#09) May 2003
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: May 2003
May 1 The Modesto Bee runs a story about how Scott Peterson is spending his time in the Stanislaus County Jail. The story says he gets three meals a day and a shower every other day. He is in a 6-by-9-foot cell in a six-cell tier, and all the inmates can see a single television mounted in the hall. He can pull fiction or nonfiction selections from a book cart wheeled through the hall once a day. The jail has a phone cart that can be wheeled from cell to cell, for making collect calls, but authorities can legally monitor the conversations. He has two 90-minute exercise periods a week on the rooftop, where he can walk, stretch or shoot a basketball. Officials report he has declined more than 50 requests for interviews from the press.
May 2 Scott Peterson’s hearing concerning change of representation to Mark Geragos is moved to a special first-floor courtroom (“Department 8”) in Stanislaus County Superior Court so that he will not have to be led through a public hallway, where court officials believe he would be more open to attack. Spectators and reporters entering the courtroom are subjected to a series of searches. Eight bailiffs position themselves around the Department 8 courtroom. Mark Geragos arrives, accompanied by two other lawyers from his firm, a private investigator and his office manager. Susan Caudillo gives Scott Peterson a reassuring grin from the front row of the courtroom. She and Joe Peterson sit on the opposite side of the aisle from Sharon, Brent and Amy Rocha. The two families sit for several minutes without acknowledging each other before Joe Peterson reaches across the aisle and squeezes the hand of Sharon Rocha. She smiles. Susan Caudillo then leans forward and mouths, “Good to see you,” to Sharon Rocha, who nods in reply. At 8:30 a.m., Al Girolami begins the hearing. He asks Tim Bazar how his indigent client is going to afford Mark Geragos. Geragos states that he was hired by the Peterson family. Girolami then asks Scott Peterson if Geragos has explained the change in representation to him. “Yes, your honor, that’s correct,” he replies—the only time he speaks during the hearing. For the remainder of the hearing, he stares straight ahead. The change of representation is granted. Geragos asks to waive a bail hearing that had been scheduled for May 6, 2003. He also asks that his client not have to appear in court in a red jail jumpsuit, bound in handcuffs, shackles and waist chains, an image that has been used by the media. “Poster-sized pictures of him labeled as a ‘monster in chains’ is not conducive to him getting a fair trial,” Geragos says. The request is granted. Girolami encourages the prosecution to not speak about the case so that it will have a greater chance of being tried in Stanislaus County. Geragos states he plans to review 30,000 pages of police reports by the time of a May 19, 2003, pretrial hearing and that he will probably seek bail after learning more about the case. He says he has received about 1,000 pages so far. He addresses a crowd of about 50 reporters and dozens of camera crews outside the courthouse. “Scott is doing well and looking forward to proving his innocence,” he says. “And Scott looks forward to finding out who did this to Laci and his unborn child.” He says his client’s request to attend the May 4, 2003, memorial was denied. He also admits he was discouraged from representing Scott Peterson: “I’m facing a case where I’ve been advised by everyone not to take it—told it’s career suicide, told I’m clinically insane.” When asked what made him change his mind about his client, Geragos cites the passion of Lee and Jackie Peterson, a meeting with Scott and, finally, a reading of a “parallel investigation” conducted by Kirk McAllister whose findings were “eye-opening and mind-boggling.” Susan Caudillo says, “We’re very happy that Mark is on board.” Hoping to use the impetus of the Laci Peterson case, the family of Evelyn Hernández holds a news conference to plead for the public’s help in solving her murder, which happened one year ago but with only a fraction of the coverage afforded Laci Peterson. San Francisco Police Inspector Holly Pera dismisses any real connection between the two cases, saying that it is a case of wishful thinking by the Peterson family, who “would like to think there’s a connection between the two cases and that a stranger might be responsible for both deaths.”
May 3 A Knight Ridder story by Randy Myers examines the peculiar popularity of the Laci Peterson case. The article states: “Just why this case has so dominated the lives and culture of America goes beyond the reality-TV-like nature of the case, say psychology and media experts. The nation’s moral standards, the ascent of cable-TV news shows, and even the war, have had a hand in turning Laci and Scott into household names, they believe.”
May 4 According to Scott Peterson, he wakes up early to a crashing cell door, aware that the day marks the birthday of his late wife. He later writes that he spends the morning “dreaming about her, being able to hold her and Conner,” but as the morning wears on, all he can do is lie there in tears. At about 1:30 p.m., Mark Geragos arrives at Stanislaus County Jail to meet with Scott Peterson—a meeting that lasts more than five hours. Meanwhile, preparations are being made for Laci and Conner Peterson’s public memorial, scheduled to begin at 3:00 p.m. A crowd of about 3,000 forms three lines (according to some reports, two lines), each two blocks long, to get into the First Baptist Church building on what would have been Laci Peterson’s 28th birthday. The doors open at 2:35 p.m. By 2:45 p.m., signs are posted stating that the pews—which can seat about 1,900—are filled. Overflow accommodations allow a thousand persons to watch the memorial on closed-circuit television in neighboring buildings. Millions more watch a nationwide broadcast of the one-hour-plus service—a mixture of personal remembrances, her favorite songs and a slide-and-video tribute. Dozens of flower arrangements blanket the altar in reds, pinks and whites. One white heart-shaped bouquet of flowers holds a red line of petals down the middle, symbolizing a broken heart. Nearby, a white column holds the figurine of a child next to white roses—a tribute to Conner Peterson. A 120-voice, white-robed combined choir from the First Baptist Church and the Big Valley Grace Community Church sings. Five minutes before the service begins, the most visible members of the Rocha family enter the hall and take seats in the front. Brent Rocha is the first to speak, recalling his sister talking about how she would like to be remembered: “When I die, I don’t want people to be sad. I don’t want people to be missing me. I want people to be happy.” Laci Peterson’s cousin Addie Hansberry speaks next. “So many questions and no answers. No real answers,” she says. “Today I come to you with a heavy heart because we know now Laci is never coming back.” Terri Western tells the audience that she can picture Laci and her unborn son, Conner, “roaming the hallways of heaven, hand in hand. They have already earned their wings, and they are golden.” Laci Peterson’s 13-year-old cousin, T.J. Vasquez, states that he remembers her beautiful smile, her help with his homework and volleyball games in the park on Easter Sunday. “Even though Laci is not with us here today, she will always be in my heart and in my memories,” he says, choking back tears. “Happy birthday, Laci.” Lori Ellsworth, Kim McNeely, Kim Tyler, and Lisa Loeffler also speak, each telling personal stories about their friend. The memorial closes with an audience sing-along of Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl.” Not insignificantly, no one mentions Scott Peterson’s name at the service, and the slide show features no images of him—even photos of Laci Peterson’s wedding are sans husband. After the service, Stacey Boyers states: “It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do for a friend, but Laci deserved to have these things said for her and to have her life told with wonderful memories.” Kelly Huston contradicts the claims of Mark Geragos that his client applied to attend the public memorial for Laci Peterson, stating Scott Peterson had inquired about jail policy for attending a funeral or memorial service but did not ask to go. Lee and Jackie Peterson return to Modesto, checking into the Red Lion Hotel. Lee Peterson delivers two suits for his son for two scheduled hearings the following day.
