whoever it is.” She says that she called Scott Peterson in Modesto to tell him. However, Scott Peterson is not at home or available to talk to reporters. According to Anne Bird, he is at the home of her adoptive parents, flirting with a girl who is there to watch the home. Four agents from the California Department of Justice are sent to trail him. The yellow sign offering a $500,000 reward for Laci Peterson’s return has blown off the front door of the couple’s home and lies in the yard. Members of the Rocha family state they have not yet been contacted by authorities, and direct all callers to Kim Petersen. “We have to wait and see,” Dennis Rocha cautions. “This could be another wild-goose chase.” Dean is told by an associate that Laci Peterson’s body may have been found. “Oh yeah, right,” she replies dismissively, but soon looks out her office window to see the first reporters on the scene. Modesto Police Department officials are notified at 12:15 p.m. “What we’ve done, as a precaution, is we’ve notified the Modesto Police Department,” Norm Lapera states. Accompanied by Stanislaus County officials, including a representative from the Office of the District Attorney, Modesto Police Department investigators fly by helicopter to the Richmond area, arriving at about 5:00 p.m. At the county coroner’s office in Martinez, the autopsy begins shortly after 6:00 p.m. (at 6:30 p.m. according to preliminary hearing testimony) and continues until about 10:00 p.m. Back in Modesto, Det. Doug Ridenour calls a news conference and states, “At this point, we have no information nor has the recovered body been identified as that of Laci Peterson.” He states that until the body is confirmed to be hers, the case will remain under the purview of the East Bay Regional Park District Police Department. Jimmy Lee, spokesperson for the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department, states that investigators are also examining some clothes found with the woman’s body. The Contra Costa Times reports that these are maternity clothes, but he states that they are not maternity clothes, and that only a standard woman’s bra had been found. A law enforcement source tells a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle that the body was found wearing a nursing bra. Lapera and Enos Johnson refuse to comment on reports that the woman was wearing maternity clothes. A bone is found along the shoreline near the Berkeley Marina, but is later determined by a pathologist to be not human but possibly from a bird. According to The Murder of Laci Peterson, Sharon Rocha calls Scott Peterson, asking him to fly up to help identify the body of Laci Peterson, but he tells her that he is too busy. Expert Richard Jepson is interviewed by the media concerning the San Francisco Bay.
April 15 Investigators stay at the scene of the recovery of Laci Peterson’s body until about 2:00 a.m. The Modesto Bee runs an article containing an interview with Richard Jepsen. He explains why conditions in the past few days could have allowed something to wash ashore that had previously been held out in the bay. Speaking on KTVU’s Mornings on 2, former FBI agent Eddie Freyer, a member of the agency’s underwater recovery team, provides a similar explanation. In a morning news conference, Jimmy Lee announces that the autopsies have been completed but that no cause of death has been determined. He also states that the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department has contacted an expert who studies how water affects corpses, to determine roughly how long the bodies were in the water. At this news conference, when asked if the body was clad in maternity clothes, he offers no comment. The Rocha family issues a statement through Kim Petersen in which they describe their ordeal as “a constant nightmare” and also state that, if the body turns out to be Laci Peterson’s, they want “the animal responsible for this heinous act to pay.” Kirk McAllister, apparently reunited with Scott Peterson, says his client is “very concerned and broken up” at the prospect that the body may be that of his wife, but that his now-famous client’s whereabouts are “not relevant.” Lee Peterson states that he does not know where Scott Peterson is, but asks, “What if Scott were here? Is that a big deal?” A black tarp that had washed ashore approximately 60 yards away from where the woman’s remains were found is discovered. Contra Costa County officials preserve the material and take it to a crime lab to be examined as potential evidence in the case. An official with the San Francisco medical examiner’s office confirms that the office is acting as a consultant to the Modesto Police Department in the case, but Det. Doug Ridenour states that he is unaware of that fact. Another set of bones is found in Richmond, but determined not to be human. Investigators once again begin tapping the phone of Scott Peterson.
