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Peterson prosecutor: Can't name crime scene yet

Scott Peterson arrives for his arraignment hearing Monday.
Scott Peterson arrives for his arraignment hearing Monday.

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Prosecutors are awaiting all the evidence before deciding on whether to pursue the death penalty against Scott Peterson. CNN's David Mattingly reports (April 23)
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MODESTO, California (CNN) -- The prosecutor in the Laci Peterson case cautioned Tuesday that although he believes she was killed at her Modesto, California, home, all the evidence is not yet in.

Scott Peterson, Laci's husband, pleaded not guilty Monday at his arraignment on two counts of murder in the deaths of his pregnant wife and their unborn son. The charges carry special circumstances -- under California law, the killing of a pregnant woman that kills her unborn child can be considered a double homicide, making the case eligible for the death penalty.

In the criminal complaint released a few hours before the arraignment, Modesto police listed the Peterson's home as the crime scene. The crime's time was placed at "on or about and between December 23, 2002, and December 24, 2002."

But Stanislaus County District Attorney Jim Brazelton said that information "may or may not be accurate" and has "nothing to do with the complaint [his office] filed in [the] case."

"As I said, we haven't gotten all the evidence, all of the reports yet," Brazelton said, adding that, "the most likely scenario is that [the crime] did occur at the residence."

Sources close to the investigation told CNN that they believe the murders happened at the Petersons' home at 523 Covina Ave. in Modesto and they believe there is sufficient evidence to prove it.

D.A. to oppose change of venue

After the arraignment, Brazelton said his office has not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty, but said he would oppose a change of venue in the trial despite a much-publicized four-month search for the mother-to-be.

"I will do my utmost to ensure that both Scott Peterson and the citizens of this community receive a fair trial and that justice is done," the district attorney said.

Peterson, 30, was charged Monday with killing his wife and their unborn son "with malice aforethought." Their unborn son, whom they were to name Connor, was due to be delivered February 10. Peterson said he last saw Laci, 27, on December 24.

Regarding the killing of the unborn child, the criminal complaint states -- under the heading Termination of Pregnancy -- "During the commission of the murder of Laci Denise Peterson, the defendant with knowledge that [she] was pregnant did inflict injury on [her] resulting in the termination of her pregnancy."

The complaint also said both killings were premeditated.

During a brief arraignment Monday, Judge Nancy Ashley appointed Tim Bazar to be the attorney for Peterson, who said he wasn't in a position to hire a lawyer. Kirk McAllister, who had previously represented Peterson, refused to answer reporters who wanted to know if the suspect could no longer afford his services.

"That's between him and me," McAllister said, adding that he has told the public defender he will assist the case in any way he can.

Peterson did not look around the courtroom during the arraignment and addressed only the judge.

Peterson's next court appearance will be May 6 at a bail hearing; pretrial proceedings begin May 19.

A source close to the investigation said detectives repeatedly returned to San Francisco Bay to conduct searches for the missing mother-to-be after they found specific tidal charts of the bay on Scott Peterson's computer.

The source also said investigators found traces of concrete in the bottom of Peterson's 14-foot aluminum boat, which they believe might have come from some kind of concrete anchors.

Police defended their arrest of Peterson in the case after accusations by his parents that authorities are rushing to judge him. (Full story)

"You have a district attorney calling this a slam-dunk before there's even an arraignment," Scott's mother, Jackie Peterson, said in a Time magazine interview. (Read the interview)

Families present for brief hearing

A memorial to Laci Peterson covers the front lawn of the house where police say she was killed.
A memorial to Laci Peterson covers the front lawn of the house where police say she was killed.

Outside the courthouse, hordes of reporters and television crews parted to make way for Peterson's mother as she made her way into the building.

Inside the courtroom, Sharon Rocha, Laci's mother, was sitting by herself when Jackie Peterson walked over to her, hugged her, and said, "I'm sorry."

Peterson's father, Lee, and his sister, Susan Caudillo, also were there.

Dennis Rocha, Laci's father, and Ron Grantski, her stepfather, also attended the brief court proceeding, along with Amy and Brad Rocha, Laci's half-siblings.

When Scott Peterson entered the courtroom, Sharon Rocha broke down in tears.

She later described her anguish during a news conference with other members of Laci's family.

"Laci and her unborn child did not deserve to die. They certainly did not deserve to be dumped in the bay and be sent to a watery grave as though their lives were meaningless," she said. "Laci meant the world to me; she was my only daughter, she was my best friend." (Quotes)

Scott Peterson in maximum security

Peterson, housed in the Stanislaus County Jail in Modesto, is classified as a "maximum security" prisoner based on the charges against him, said Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department spokesman Kelly Huston. Peterson is separated from other inmates because they have threatened him, Huston added.

"There are folks who have an unfavorable opinion of him, and therefore we want to protect him from having contact with those people," he said.

On Friday, state authorities said DNA tests proved that two bodies that had washed ashore on San Francisco Bay were the missing Modesto woman and her unborn child.

There will be additional searches for evidence in the case, Huston said, but he could not say where those searches would be conducted.

Remains of the boy were found April 13 along a trail at Point Isabel Regional Park. The next day, about one-and-a-quarter miles away, Laci Peterson's body was found washed up on rocks.

Moving quickly -- and before DNA results confirmed the identities -- police arrested Peterson early Friday in San Diego, California, where his parents live.

CNN Correspondent Rusty Dornin contributed to this report.

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