May 5 Scott Peterson appears in court for the first time in street clothes: a dark blue suit. Mark Geragos argues before Al Girolami that the judge should disqualify himself from the case because a related civil case had been reassigned from him: “This court is literally hog-tied to try to enforce some type of control [over the media] in the courtroom,” Mark Geragos states. Girolami denies the defense motion, but does admit Kirk McAllister to be part of the defense team. Shortly thereafter, Geragos and McAllister argue before Roger Beauchesne against releasing documents related to the case. Geragos claims that records regarding search warrants and the arrest of his client should be kept sealed, noting that the contents of what he calls “voodoo-type investigations” may prejudice the defense of his client. Although not having reviewed the documents, he specifically cites possible aspects of the investigation that will clearly not show up in court: “You have psychics, you have analytical research studying micro-expressions of his face. You have voice-stress analyzers. All of this is totally inadmissible.” He mentions the famous Sam Sheppard murder case, which became the model for the television show The Fugitive, and suggests that “the publicity in that case pales by comparison to the publicity in this case.” Beauchesne, although admitting that he was inclined to release the documents, changes his mind after hearing the defense team argument, and determines that a state appeals court should decide if evidence should be released to the public. He schedules for June 3, 2003, a hearing for more arguments on the records, which media outlets have petitioned to be released, keeping intact an order from the 5th District Court of Appeals in Fresno to keep them sealed until the court rules—that court having overturned Beauchesne’s ruling that warrants should be unsealed when an arrest is made. The judges also issue other rulings, including rescheduling a pretrial hearing from May 19 to May 27, 2003, and ordering the Contra Costa County coroner’s office to keep custody of Laci and Conner Peterson’s bodies until further notice. Following the hearing, Geragos also claims his defense will go beyond trying to show a reasonable doubt, by attempting to prove his client’s innocence and by finding out who killed Laci Peterson. “We have set the bar extremely high. That’s to prove that Scott is not only factually innocent, but to figure out exactly who it is who did this horrible thing to Scott’s wife and Scott’s son and to their grandson. That was their mantra to me when they first came into the office.” He adds, “To all of the people who had doubts about this, that or the other thing in terms of comments being made, the people who know him the best are standing behind him 100 percent and they believe in this young man’s innocence. They’ve turned my head around and I think it’s only a matter of time (before) we’re able to turn America’s head around.” Geragos says he will appeal Girolami’s decision by the end of the week. Dave Harris brushes off the defense team’s criticism, noting that just because psychics and other unusual techniques were included in the 30,000 pages of evidence assembled in the case does not mean police relied on them in building their case. Jackie Peterson states: “Our son is innocent, and we once again feel the truth will come out. We have faith in the legal system.” Concerning Geragos, she says, “We got lucky—God sent him our way.” The case is discussed on Larry King Live, with guests Ted Rowlands, Nancy Grace, Chris Pixley, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, Mickey Sherman and Kim Petersen.
May 6 Al Girolami quickly convenes a 3:30 p.m. hearing at the request of prosecution and defense attorneys seeking to have more documents in the case sealed. Kirk McAllister represents the defense in the absence of lead attorney Mark Geragos. At the request of the defense and prosecution, Girolami orders that copies of all the search warrants be given to both the prosecution and the defense, that the copies cannot be released to anyone else and that the warrants will be resealed. The San Francisco Chronicle runs a story examining why strangers are grieving over the death of Laci Peterson. Lee and Jackie Peterson visit Scott Peterson in Stanislaus County Jail.
May 7 In a phone conversation with Ted Rowlands, Mark Geragos says he wants the Modesto police to “start searching for whoever did this.” The Rocha family publicly endorses a bill (H.R. 1997) introduced this day in Congress to enact the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which would allow a violent crime against a pregnant woman on federal property to be treated as crimes against two separate people. “As the family of Laci Peterson and her unborn son, Conner, this bill is very close to our hearts,” they write in a letter to the bill’s Republican co-sponsors, Rep. Melissa Hart of Pennsylvania and Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio. “During these past two weeks, we have considered various ways we could pay tribute to Laci and Conner. When we heard about this bill, we immediately thought of placing a request to have it named Laci and Conner’s law in their memory. Knowing that perpetrators who murder pregnant women will pay the price not only for the loss of the mother, but the baby as well, will help bring justice for these victims and hopefully act as a deterrent to those considering heinous acts.” The letter is signed by Sharon, Brent, Amy and Dennis Rocha, and Ron Grantski. KTVU reports that a search warrant was issued but never served for the San Diego home of Lee and Jackie Peterson and also for the vehicle Scott Peterson was using while living with them. Modesto Police Department investigators speak with sonar expert Gene Ralston about a new search off Point Richmond for more of Laci Peterson’s remains. Investigators state they will be returning to the waters to search for additional remains and evidence but have not yet decided on a date due to bad weather and the desire to execute the search without the glare of media cameras.
May 8 In legal briefs filed in Stanislaus County Superior Court, the Modesto Police Department contends that the affidavits they had filed outline evidence in the case and name witnesses. They say revealing that information could hurt their investigation as they follow up on 9,000 tips in the case and could also create adverse pretrial publicity for the defense. CNN reports that abortion rights activists see the Unborn Victims of Violence Act as a back door to influencing the abortion debate because the law would define a fetus as a separate life. Opponents say supporters of the legislation are using the Rocha family to push a partisan agenda.
May 9 In an 8:30 a.m. hearing, Al Girolami, citing concerns of the ongoing investigation and Scott Peterson’s right to a fair trial, seals court papers that contain evidence police used to get a warrant to arrest Scott Peterson and to conduct another search after his arrest. Girolami also orders sealed two addendums that list items taken during a search. Wearing a dark blue suit, Scott Peterson sits quietly, speaking only when Girolami asks him questions concerning legal representation. Lee and Jackie Peterson sit in the front row behind their son, separated by a short wall and several sheriff’s deputies. Mark Geragos asks Girolami to also rule that the district attorney’s office not be allowed to convene a grand jury in the case. Instead, he suggests, there be a more public preliminary hearing. Girolami denies the request. Geragos then pledges in open court to bring several witnesses to the grand jury that will point the blame away from Scott Peterson and at another suspect. After the hearing, Geragos says the defense team is looking into “credible information” that could lead police to the “true killer” of Laci Peterson. “Obviously, it’s our position that the actual perpetrator is still out there,” he says. “We know there are people out there—specifically there’s one particular lady out there, who we believe has some very important information. We are asking—and we will protect her anonymity—that she contact my office. We will do everything possible to keep you out of this. Please provide us with the information we need.” He declines to give details of the information, saying only that it was unearthed during an investigation by Kirk McAllister and is one of “three areas” that the defense team is pursuing. Geragos says he has heard that the district attorney’s office might seek a grand jury indictment, and that he expects to have input in the questioning if that happens. In answer to this statement, John Goold declines to reveal the prosecution strategy but agrees that, if a grand jury is used, input from the defense team is routine and required by law. Geragos contends he might try to get the case moved out of town before it goes to trial, but Girolami warns that a move too soon could merely transfer the publicity to another town and do nothing to help ensure a fair trial. Lee and Jackie Peterson are approached by reporters, but offer no comment after the hearing. Geragos returns to his vehicle and discovers that his tires have been slashed. The case is discussed on Larry King Live, with guests Ted Rowlands, Nancy Grace, Chris Pixley, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom and defense attorney Jan Ronis.