April 16 At about 12:30 a.m., the Contra Costa County coroner’s office receives a call from the Oakland Police Department reporting that someone had found a bone in the area of the Berkeley Marina. Stanislaus County District Attorney Jim Brazelton states he thinks Laci Peterson is the woman whose body was found. “I feel pretty strongly it is,” he says. “If I were a betting man, I’d put money on it.” Asked about what Jim Brazelton had said about the missing Modesto woman, Roy Wasden responds: “We’re not discussing this investigation. That includes our feelings and suspicions.” A few hours later, Jim Brazelton issues a news release stating that the Office of the District Attorney will no longer comment on the Laci Peterson investigation. Meeting with reporters, John Tonkyn says there may be problems with the recovered bodies’ DNA because decomposition can cause it to break down. He states that he expects test results by the afternoon, explaining that researchers are using the tibia bone and some muscle tissue of the female victim, and the femur bone and muscle tissue from the full-term fetus to determine if the bodies are those of Laci and Conner Peterson. He adds that his team has hair samples from Laci Peterson recovered from her hairbrush to use as comparison DNA, and also swabs taken from the inside of the cheeks of her biological parents. A forensic anthropologist who specializes in submerged bodies examines the bodies for about 4.5 hours. The Modesto Bee runs a story that states Jackie Peterson confirmed Scott Peterson was still employed by Tradecorp. Investigators state they do not know Scott Peterson’s whereabouts, and have been unsuccessful in trying to find him during the day. Alena Gonzalez, walking her dog in the same area as on April 14, 2003, discovers what she later calls an “insulated black glove” floating up in the same area where Laci Peterson’s body was found. Gonzalez uses a stick to bring the glove toward her, then puts it in a plastic bag and later turns it over to the East Bay Regional Park District Police Department. ABC News reports that police sources have said the amount of decomposition and size of the remains are consistent with the time frame of Laci Peterson’s disappearance and her physical description, and that a nursing bra typically worn by women during late-term pregnancy was found on the remains. ABC News also reports that there was no head or legs on the torso, and only a portion of the arms remained, so it was not possible to get fingerprints or dental records. Lab technicians determine that samples from the body of the fetus contain enough intact DNA to be used for testing. Mark Geragos appears on On the Record With Greta Van Susteren, stating, “You’d be hard-pressed to find a prosecutor who couldn’t put together an indictment, let alone a conviction” in the case. He explains why he believes Scott Peterson will eventually be proven guilty. “It would have to be the greatest of coincidences that he goes to this marina, that it just so happens that four months later a female’s torso shows up, that a baby boy shows up, that it happens to be in the same area where this guy went, that this guy happens to have on his computer the currents and the tides, that he says the last time he saw her is when he left her there in the neighborhood and that he’s having an affair on top of it,” he explains. “You combine that all together—there’s a lot of guys sitting in prison on a lot less evidence. And his defense at this point is, ‘Oh, my God, somebody else must have done it and was trying to set me up by dumping the bodies into the general vicinity of where I was, and it just so happens that I had the tides and the current locations on my computer because I was going fishing anyway.’ I don’t think it’s ever going to wash.”
April 17 Ron Grantski says he has not heard from the prosecutor. “Our family is waiting until we are told personally, not told by the press,” he states. Dennis Rocha goes back to work. “The best thing I can do is keep busy,” he says. “It’s hard to keep waiting by the phone.” He tells reporters he recently was hired for an 11-month contract for a construction project in Tracy. The Modesto Bee runs an article about the improving chances of winning a conviction in a case with no body. Det. Craig Grogan and Det. Phil Owen, who flew to Richmond to observe the recovery of the remains on April 14, 2003, meet with prosecutors from the district attorney’s office in the chamber of Wray Ladine. They do not disclose the purpose of the meeting, but Roy Wasden admits later that he sought a warrant for Scott Peterson’s arrest because he considered him to be a flight risk. Kirk McAllister tells reporters he is speaking with Scott Peterson on a daily basis, but refuses to disclose his client’s whereabouts. According to his attorney, Scott Peterson is holding out hope that his wife and their child will come home. Grogan, Det. Jon Buehler, Det. Al Brocchini and Sgt. Al Carter leave for San Diego to arrest Scott Peterson. KTVU reports that Scott Peterson has been “bought out” of his Del Rio Country Club membership. An unidentified member states, “He just made people uncomfortable.” Jackie and Scott Peterson visit the San Diego Museum of Art. Scott Peterson reportedly spends the night with a stripper and asks her to take him with her to Mexico.