May 10 Various media outlets report on the May 9, 2003, hearings and subsequent statements by the defense and the prosecution. The May 10, 2003, issue of the National Enquirer reports that a truck driver came forward to tell police that around 3:30 a.m. on December 24, he was driving on a highway close to the marina area and saw a truck pulling an aluminum boat—a Gamefisher, the brand matching that of Scott Peterson’s boat.
May 11 Media outlets and others—at least sixty persons altogether—are given letters telling them that investigators used wiretaps to record Scott Peterson’s phone conversations with them beginning just two weeks after Laci Peterson was reported missing. Jim Brazelton says he agrees that it would have made sense for investigators to monitor Scott Peterson’s conversations with reporters “in case he might want to confess.” The Modesto Bee runs an article proposing that Scott Peterson could wait in jail for a more than 2 years before he goes to trial. The New York Post runs an article comparing the Laci Peterson case to the Pegye Bechler case, in which Eric Bechler was convicted of killing his wife at Newport Beach and dumping her at sea. According to the article, both cases had a boating connection and both the accused men had ties to an “other woman”: Scott Peterson said he went fishing by himself when his wife disappeared; Bechler maintained he and his wife were boating when a powerful wave swept her into the water. Also, Scott Peterson has admitted to an affair with Amber Frey; Bechler took up with actress and bikini model Tina New just after his wife’s disappearance. In Bechler’s case, the liaison proved to be his undoing, as New worked with police and recorded him admitting the murder.
May 12 Fox News reports that one of the suspected burglars allegedly casing Laci and Scott Peterson’s neighborhood in the early morning hours of December 24, 2002, may be a key prosecution witness in the case. According to the story, one of the burglars saw Scott Peterson “doing something suspicious” around 3:00 a.m. that day. KTVU reports that sources have told Ted Rowlands that investigators now believe Scott Peterson made two trips to the Berkeley Marina on December 24, 2002—one early morning journey and another later in the day. An unnamed source states that police found in Scott Peterson’s boat a pair of pliers with hair that could have come from Laci Peterson. The case is discussed on Larry King Live, with Ted Rowlands, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, Chris Pixley, Jeanine Pirro, Jan Ronis and Jo-Ellan Dimitrius.
May 13 Ron Frey confirms to reporters that his family has asked Gloria Allred to represent Amber Frey, but that they have not yet been able to secure the services of the Los Angeles-based attorney. Allred does not comment to the press. Kirk McAllister and Mark Geragos come out swinging to disclosures that investigators had intercepted telephone calls between Scott Peterson and members of the defense team. Geragos says the defense team is considering several possible actions against the district attorney’s office, including asking the California Bar Association to discipline lawyers involved, suppressing the evidence at trial, bringing a separate case alleging civil rights violations—even seeking dismissal of charges against Scott Peterson. However, he says it is premature to discuss possible actions before a May 27, 2003, hearing in the case. McAllister calls the wiretapping “underhanded,” stating, “The police were saying for four months, including Chief Wasden, that he was not a suspect, and at the same time they were surreptitiously wiretapping him. If they’re lying to the public, what else may we expect of them? It’s a game to these police officers, and it’s a game without rules at this point. It’s about making a case on Scott—and now we can add by hook or by crook or any other surreptitious means they can convince a judge to approve—and ignore any other evidence.” Det. Doug Ridenour replies, “I’m not going to respond to other kinds of allegations. We’re just not going to get into the bantering back and forth. The investigation is turned over to the district attorney, and now they have to prosecute the case.” Prosecutors maintain that no conversations protected by law were monitored. “We certainly followed the law,” John Goold says. “Every call will be intercepted, but it doesn’t mean it was monitored. I don’t think we’re in possession of any privileged material. I do not share Mr. McAllister’s opinion. The police were also careful to say they had not ruled out anybody anytime they were asked.” The Stanislaus County Office of the District Attorney prepares evidence to be turned over to Scott Peterson’s defense team. The New York Post reports on the news released the previous day: A strand of what is believed to be Laci Peterson’s hair was found on a pair of pliers “stashed under a seat” in Scott Peterson’s boat, but that it is not clear whether authorities will try to link the pliers to her slaying or later attempts to dispose of her body. More reports about the local burglary suspect possibly being a witness for the prosecution also begin to appear. The Alameda Times-Star runs an article sharply critical of Bill Lockyer’s “slam dunk” remarks about the case: “To reduce a human tragedy to a sports metaphor is almost as ill-advised as the state’s top law enforcement official publicly predicting the outcome of a trial before the suspect is even arraigned.”