April 18 Early in the morning, Det. Craig Grogan, Det. Jon Buehler, Det. Al Brocchini and Sgt. Al Carter arrive in San Diego to arrest Scott Peterson. A state lab in Richmond identifies Laci and Conner Peterson’s bodies by DNA analysis. In a 7:08 a.m. telephone conversation with Joe Peterson, Scott Peterson states, “They know that’s not her” in reference to the body being tested. Roy Wasden and Capt. Greg Savelli have the unenviable task of informing the next of kin. Wasden, in full uniform and a black ribbon over his badge, and Savelli, in a dark suit, arrive at the home of Ron Grantski and Sharon Rocha. Wasden will later say that the family was “devastated” by the news. The Rocha family does not emerge for the rest of the day, but are visited by the Modesto Police Department chaplain, and others bring food. Kim Petersen issues a statement on behalf of the Rocha family. “We request that you allow our family to have time this weekend to deal with these recent developments together in private,” the statement says. At 11:10 a.m., Scott Peterson is arrested while driving on Callan Road outside Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course in La Jolla, north of San Diego. After leading officers on a 176-mile loop through Southern California, he is arrested without incident, handcuffed and turned over to the four Modesto Police Department officials. According to Det Jon Buehler, Scott Peterson is carrying nearly $15,000 in cash (according to early accounts, $10,000 in cash), a “large amount” of camping equipment, a “wide array” of clothing, four cellular phones and John Peterson’s driver’s license, which is on the vehicle’s center console next to Scott Peterson’s wallet. By some accounts, he also has an application for a new passport and a family member’s credit card. Scott Peterson reportedly had been waving to plainclothes officers shortly before his arrest (by some accounts, making obscene gestures). The tapping of Scott Peterson’s calls, not surprisingly, officially ends, but not before investigators have intercepted more than 3,000 phone calls (according to prosecution records, 3,858 calls). Scott Peterson is driven back to Modesto. At 2:00 p.m., Modesto Police Department officials announce a “significant change” in the Laci Peterson case investigation, but state that no details will be provided until a 6:00 p.m. news conference. Twice-divorced Attorney General Bill Lockyer marries the pregnant Nadia Maria Davis, 30 years his junior, at 2:30 p.m. He ducks out of the reception and heads to Richmond’s Missing Persons DNA Lab. At a 6:00 p.m. news conference, he confirms that the bodies found were those of Laci and Conner Peterson. In a CNN interview, he makes a statement that will haunt him far into the future, calling the case a “slam dunk” for the prosecution. In a less politically charged news conference in Modesto, Wasden and Modesto Police Department officials announce the arrest of Scott Peterson. Wasden suggests law enforcement officials decided to move quickly because they feared Scott Peterson might try to flee. He says the department spent 70,000 staff hours working on the case and investigated 9,000 tips. He says that the department pressed on in their investigation even after it became clear that Laci Peterson had been the victim of foul play and he reluctantly declared the case a homicide. “I would have loved to have egg on my face,” he says. Wasden says that despite the fact the Scott Peterson was not arrested until the identification of the bodies, the case never hinged on finding them. “I’m not going to get into motive,” he states, but suggests that officers were going to proceed with the arrest regardless of the DNA findings. Jim Brazelton states concerning Scott Peterson: “He’ll be charged with capital murder. There are no other suspects in this case.” Larry King Live carries the press conferences and follows with a panel discussion featuring CNN correspondent Mike Brooks, Nancy Grace, Mark Geragos, Marc Klaas and Henry Lee. Geragos states that the fact the bodies were found just miles from where Scott Peterson said he went fishing is “devastating” to his case. Seven television trucks and two dozen reporters surround the home of Lee and Jackie Peterson, although a sign in their front yard states, “We will not talk to you at our house.” She states, “I’m not talking until they resolve this whole thing—it’s too awful.” Nevertheless, when a reporter catches her walking her dog, she states concerning her son, “He misses his wife…this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to us. It will probably never end.” Lee Peterson tells Jill Underwood of Time magazine that the “police have just bungled this investigation from day one” (according to some accounts, this interview takes place on April 20, 2003). Kirk McAllister issues a firm “no comment” and posts a “No Media” sign on the front window of his office. Modesto Police Department officers block off 12th Street between H and I streets prior to the arrival of Scott Peterson. As the now-infamous suspect arrives in an unmarked car at the Stanislaus County Jail, a crowd of about 200 is there to greet him. Some call out “Murderer!” or “Burn in Hell!” Others pound their fists on the hood of the police car that carries him. In a hearing, Roger Beauchesne states that the court made a mistake in sealing search warrants related to the Carmen Sabatino and Scott Peterson cases without notification to the public. “The law says what the law says,” he declares. “The court erred in not providing proper notice to the public with regard to the sealing of all of the search warrants in both of these matters.” Beauchesne does not, however, open the warrants, noting that law enforcement and prosecutors should review them to decide if they need to stay sealed. Dave Harris argues that the law is unconstitutional, which brings a rebuke from Beauchesne. “Are you asking me to find this section that’s been on the books for 40-odd years to be unconstitutional?” the judge asks. “Are you asking me to carve out some new law this morning, or what?” Jim Brazelton, Roy Wasden, Les Weidman and Art De Werk also attend the hearing. Mark Vasché declares a small win for the public’s right to know, calling the decision “a victory for the people and for open government.” Brazelton is less enthusiastic about the call, saying his office will appeal the ruling. “This ruling is in opposition to how law enforcement has proceeded throughout history in California,” he argues. Wasden was less argumentative. “I understand the position the judge is in,” he says. “I think there needs to be some clarification of these issues, possibly with some legislative remedy.”
April 19 Just after midnight, Scott Peterson is booked at Stanislaus County Jail. He trades in his street clothes for an orange jail jumpsuit. Stanislaus County Sheriff’s spokesperson Kelly Huston states, “Like many people who are in jail for the first time, he wants to know what’s next.” Huston reports that Scott Peterson hasn’t talked much to the guards, but has been polite and cooperative. He is segregated from other inmates, who know he’s there and “definitely have some unfavorable opinions of him.” He makes one phone call, to Mike and Heather Richardson. Outside the Peterson’s Covena Avenue home, a memorial continues to grow with additions of flowers, candles and toys, and one begins at the site where Laci Peterson’s body was recovered. In the evening, Scott Peterson meets with Kirk McAllister. Reportedly, Scott Peterson is heckled by other prisoners. He is offered a counselor, but refuses. Kim Brown and Samuel Torres, claiming to be members of Laci Peterson’s family, use a stolen credit card to check in to Modesto’s DoubleTree Hotel. Michael Espidia calls in a tip concerning a conversation he once had with Scott Peterson in which he described in detail how he would dispose of a body.
April 20 Scott Peterson has a breakfast of a cheese omelet and milk. He makes several phone calls. He has beef vegetable soup for lunch. He has chicken soup for dinner. It’s Easter Sunday, but Scott Peterson’s only visitor is Kirk McAllister. Scott Peterson asks for a haircut, but is told he will have to wait until the once-a-month visit by the barber. Meanwhile, on Covena Avenue, many people gather outside the Peterson’s home and kneel at the shrine that has been built in Laci Peterson’s memory. Time magazine’s online edition publishes the April 18, 2003 (according to some sources, the interview takes place on April 20, 2003), interview with Lee and Jackie Peterson. In the article, they are highly critical of the investigation and the way that authorities were “preening and patting themselves on the back for a good job” after the arrest of Scott Peterson. Jackie Peterson states she was particularly offended by Bill Lockyer’s “slam dunk” comment. “I’m feeling like I’m living in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union,” she states. Kelly Huston states that security will be tight and access will be limited for Scott Peterson’s first appearance at the courthouse, scheduled for April 21, 2003. Huston further states that Scott Peterson’s stay has been “rather quiet” and the prisoner has “been courteous to the staff,” even being complimentary concerning the professionalism of the deputies. However, consistent with what Huston says is the normal behavior of a first-time prisoner, Scott Peterson “has shown a certain amount of apprehension.” Huston states that Scott Peterson is not on a suicide watch, but when moving outside his cell, he is “shackled, belly-chained and escorted by two deputies.” Several motorists drive past the Stanislaus County Jail and shout things like, “Murderer!” or “Hang him!” Beginning around 10:00 p.m., police officers block off 11th Street between H and I streets in front of the Stanislaus County Courthouse.