May 14 Prosecutors turn over reams of discovery to Bill Pavelic, including the name, address and phone number of a man who believes he may have seen Laci Peterson with two men in a van near Claus Road and Scenic Drive, and a tip that Adam Tenbrink told his brother Shawn Tenbrink that Steven Todd had been interrupted by Laci Peterson while robbing a home in the La Loma neighborhood. Two separate motions for authorizing inspection of intercepted communications are filed by Grace Won of Young, Won, Mann and Braun on behalf of Ted Rowlands, and by Rochelle Wilcox of Davis, Wright, Tremaine on behalf of Jodi Hernandez, Karen Brown, Dan Abrams, Sandy Rivera, Keith Morrison, Michael Mooney, Ty Phillips, Patrick Giblin, Judy Sly and Kimberly Culp. In addition, a proposed order shortening time on behalf of Rowlands is filed by Won, and subsequently denied by Al Girolami. Wilcox, an attorney representing journalists from The Bee newspapers, NBC and ABC, says that reporters were concerned their conversations could be used by prosecutors. John Goold says the district attorney’s office won’t contest the motions for journalists to review their intercepted calls. The Modesto Bee reports that a source close to the investigation said two Berkeley city employees who were working at the Berkeley Marina on December 24, 2002, may be witnesses in the case. Police reports indicate the two employees saw someone who matched Scott Peterson’s description back a boat into a pylon at the marina that day, the source claims. When the employees went to assist the man, he refused help. An employee at the marina says that the marina’s administrative office was closed that day, but that a reduced crew of dock maintenance workers and groundskeepers was on duty. Defense sources state that evidence in the case points away from the two men—one of whom is still behind bars—arrested for burglarizing a house across the street from Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. John Goold refuses comment on whether either of the two men would be called to testify for the prosecution. Rita Cosby appears on KTVU’s Mornings On 2, stating that investigators monitored calls between Scott Peterson and Amber Frey. “She had her phone also listened to by investigators,” Cosby says, quoting her sources. “They recorded conversations with Scott Peterson where he said, ‘I love you’ and ‘I want to spend my life with you.'” Cosby also claims Mark Geragos may be close to getting the witness they believe they need to clear their client. “If he can get this woman to come forward—and he says he’s quite close, according to the people I’m talking to—if he can actually deliver this person and have her say, ‘I saw such-and-such,’ it could cast some doubts in the case.” Henry Lee appears on Hannity and Colmes, stating that if the hair found in the needle-nosed pliers is determined to be actively growing hair—”energy hair”—some force would have been used to pull it out, meaning there was a struggle. Lee suggests prosecution investigators need to get solid evidence to make a case against Scott Peterson, such as a sizable quantity of blood spattered at the home or the discovery of cement in his boat, which could connect him with motive, means and opportunity. “It’s not an easy case. So far we haven’t seen any earth-shaking evidence,” he says. Cyril Wecht appears on On the Record With Greta Van Susteren, stating that the microscopic anatomical work of the autopsy is probably done, and now there is a wait for toxicological findings, which could take several weeks. He says that finding cause of death is key, and not being able to determine it is a plus for the defense. Michael Baden says the evidence that the police gained at the scene that’s never been released is going to be very important: “There’s something in those documents, remember, that the defense attorneys don’t want released,” he states.
May 15 Prosecutors announce that the autopsies of Laci and Conner Peterson have been completed by the Contra Costa County coroner and have been sealed by a judge in Stanislaus County Superior Court. James Brazelton says that, earlier in the morning, prosecution and defense attorneys involved in the case agreed to conditionally seal the autopsy report pending a May 27, 2003, hearing date. Fox News reports that the autopsies were completed sooner than expected, but medical examiners were unable to determine the cause of death. A source from Scott Peterson’s defense team, having seen documents referring to the condition of Laci Peterson’s body, reports that it was “horrendous” and “awful, awful, awful,” with her being “carved up.”The head is not the only part that is missing,” the source reveals, claiming that the injuries could not have been caused simply by being underwater: “No—there are internal parts missing.” Although conceding that Scott Peterson could have done this damage, the source questions when, where and how it could have been done with so little forensic evidence found. “With the exception of a single hair that may be Laci’s found on that pair of needle-nosed pliers found in Scott’s boat, there is nothing forensically to link Scott to this crime. She was carved up. But where’s the blood in the house? Where’s the blood in the truck? They took those scenes apart and came up with a dry hole.” Defense attorneys interview a man—presumably Homer Maldonado—and show him “mug shots,” asking if he can identify any of them. Amber Frey attends a Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx classic rock concert at Selland Arena in Fresno.
May 16 Divers from several law enforcement agencies and members of an FBI dive team join police boats equipped with side-scan sonar, returning to search the waters off Richmond for further evidence. The operation lasts from about 9:00 a.m. to about 2:00 p.m. Contra Costa County Sheriff’s officials say their marine patrol officers and at least two divers are working at the scene at the request of the Modesto Police Department. U.S. Coast Guard officials also confirm they are providing security for police divers in an ongoing criminal investigation. Divers reportedly search the bottom by feel, since visibility is less than one foot in some places. Capt. Greg Savelli says police dive teams will probably continue work through the weekend. An unnamed source says that investigators are particularly interested in finding the anchors they believe weighed down Laci Peterson’s body while it was under water. Gene Ralston, who conducted a side-scan sonar search of the bay in mid-March for Modesto police, tells reporters that his “strong opinions on what’s going on” kept authorities from inviting him back for this search. He adds that he continues to be involved with the case. The New York Post reports the Fox News story about a source on Scott Peterson’s defense team saying the condition of Laci Peterson’s body was “horrendous.” The defense team privately asks possible witnesses to Laci Peterson being alive on December 24, 2002, to quit speaking to the media.
May 17 The New York Post repeats an NBC report that defense sources have a working theory that Laci Peterson was abducted and sacrificed in a satanic ritual by one of several cults in the Modesto area. Police divers resume searching the waters near Richmond.
May 18 For 8 hours, seven boats equipped with expert divers and high-tech sonar scour the murky, 59-degree water off Richmond. Meanwhile, sources continue to work on puncturing the case against Scott Peterson in the court of public opinion. Fox News reports that the recent searches of the San Francisco Bay are being conducted because prosecutors are “desperate” to find more evidence in support of a conviction. “Remember that mop that supposedly had Laci’s blood and vomit on it?” the source is quoted as saying. “Well, that turned up negative. And the blood in Scott’s truck? That turned out to be Scott’s blood, not Laci’s. And remember Scott had told the police he had cut his knuckle.” Sources close to the defense team are reported as saying the defense is trying to locate a number of people in a brown van seen by neighbors of Scott and Laci Peterson. According to the source, the men and women in the van had no home address listed in the police reports and they had no landscaping equipment in the van. Fox News also reports that a “mystery woman” was either in the van or claims she saw Laci Peterson being abducted by someone in that van, linked to satanic activity, but prosecution sources call the satanic theory “laughable and absurd.”
May 19 In a news conference, Amber Frey announces she is being represented by Gloria Allred. “In addition to being a witness, Amber is also a victim of Scott’s deception,” Allred says. “Victims are entitled to attorneys, as are witnesses. My role as Amber’s attorney is to advise her of her rights and to represent her as a witness in a criminal case. I anticipate attacks on her by the defense, and I will respond to those attacks.” Allred says there have been some untrue reports about her client, and promises to review all reports to protect her reputation. Allred does not specify which reports were not true. Amber Frey says, “I want to express my sympathy for Laci’s family. I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about what might be contained in my testimony prior to me being called to the witness stand. Until that time, I just want to lead a normal life and regain my privacy. I hope that everyone will understand and respect my wishes.” Allred says Amber Frey will give no interviews—paid or unpaid—prior to trial. Amber Frey says she said she is grateful to Allred for agreeing to represent her. “This has been a painful and stressful time for me, and I really appreciate her support.” Several dive teams and boats equipped with side-scan sonar search the chilly waters of San Francisco Bay for a fourth straight day for more evidence. Asked how long the search would continue, John Goold says, “It’s day-to-day.” Meanwhile, Jean Bonadio came forward to say she may have found some additional evidence in the case while walking along the shore of the Richmond park where Laci Peterson’s body was found. “I have made a total of five trips here and out of the five, two of the trips I have found potential evidence,” she says—the potential evidence being two pieces of tarp, one with duct tape on it, which she has turned over to the Vallejo Police. The case is discussed on Larry King Live, with guests Gloria Allred, Ted Rowlands, Nancy Grace, Chris Pixley, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, and defense attorney Nancy Luque.