April 21 Mike and Heather Richardson appear on NBC’s Today, stating that Scott Peterson was “overjoyed” about becoming a father, but that his actions following his wife’s disappearance were “strange” and now they “don’t know what to think.” Stanislaus County brings in five extra sheriff’s deputies to help with security screening at the courthouse entry and to control the crowd outside, at a reported cost of $2,800 in overtime (Modesto Bee, May 1, 2003). In the early afternoon, Lee and Jackie Peterson enter Stanislaus County Superior Court. When Sharon Rocha comes in, Jackie Peterson approaches her and hugs her, telling her, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” before the two women take seats on opposite sides of the courtroom. Sharon Rocha begins to cry as deputies lead Scott Peterson into the 56-seat courtroom, his goatee shaved and his hair trimmed since his arrest. Appearing before Nancy Ashley, Scott Peterson declares, “I am not guilty,” to charges of murdering his wife and unborn son. Tim Bazar represents the defendant at the arraignment hearing, as Scott Peterson has stated he cannot afford an attorney. A bail hearing is set for May 6, 2003, and a pretrial hearing is scheduled for May 19, 2003. The Rocha family holds a news conference, thanking police, friends and strangers for the support they have received in the months since Laci Peterson’s disappearance. Ron Grantski states that he feels sorry for Lee and Jackie Peterson. “They don’t deserve this,” he says. “But Laci and our family didn’t, either.” Mayor Carmen Sabatino says he does not think Scott Peterson will be able to get a fair trial in Modesto. The case is discussed on Larry King Live, with guests Jim Brazelton, Kelly Huston, Nancy Grace, Mark Geragos, Henry Lee and Ted Rowlands. Jim Brazelton offers revisionist history, stating that Bill Lockyer was referring to the DNA evidence, and not the case as a whole, being a “slam dunk.” MSNBC runs an article entitled “Circumstantial: The Scarlet C” that discusses the indirect nature of the evidence against Scott Peterson.
April 22 Tim Bazar visits Scott Peterson at the Stanislaus County Jail, and then announces that he and assistants Kent Faulkner and Maureen Keller will represent him. Carol Shipley states that the death penalty issue is “still being discussed.” At 5:30 p.m., Scott Peterson is visited for 30 minutes by Lee and Jackie Peterson, accompanied by Janey Peterson and Susan Caudillo. Scott Peterson conveys power of attorney to Lee and Jackie Peterson. The case is discussed on Larry King Live, with guests Ted Rowlands, Nancy Grace, Mark Geragos, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom and defense attorney Jan Ronis.
April 23 Lee and Jackie Peterson check out of the Red Lion Hotel at 7:30 a.m. James Brazelton discusses the case with John Walsh during a taping of The John Walsh Show, stating that he will “absolutely” pursue the death penalty against Scott Peterson. After the taping in downtown Modesto, Jim Brazelton backs down, saying his comment was not an official announcement that his office had decided to seek the death penalty: “If it was just my decision, I would no doubt seek the death penalty.” He adds that the decision will be made by a committee of trial attorneys in his office, and only after consulting with the Rocha family and seeking input from Scott Peterson’s defense team. He says he has not decided who will serve as prosecutor. He says no plea agreements are on the table. He also makes an eyebrow-raising comment about defense attorney Kent Faulkner: “I’ve tried death penalty cases with Kent Faulkner—his client is on death row.” Kent Faulkner responds to the remark: “We’re not talking about a sporting event here; we’re talking about someone’s life.” Kent Faulkner is also asked about the possibility of a high-profile attorney taking over the case, and replies, “We don’t anticipate somebody coming in. If they do, they do.”
April 24 A scheduled meeting between Stanislaus County District Attorney James Brazelton and members of the Rocha family is postponed until the following day, as Sharon Rocha does not feel up to talking about the case. Jimmy Lee refuses to put a deadline on when the bodies of Laci and Conner Peterson might be returned to the family. “I really don’t want to put a time frame on when we’re going to come back with the results,” he says. “Once we’re done, we’re going to turn over the remains.” Sgt. Ron Cloward states that investigators are considering returning to San Francisco Bay to gather more evidence. “It is something that we’re talking about doing,” he says, “but no decisions have been made.” Saki Vincent files suit in federal court in Fresno, seeking $75,000 in damages and a judge’s order to prevent People from distributing the May 5 issue with photos she took of Amber Frey and Scott Peterson. Saki Vincent’s suit claims that People magazine broke their contract by failing to remove her image from one of the photographs. The request to halt distribution is denied. A search warrant is issued to allow investigators to take a sample of Scott Peterson’s hair and to take a full-body photograph. The case is discussed on Larry King Live, with guests Kelly Huston, Ted Rowlands, Nancy Grace, Mark Geragos, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom and defense attorney Jayne Weintraub.