May 20 Sharon Rocha struggles to keep her composure at her first interview since the bodies of her daughter and unborn grandson were found, nearly breaking down as she pushes for a federal law to make the killing of a fetus murder. “We feel that Conner was a person—there wasn’t one murder, there were two murders,” she says, choking up in an interview with Court TV outside the White House. Divers return to San Francisco Bay for a fifth straight day in their search for evidence, as Modesto Police Department officials and Stanislaus County prosecutors decline to comment on the expected duration of the search or what is being sought. The May 20, 2003, issue of the National Enquirer runs an article stating that investigators found a pair of needle-nosed pliers with strands of Laci Peterson’s hair under a seat in Scott Peterson’s boat. An anonymous source states, “Police believe Laci’s hair got caught in them while Scott was preparing her body for disposal in San Francisco Bay. He can’t account for half of a roll of chicken wire he owned. He may have used the wire to wrap around Laci’s body and cut or knot it with the pliers.” The same issue also reports that Scott Peterson spent thousands of dollars on survival gear, purchasing a large tent, a tent cover, a water purification system, a camp stove, a sleeping bag, a tent chair, a compass and a large supply of dried and canned food. According to the article, Scott Peterson was getting ready for an escape to Mexico, from where he would not be extradited if facing the death penalty.
May 21 For the sixth consecutive day, divers slip into the chilly waters off the Richmond coastline in search of additional evidence in the case. Authorities participating in the search remain tight-lipped about what specific evidence they are searching for or how much longer the search will continue. Investigators interview Rayoune Miranda, who is the son of Mary Ann Renfrow, the owner of a van that Scott Peterson’s defense team claims could have been involved in Laci Peterson’s disappearance. Investigators tell Miranda they had received a report that implicated him in the December 14, 2002, rape of a woman. “The woman told a rape counselor she’d been subjected to Satanic rituals in a brown van, that her attacker had the Satanic ‘666’ tattooed on his neck, and that she overheard him talking with other people about plans to kidnap a baby on December 24,” Miranda later tells the National Enquirer. According to Miranda, he pulls up his hair and shows officers that he does not have a “666” tattoo on his neck. Investigators take hair and saliva samples from Miranda; his mother; her husband, Donnie Renfrow; and her daughter, Sharri Moulton. Investigators take the family’s home-on-wheels for examination. Sharon Rocha and Kim Petersen attend a fund-raising dinner in Washington, D.C. “I talked to Sharon on the telephone and she’s very excited about being there,” Ron Grantski says. “She’s been meeting with different senators and representatives about the new law.” Grantski states he did not make the trip to Washington because he wanted to be home in Modesto in case there were significant developments in the murder investigation. He also thanks everyone involved in the public memorial service. “We really appreciated the memorial service and it really helped us all. We appreciate everything everyone has been doing for us. We want to thank the church and its choir. The choir was just fantastic.”
May 22 The New York Post repeats the People magazine story about Scott Peterson practicing yoga inside his 6-by-9-foot cell. The story states he also walks twice a week for 90 minutes in leg and wrist shackles on the rooftop of the Modesto County Jail. In the article, Jackie Peterson says she has spoken to her son about his affair with Amber Frey, and he has told her, “I’m ashamed.” Fox News reports that Scott Peterson’s defense team says they have found the mystery woman who can provide information about the “real killers” of Laci and Conner Peterson. Fox News sources say the defense team is working to transport the woman to a safe location because they fear retaliation against her if her identity is revealed. The defense team says they are only days—if not hours—from locating the people who they believe are responsible for the killing. “We would not go out on such a limb if we weren’t confident we could deliver,” a defense source states. “We believe in a matter of days, the real killer may be found and police investigators will have egg on their face.” Scott Peterson’s lawyers contend that the “real killers” are still out there. They say the murderers are linked to a satanic cult in Central Valley, and to a suspicious brown van that was spotted near Scott and Laci Peterson’s home on the day she disappeared. Sources say one of the people in the van, which was carrying men and women, had a “666” tattoo. In addition to the mystery woman, the defense team sources say they have hard evidence to back up her claims. They say that all the information together proves someone other than Scott committed the crime. The Modesto Bee runs a human-interest story about another Scott Peterson who decided to move from Modesto, partly because of the association with the accused killer. The other Scott Peterson is quoted as saying, “Penny [his wife] took a call from a psychic out of Canada. I said, ‘Gee, you’re not much of a psychic if you didn’t know this is the wrong number.'” Attorneys Adam Stewart and Al Clark are hired by the Rocha family to help them gain permission to visit Scott and Laci Peterson’s home to collect her wedding dress, jewelry and other mementos. There is an unconfirmed report that Mark Geragos spoke with the two lawyers and worked out an agreement to let the Rocha Family visit the home and remove some items.
May 23 The prosecution files documents relating to the wiretap of Scott Peterson’s phone. These files show, among other things, that Scott Peterson talked with Amber Frey four weeks after Laci Peterson was reported missing. The documents reveal that authorities intercepted 69 calls between Scott Peterson and Kirk McAllister’s office, and two calls between Scott Peterson and Gary Ermoian, the private investigator working for the defense. The prosecutors say they inadvertently monitored some of those conversations. CNN runs a story about a witness—presumably, Homer Maldonado—who has now been asked by the defense team not to speak to the media. According to the article, Modesto Police Department investigators had dismissed his report in the early days of the search because search dogs had identified Laci Peterson’s scent and that she had left her home in a vehicle. The man is reported as saying he saw a suspicious man and a van at a nearby gas station and that he overheard a conversation that drew his attention, but he does not reveal to CNN what he heard. According to the report, after leaving the gas station, he passed a pregnant woman walking a dog a few blocks from Scott and Laci Peterson’s home, pointing out the woman to his wife because he was afraid the leaping dog would knock this woman down. The Modesto Bee runs a story quoting several longtime sturgeon fishers who say that Scott Peterson’s alibi is, at best, questionable. Concerning taking a 14-foot boat out on the bay, Tim Sellars, manager of Fisherman’s Warehouse in Manteca, says, “I’ve been out there in a 30-foot boat and it’s spooky. That’s totally ridiculous.” ABC News reports on the satanic cult theory being floated by the defense team, noting that in the June 2, 2003, issue of People magazine, Mark Geragos suggests a link between Laci Peterson’s disappearance and that of Evelyn Hernandez, saying that both disappearance dates mark “holy days” on the “satanic calendar.” Fox News reports that a source linked neither to the prosecution nor the defense has seen the 25-page autopsy report on Laci Peterson. Based on this source, Fox News reports that her body, when found, was missing the head and neck, had both arms cut off at the elbows, had the right leg severed at the knee, was missing the left foot, was missing internal organs including the heart and lungs, and had a hole in the upper abdomen, above the belly button, that may be a knife wound. The article also reports that the womb is “intact,” suggesting that Conner was not cut out of his mother’s body but was expelled naturally after she was killed. According to this source, X-rays were not included in the autopsy report, which maintains that the limbs showed no sign of having been sawed off but were probably lost naturally after the still-intact body was dumped into San Francisco Bay. The article also cites a second unnamed source, who states it is much more likely that a knife was used to dismember the corpse: “It’s been cut at the joints, much as you would carve a turkey,” this source says, although contending that the condition of the body does not point to a ritual slaying, but instead indicates that it was cut up to aid in its disposal. Sources on both sides of the case confirm that Scott Peterson had “some sort of relationship” with two women other than Amber Frey, but do not refer to them as “girlfriends.” KTVU reports that the defense team is going to ask for a speedy trial and force a preliminary hearing within 10 days, where they will present “compelling evidence” that will show Scott Peterson’s innocence. KNBC and Fox News report that an unidentified woman is providing the defense team with crucial information that may lead to the “real killers” of Laci Peterson. The search team ceases operations in the afternoon, beginning a break for the holiday weekend.
May 24 The Modesto Bee runs a follow-up article about the deputy district attorney who had earlier told tabloid reporters that she believed whoever abducted Laci Peterson may have been looking for her. This woman, a former resident of the La Loma neighborhood, is now living in another county. Other than the pregnancy and presumed physical similarities, she coincidentally has a golden retriever named McKenzie. However, she makes it clear she was not one of the pregnant women that may have been seen the morning of December 24, 2002: She had her baby in October 2002, and states she is “99.9 percent” sure she was not walking that day. According to the article, the woman has spoken to Modesto Police Department investigators and to Kirk McAllister. John Goold is quoted as saying he cannot explain, without discussing other evidence, why authorities discounted the statements of those who believe they saw Laci Peterson that morning. The Modesto Bee also runs extensive articles revisiting the wiretap and dismemberment issues.
May 25 The Contra Costa Times runs an article covering the background of the upcoming hearing to determine if search warrant information relating to the arrest of Scott Peterson should be released to the public. According to the article, attorneys for the Times, San Jose Mercury News and the Modesto Bee will argue that there is a compelling public interest in the case that should dictate disclosure of the documents. Jackie Peterson informs Sharon Rocha that the locks and the alarm code on the home of Scott and Laci Peterson had been changed. Sharon Rocha requests a new alarm code and a key from Jackie Peterson, but does not receive a response, prompting her to go through her attorneys to request access.
May 26 CNN airs a report concerning court documents that show Scott Peterson spoke by phone to Amber Frey nearly a month after Laci Peterson disappeared. Fox News elaborates on the story, stating that a source close to Amber Frey has said that Scott Peterson sometimes called her five to six times a night after she went public with details of their affair in January 2003, and that he used at least three different cell phones to contact her. The most talked-about revelation concerning these calls is that Scott Peterson told Amber Frey that he did not kill Laci Peterson, but that he knew who did. According to the Fox News source, Scott Peterson kept offering gifts to Amber Frey, and at one point, even said he’d pay for a vacation she planned to take. The source further reports that Scott Peterson did manage to have expensive jewelry delivered to her—with the method and place of delivery being an interesting point in the case. Ron Frey tells KTVU that his daughter is having a hard time coping with all the unwanted publicity: “She doesn’t complain, you know, about being overwhelmed…but things have taken a toll on her.” NBC reports that Scott Peterson may have been involved with two other women in addition to Amber Frey. Members of the defense team move items, including what appear to be gifts, to the office of Kirk McAllister, where they are to be held for transfer to the Rocha family.
May 27 At 8:30 a.m., Scott Peterson—with shorter and darker hair and wearing a light gray suit—returns to court for a lengthy hearing at which Al Girolami orders a preliminary hearing to begin July 16, 2003. Sharon Rocha, several of Laci Peterson’s friends and Gloria Allred attend the hearing. Prosecutors confirm that they are planning to seek the death penalty in the case. Girolami says he is considering issuing a gag order because extensive questioning of potential jurors before trial “might not be good enough,” and asks the attorneys to prepare arguments in favor of or against the order in preparation for a June 6, 2003, hearing. “Every day we hear about something in the paper that we don’t hear in court,” he says. “I think we need a protective order.” Charity Kenyon argues on behalf of five California newspapers that keeping case documents sealed runs contrary to most legal procedures. She contends that other mechanisms, such as moving the trial or sequestering jurors, are available to ensure a fair trial. She cites other high-profile cases in which public documents were not sealed—the Polly Klaas kidnapping-murder, the Unabomber case and the 1970s Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst. “The so-called ‘trial of the century’ happens quite often in California,” she argues. Geragos points out that a California appellate court ruling in an earlier matter has already upheld another judge’s sealing of a series of search warrants, saying that the newspapers are “swimming upstream against the law of the case” by moving to unseal the documents. Girolami holds a 25-minute closed hearing in which prosecutors and defense attorneys argue their reasons for wanting to seal the autopsy reports, search warrant documents and an affidavit that lays out investigators’ cause for the arrest of Scott Peterson. Prosecution and defense attorneys contend that releasing the documents would taint potential jurors and jeopardize the right to a fair trial. Mark Geragos also says the information could potentially alert other suspects and compromise evidence. Girolami tentatively turns down the newspapers’ request, deciding that disclosure of the information could jeopardize Scott Peterson’s right to a fair trial. Girolami states he will make a final ruling on the matter at the July 16, 2003, hearing, but predicts he is “very likely” to order the documents sealed. Both the prosecution and the defense present their case concerning wiretap recordings. Prosecution attorneys contend there are really only two phone call taps that have enough information on them to warrant turning them over to the defense. “We’re probably talking about two minutes or less of total conversations,” Rick Distaso tells the court. Prosecutors contend they followed the law during the wiretaps and have not listened to the recordings. Geragos asks that the prosecution turn over the records of all intercepted phone calls between Scott Peterson and his attorneys. Girolami decides in favor of the defense. Scott Peterson waives his right to a speedy trial. Geragos says his client is eager to have the preliminary hearing as soon as possible, but agreed to the July date at Geragos’ request. The Modesto Bee will later report that Scott Peterson seems “intent on the legal arguments” during much of the hearing, but does turn to acknowledge his parents near the close of the nearly 2-hour proceeding. According to that report, Scott Peterson’s demeanor seems to turn “impassive” as he glances beyond his parents to the rest of the courtroom. After the hearing, John Goold states that the prosecution is “happy to have this case go to a preliminary hearing” and that he expects to turn over the taped recordings to the defense team in the afternoon. Speaking concerning the defense team’s claims of having information to exonerate Scott Peterson, Goold says, “If anybody provides us with that, we will absolutely review that information to see if the wrong person is charged.” Allred meets with prosecutors for about 45 minutes after the hearing so that she can