April 25 After meeting with members of the Rocha family, James Brazelton announces that he will seek the death penalty against Scott Peterson. “It’s really a very hard thing. There are no winners or losers. Six months ago, we were all one big loving family and now we’re talking about life or death for someone,” Ron Grantski’s says after the meeting. The May 5 edition of People magazine hits newsstands and causes a furor. Amber Frey speaks publicly for the first time since her news conference with the Modesto Police Department in January, saying she is livid with former friend Saki Vincent for selling photos of her with former boyfriend Scott Peterson. Michele Engnath, Saki Vincent’s lawyer, says, “My client is very distraught that her picture has appeared in a national magazine with Scott Peterson.” Saki Vincent sold the photo in question along with three others to the magazine for $15,000, but claims People has not paid her $10,000 of what she was promised because, her lawyer says, the photos appeared first on Fox News and in the New York Post. “My client gave Amber one copy,” Michele Engnath says,”We believe that Amber gave that one copy to the police.” Her law partner, Richard Ryan, says: “Somebody, somewhere, made extra copies.”That’s appalling that she’s doing this,” Amber Frey says. “She doesn’t want her picture in the magazine, but it’s OK that she sells the photos and profits off me, Laci Peterson and her baby?” She also says she believes that the FBI will subpoena Saki Vincent as part of their investigation. “She didn’t look at the repercussions of selling the photos,” she adds. As nude photos of Amber Frey from a modeling session in 2000 hit newsstands, Ron Frey tells KRON that his daughter is upset about a rumor that she called Scott Peterson’s Modesto home and spoke to his wife just before Christmas. He says his daughter never called the house, and never spoke with Laci Peterson. He also says his daughter denies reports that she and Scott Peterson have remained in touch, contradicting earlier reports by Ava Frey. At Stanislaus County Jail, investigators use a search warrant to take a sample of Scott Peterson’s hair and to take a full-body photograph and photographs of his body hair.
April 26 Sharon Rocha, scheduled to speak at the Vigil of Hope (sponsored by the Carole Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation), begs off, stating she does not feel up to it. Reports surface that Laci Peterson’s body may have been located in mid-March by side-scan sonar in a Chevron shipping channel, but before searchers could retrieve the body, a heavily laden tanker passed over or near the burial spot, churning up the channel’s bottom and dislodging the sunken corpse. “The waves came up and we couldn’t go down. I can’t tell you the frustration we felt,” Roy Wasden says. The remains, possibly wrapped in some sort of plastic and held down by heavy material, were found by side-scan sonar deep in a shipping channel of San Francisco Bay, about 4 miles off Brooks Island. The New York Times runs an opinion piece bemoaning suspects’ lack of presumed innocence among the cable news pundits, quoting Geraldo Rivera as saying, “‘Fertilizer salesman Scott Peterson’s alibi stunk as badly as the stuff he sells.”
April 27 Sgt. Ron Cloward states that he does not believe searchers ever located Laci Peterson’s body and that Roy Wasden’s comments were taken out of context. “The chief made a comment saying we had been out there many times and came off the bay frustrated because of high winds and high weather,” Ron Cloward says. “As far as a body being found out there, the chief never made that comment.”
April 28 The Rocha family announces they will hold a public memorial service for Laci and Conner Peterson on May 4—the day that would have been her 28th birthday. Roy Wasden attempts to quell the rumors started over the weekend that Laci Peterson’s body had been found a month earlier. He tells KTVU that, although investigators found several interesting things on the bottom of the bay, none of those turned out to be the remains of Laci Peterson. The May 5 issue of Newsweek reports that a private investigator close to the Frey family says Amber Frey was taping her phone calls with Scott Peterson in the weeks after his wife’s disappearance to help police build their case. In an exclusive interview with KNTV’s Karen Brown, Dennis Rocha talks about how difficult the ordeal has been for the family. “We’ll never be the same without Laci,” he says, “It took a big chunk out of us. There is a big hole left there now.” Mark Geragos goes on CNN and defends Scott Peterson: “I have a real problem with convicting this guy in the media. It’s a rare, rare case where the police go in and say, ‘Hey, we’ve arrested this guy, but let’s go run down these leads over here that may show that he wasn’t the one who did it.'” The case is discussed on Larry King Live, with guests Ted Rowlands, Nancy Grace, Mark Geragos, Mickey Sherman and district attorney Jeanine Pirro.