define Amber Frey’s role as a witness. Allred states her client has “important testimony” and will, most likely, be called to testify at the preliminary hearing. According to a later article in the New York Daily News, Allred urges any other girlfriends to step forward. Concerning Amber Frey, Goold says only, “She’s a witness. We’ll let her testimony speak for itself in court.” Allred reemphasizes that her role is to protect Amber Frey’s rights: “There could be challenges to Amber’s reputation and credibility. She values her reputation and wants to preserve it.” Allred characterizes Geragos as “cordial” during the day’s proceedings, but cautions, “He knows what he has to do for his client, and I know what I have to do for mine.” Lee Peterson repairs a gate latch at Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. Questioned by reporters, he vigorously defends his son but refers all questions to Geragos. Geragos says the defense team has received several helpful tips from the public that the police also exploring, but concedes that some tips are worthless: “The big cases tend to bring out the big nuts, but a lot of information we have received has been very good.” Sharon Rocha, who had been watering the lawn and back yard potted plants at the Scott and Laci Peterson home for several weeks arrives there to pick up the potted plants according to a previous arrangement with the Peterson family. She finds them on the front lawn, some of them dead. She also finds a new padlock on the back yard gate. Lee and Jackie Peterson visit Scott Peterson in the Stanislaus County Jail. Sharon Rocha and Ron Grantski appear on On the Record With Greta Van Susteren. Sharon Rocha states that she would like to visit her daughter’s home: “I’d just like to go into Laci’s house and sit down and feel her presence.” Ron Grantski explains that the defense team has barred the Rocha family from entering the house: “We’ve asked four times. They’ve changed the locks and the alarm number and everything else. The last we heard is that they don’t think it’s the right time. I don’t think it’s their decision to make.” When asked what surprised her most so far in the murder prosecution of Scott Peterson, Sharon Rocha answers quickly, “I think how little rights the victims actually have.”
May 28 Rita Cosby, appearing on Mornings on 2, says a source has confirmed the rumor that Scott Peterson gave some of Laci Peterson’s jewelry to Amber Frey as part of his courtship of her. “I know a lot of the phone calls were him trying to frantically find her,” says Cosby, quoting her sources. “There were a couple times he called her 5-6 times a night. He basically called her every night for a month after she came forward. He was also still trying to romance her, which is very surprising. After all this, he was saying he loved her and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. And even wanted to go on a vacation with her. She said, ‘Look, I want to go on a vacation by myself or with my friends.’ He was trying to offer to pay for that vacation and also to buy her gifts, which is pretty astounding given the circumstances.” The New York Daily News prints even more scathing reports in an article that starts, “With as many as three girlfriends, multiple cell phones to stay in touch and a checking account hidden from his wife, Scott Peterson had a busy secret life….” Among the articles accusations: He made a “significant purchase” of items that could have been used to anchor a body. Carol Shipley reports that persons pretending to be members of Laci Peterson’s family ran up hotel bills and paid with stolen credit cards—one part of an identity theft ring that operated around Northern California and claimed at least 12 victims. Shipley states that investigators believe that no family members had their credit cards taken, but that the suspects simply were “name dropping” to elicit sympathy. “They probably believed that in dropping those names, they would get less scrutiny,” Marc Burrell says. Shipley states that the operation was broad and the investigation is continuing. Vera Alizaga is driving on Interstate 5 south of Crows Landing with her husband, Jack, when she spots what she interprets as an “out of place” dented, light brown Chevrolet van. Inside are two men wearing what the Alizagas believe to be stained T-shirts. The men do not notice the Alizagas but look straight ahead. The van is filled with trash, such as wrappers and used food containers. Vera Alizaga provides a tip to authorities about the van. Investigators take a van—presumably the one taken from Mary Ann Renfrow a week before—to the California Department of Justice crime lab in Ripon. KTVU reports on a prepared statement issued by the attorneys for the Rocha family, who have been trying unsuccessfully to collect on a specific list of 22 (later pared down to 16, according to Jackie Peterson) of Laci Peterson’s belongings, including her journals, diploma, a baby crib, a food processor and a watering can that said “Laci’s Garden”: “They need to have the freedom and opportunity to sit in her chair that she used to sit in, to walk on the floor she used to walk on, to sit in Conner’s room in the rocking chair Laci had purchased to rock him in, and just to have the opportunity to feel her presence.” According to the statement, Mark Geragos wrote a letter in response to the request for access in which he said it would be “unthinkable to allow anything to be moved or disposed of” until his team had completed its investigation. Sharon Rocha refuses to comment further on the statement: “The statement that you have is the absolute truth. I’m not going to comment beyond that.” Jackie Peterson confirms that members of the Peterson family had been in the house but says that nothing has been disturbed: “We keep it clean. It was sitting there for four months getting overrun, and people were taking things from the grounds.” She cited several missing items: two glass hurricane lanterns, loose bricks from a pile near the patio, and a patio chess and checkers board that had marble frog figurines for the playing pieces. She says that speaking through attorneys was not her idea. “Since they initiated going through a lawyer, we were advised to go through a lawyer. We hadn’t done that before. We had always talked.” KTVU states that there was an unconfirmed report that Mark Geragos had spoken with the Rocha family’s attorneys and had worked out an agreement to let the Rocha family visit Scott and Laci Peterson’s home and remove some items. “It’s an awful situation, and we’re going to work our way through it with as much dignity as we can,” Geragos states. “There are two families here who have lost a grandson,” he adds, neglecting to mention Laci Peterson. He states he has been working with the Stanislaus County Office of the District Attorney and Modesto Police Department investigators to log evidence and anticipates reaching an “amicable solution” about the personal items within 10 days. Geragos also states that he and prosecutors had agreed to release the remains of Laci and Conner Peterson to the Rocha family according to an “accelerated process”—one that will turn out to take months.