April 29 Mark Geragos is seen in Modesto, in town reportedly to take over Scott Peterson’s defense. Jailers start checking on Scott Peterson every 30 minutes, rather than every 15 minutes, just like other maximum-security inmates. Tim Bazar confers with Mark Geragos around noon. A court official confirms that a request was submitted to Al Girolami to place the case on the calendar on May 2, 2003—before the scheduled bail hearing. A spokesperson for the First Baptist Church announces that the memorial service for Laci and Conner Peterson is scheduled for May 4, 2003, at 3:00 p.m. A USA Today editorial focuses on how forces on both sides of the abortion issue already are weighing in on the Laci Peterson case. KXTL reports that California state senator Jeff Denham has amended legislation to reimburse Modesto and Stanislaus County for Scott Peterson’s death penalty trial, which experts say could cost millions of dollars. KGO airs an interview with Debbie Wolski, who says about Laci Peterson, “She rarely, if ever, talked about her husband, Scott, which was a little unusual, since the other women did like to talk about quirks of their husbands, but she didn’t. She did not look like a woman who had recently found out her husband had an affair. She did not act like someone who was unhappy in her marriage.” Scott Peterson is visited by Lee and Jackie Peterson. “I can tell you our son is innocent and we are here to support him,” Lee Peterson tells reporters following the visit. The two then reportedly drive by the makeshift memorial in Scott and Laci Peterson’s front yard, where several of Laci Peterson’s friends have stopped by to help remove all the items, which will be donated to local charities. René Tomlinson asks well-wishers to quit leaving items: “If you want to give gifts, donate them in Laci and Conner’s name to a children’s hospital. Or make your friend a cake and spend the day with them. If we’ve learned anything from the loss of our friend, it’s that our time here is precious.” The case is discussed on Larry King Live, which pushes the April 30, 2003, airing of the A&E special, “Who Killed Laci Peterson?” Featured guest is Bill Kurtis, host of the documentary, along with panel members Nancy Grace, Chris Pixley, forensic pathologist Michael Baden and criminalist Larry Kobilinsky.
April 30 Noreen Renier, states that, during her psychic investigation of the Laci Peterson case, she picked up the strongest sense from the Priority Mail envelope that she said Scott Peterson had written on. “It was like having him there at the sessions. The clues were all there. If the police followed up or not, I don’t know. They normally do.” The pilgrimage to Scott and Laci Peterson’s home continues despite earlier pleas to quit leaving gifts. By noon, a small teddy bear and purple flowers appear at the garden gate. Myron Larson states that Scott Peterson has asked for information about applying for a pass to attend a funeral or memorial service, but has not yet requested such a pass. Les Weidman says he will not approve any request by Scott Peterson to attend the public memorial service planned by Laci Peterson’s family. A&E airs the “Who Killed Laci Peterson?” television special. Jackie Peterson states that the family is waiting to hear if Mark Geragos will take the case. “I’m hopeful,” she says. “I would be thrilled.” She says the financial arrangements are part of what needs to be worked out. She also says that no one from her family will be attending the upcoming public memorial, and that she has informed Sharon Rocha of this decision. “We are not attending because we want her to have a peaceful, dignified memorial and not a circus. We will grieve in our own private way with Scott because we all loved Laci.” She states that the Peterson family plans to participate in a private service at a later date. Continuing to defend Scott Peterson, Kirk McAllister appears on NBC’s Dateline and tells viewers he conducted his own investigation for more than three months and developed evidence to support his client. “It is hard, it is solid, and it shows Scott didn’t do it,” McAllister says. The case is discussed on Larry King Live, with guests Ted Rowlands, Nancy Grace, Chris Pixley, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom and defense attorney Aissa Wayne. Much of the discussion centers on the impending arrival of Mark Geragos, himself a frequent guest on the show, as Scott Peterson’s new defense attorney. Talking with Larry King by phone, Mark Geragos states, “I would definitely say I’m leaning toward helping him. I’m going to sleep on it tonight and I’ll make the decision tomorrow.” He adds, “I was tremendously impressed by Scott. I don’t think there’s any doubt that I believe in him.” At the end of the show, Lee Peterson, an invited guest caller, lashes out at panel member Nancy Grace. He calls his son a “wonderful man” but tells her, “You absolutely hate my son,” and accuses her of hating men. His final comment for her is, “Find a little room in your heart to—for innocence, would you please? Don’t—don’t convict him over the airwaves. Please. Thank you.”