May 29 At about 10:00 a.m., Dan Abrams of MSNBC reports that the news network has obtained a “a portion of the coroner’s report on the autopsy on the fetus.” Among the inflammatory information in the report: Conner Peterson’s body was found with 1 1/2 loops of plastic tape around the neck and with a significant cut on the torso that had been inflicted after death. In response to the news, prosecutors reverse their position on releasing the full 25-page autopsy report, with Dave Harris filing documents calling for its information to be made public. The legal papers cite details leaked to the media that have “clearly been skewed in favor of the defense,” referring to the MSNBC report. The Office of the District Attorney now argues that they “cannot verify the accuracy of any media statements concerning the contents of the autopsy reports without violating the court’s order,” but that releasing the autopsy reports will “allow the media to see what the actual facts are, and then accurate information may be reported to mitigate recent adverse publicity.” Harris writes, “The people believe that releasing the autopsy reports will protect its client, namely the people of the state of California.” Throughout the day, authorities deny that the leak originated in their offices. Prosecutors declare that they did not release a copy, even to the Modesto Police Department or the Rocha family, and that they have “stringent controls” in place to keep such documents secret. Roy Wasden says he is trying to track down the source to make sure it is not from within his department: “If I knew, I would go after them. I’m doing everything I can to find out if it’s anything within the realm of my control.” Jimmy Lee confirms that the Contra Costa County coroner’s office is innocent. “We did not release that document,” he states. Warren Rupf issues a statement declaring that leaking the document was “clearly irresponsible, if not illegal,” saying that such out-of-context teasers are “unfair to the prosecution, defense and certainly to the family of Laci Peterson.” Jim Brazelton minces no words when he is asked where he suspects the leak came from: “The defense. That’s the only thing I can figure. They don’t seem to want to play by the same rules we do.” Brazelton’s accusation brings a heated reply from Mark Geragos: “What rules are they playing by? They leak, leak, leak for four months. I can categorically point to five separate leaks on material that appeared in the tabloids that I did not even have because we were waiting for discovery.” A spokesperson for the Rocha family states they are”devastated” at hearing autopsy reports without warning on television, an act they will later describe as “incredibly insensitive.” According to Jackie Peterson, she and Scott Peterson discuss which items in his home will be given to the Rocha family. Geragos tells Adam Stewart concerning the Rocha family’s requests for certain personal items: “‘If you want war, you’ll get war.” Geragos speaks in what Al Clark will later describe as a “very loud, very boisterous manner” to say that he is not going to allow the Rochas to go inside Scott and Laci Peterson’s home. Clark relays the disappointing news to Sharon Rocha, who has just been struck by news of Conner Peterson’s autopsy. She tells Clark, “I’ve got to do something,” concerning retrieving her daughter’s things. Clark tells her that, as her lawyer, he has to advise her not to go into the house, but that he understands if, as a parent, she has to act by her heart. An article by Cindy Adams in the New York Post alleges that Amber Frey is considering an offer of $500,000 from Playboy to pose nude.
May 30 The Modesto Bee runs a story about the latest information leak concerning the autopsy on Conner Peterson and the prosecution’s response. The article quotes Gregory Schmunk, who declares that the “cat’s out of the bag” concerning the report and offers his opinion on the findings. In the article, he is quoted as saying that the details of the autopsy report do not indicate that the tape found around the baby’s neck was a ligature because of the 2-centimeter space between the tape and the neck. Schmunk suggests a theory that the tape could have previously held shut a plastic bag either around the head or the body, saying that “bodies in bags are frequently taped.” Regarding the cut in Conner Peterson’s torso after death, Schmunk states it could have easily been inflicted by a boat propeller: “That’s the kind of thing we see on bodies in water, especially when they float to the surface.” A different theory is proposed by Henry Lee in the New York Post. “This opens up a lot of interesting questions,” he says, saying more information is needed, but that the tape is consistent with a strangulation. In the same article Michael Baden says he doubts Conner Peterson was born alive, but also says, “We just have to wait and see.” Matt Dalton drops off at Kirk McAllister’s office some of the items Sharon Rocha had requested from the home of Scott and Laci Peterson: a Tiffany lamp Laci Peterson inherited from her late grandmother and three unopened Christmas presents. Just after 9:00 a.m., Brent Rocha and Ron Grantski—against the advice of the family’s attorney but assisted by friends—arrive in four pickups, two sport utility vehicles and a minivan at the home of Scott and Laci Peterson and begin removing items from it. An alarm sounds, alerting a security company, who in turn, calls Jackie Peterson. Acting on the alarm, officers from the Modesto Police Department arrive at the scene at about 10:00 a.m., but make no arrests, saying the incident is a civil matter and not a crime. Capt. Greg Savelli states that officers only documented what was taken. “We’re treating this as a civil dispute over property,” he says. “It was clear to the Police Department that this was not a burglary.” He suggests the matter “was best handled between the families and their attorneys.” When asked by reporters for a comment, Brent Rocha simply says, “Thanks, guys,” and drives off. During the loading, Dalton shows up, speaking loudly on his cellular phone as reporters gather around him. He asks reporters if the police have been called, makes harsh accusations, and complains about the Rocha family’s entry into the home: “I don’t know what they’ve removed from the house. We don’t know what they planted in the house. We had an agreement to look at the house on June 3. But we have no idea what they’ve done…they’ve tainted the entire…it’s outrageous.” He speeds away, telling reporters he is going to file a burglary report. Two private investigators hired by the defense team arrive at the home to make sure it is secure and to videotape the scene. Jackie Peterson says the Rocha family had “absolutely no permission” to be in the home. “I have a lot of empathy for Sharon, but she does not have a right to go in our house and take what she wants.” She claims the the Peterson family bought almost everything in the baby’s room, including the crib, the rocking chair, clothes and toys, and that her son had wanted to keep the baby’s things. She adds that Sharon Rocha was welcome to take back the crib bedding that she had purchased. Kirk McAllister points out that some items had already been removed at the request of the Rocha family and were in his office awaiting pickup: “I still have things for the Rochas sitting in my front conference room. I don’t know why they need to break in.” Clark refutes the notion that the Rocha family had no right to be in the house but says he is sorry about the method: “I apologize for it coming down to this…it’s depressing that it’s come down to this.” He says that, for Sharon Rocha, the leak about her grandson’s autopsy was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Jackie Peterson, too, expresses dismay over the event: “Yesterday we see a coroner’s report about a baby, and today we’re talking about salt and pepper shakers.” She countered with her own request, asking the Rocha family to turn over Laci Peterson’s wedding ring, another diamond ring that Scott Peterson bought her, and a few diamonds given to her by her grandmother, all of which had been taken to a jeweler for crafting into one ring and picked up by the Rocha family: “We want those.” Al Girolami issues a four-page ruling that releasing the autopsy information could hamper a continuing investigation into the murder case and prejudice public opinion before a trial begins, reaffirming an earlier ruling to keep the reports sealed. “Despite the fact that the complaint has been issued and a suspect has been arrested, the investigation and search for both incriminating and exonerating evidence in this matter continues,” Girolami writes. He also orders that arrest and search warrants remain sealed and that leaks of sealed information stop: “All of these documents now in the possession of the prosecution and defense shall not be released, conveyed or disclosed to anyone out of their respective trial teams without further order of the court.”
May 31 Mark Geragos speaks to the media concerning the Rocha family’s removal of items from the home of Scott and Laci Peterson, downplaying Matt Dalton’s previous screams for arrests. “I am not seeking their arrest,” Geragos says. “We’re going to try and resolve this through appropriate channels and not fight it out in the media.” Reporters’ calls to Adam Stewart and the Stanislaus County Office of the District Attorney are not immediately returned.