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Detective: Peterson visited marina three times

Defense attorney Mark Geragos cross-examines a witness during Thursday's hearing.
Defense attorney Mark Geragos cross-examines a witness during Thursday's hearing.

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Scott Peterson
Laci Peterson
Crime, Law and Justice

MODESTO, California (CNN) -- Scott Peterson drove three times to the Berkeley Marina, near where the body of his wife and her unborn son would be found, and simply stared out at the water, a Modesto police detective testified Thursday.

Under cross-examination, defense attorney Mark Geragos established that Peterson drove to the marina on the days that the Modesto Bee reported that divers would search the bay for Laci Peterson's body.

Thursday's hearing brought two neighbors, who poked holes in the story Peterson told police, and detective Al Brocchini, who detailed Peterson's activities after he reported his wife missing.

After court concluded for the day, the attorney representing Amber Frey, who was dating Scott Peterson in the weeks before his wife's death, told reporters that the district attorney decided not to call Frey to testify in the preliminary hearing.

Attorney Gloria Allred said Frey was prepared to testify at a later time.

"It would not surprise me if she testified at the trial," Allred said. "They obviously have made a determination that they will have enough evidence in order for the judge to decide that this case should be bound over for trial without Ms. Frey's testimony."

Testifying in Stanislaus County Superior Court, Brocchini said police followed Peterson 80 miles from his house to the marina last January 5, 6 and 9.

Police had searched Berkeley Marina on January 4 with dogs trained to find cadavers but turned up no additional clues. Peterson had told police he last saw his wife on Christmas Eve morning, when he left the house to go on a solo fishing trip to the San Francisco Bay area.

The first two times, Peterson got out of his car and stared at the water for about two minutes, then got back into his car and drove off, Brocchini said. During Peterson's second trip to the marina, he apparently realized he was being observed and took evasive driving action to shake the follower, Brocchini said.

On January 9, police put Peterson under round-the-clock surveillance, Brocchini said.

On that day, Peterson drove to the marina a third time but used a rented truck. He circled the parking lot and then drove to Bakersfield, California, more than 200 miles away, where he checked into a motel, the detective said.

But defense attorney Geragos countered that Peterson drove in rented vehicles because his own pickup truck was still being held by police. In an apparent attempt to establish that the evidence may have been mishandled, Geragos then got into a heated exchange with Brocchini about the hair contained in an evidence envelope.

Peterson listens during the hearing.
Peterson listens during the hearing.

The description of Peterson's activities was raised in the ongoing preliminary hearing for the accused husband, who is charged with murder in the two deaths. If convicted, Peterson could be subject to the death penalty.

Earlier Thursday, Brocchini acknowledged that he did not question three people who said they saw Laci Peterson on December 24, after her husband drove to the marina for a fishing trip.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Kirk McAllister, Brocchini said he never followed up on reports by Bill and Vivian Mitchell or Homer Maldonado, neighbors of the Petersons, who said they saw Laci walking her dog that morning, after her husband had left to go fishing.

Brocchini also said he posed as a tipster, calling the Petersons' tip line to see whether they would pass along to police the tip he left. The family did indeed pass it along, he said.

"So you spent more time posing as a tipster to the Laci hotline than checking out the Mitchells, is that right?" McAllister asked.

Brocchini said his call to the hotline took "about a minute."

Neighbors describe Christmas Eve events

Later in the hearing Karen Servas, the Petersons' neighbor, offered a timeline of events that differs from the sequence Scott Peterson outlined to police.

Servas told the court that she came across the couple's dog, a golden retriever, standing in the street as she was backing her car from her driveway at 10:18 a.m. on the day before Christmas, the last day Laci Peterson was reported seen alive.

Servas testified that she got out of the car and escorted the dog, whose leash was covered with dirt, grass and leaves, to the Petersons' fenced-in backyard, and then drove off to do errands.

Servas said she returned to her house around noon and left again at 5:05 p.m. At that time, she said, she noticed that Laci Peterson's car was in the couple's driveway, but Scott's Ford pickup was not.

Scott Peterson told police he returned to his house between 4:30 and 4:45 p.m. after a day of fishing, and found his wife missing.

On cross examination, Servas said she noticed nothing wrong when she took the Petersons' dog to their backyard. She also acknowledged that she told police that, as far as she knew, the couple had a good relationship and appeared excited about the impending birth of their first child.

Also Thursday, Modesto Police Det. Philip Owen testified that when Laci's body washed up from the San Francisco Bay, she was clad in tan pants that closed with a drawstring.

Laci's half-sister, Amy Rocha, has said that Laci Peterson was wearing tan maternity pants the night of December 23 when she and her husband came in to the hair salon where she worked.

Scott Peterson told police his wife was wearing black pants when he saw her the morning of December 24, before he left to go fishing in the San Francisco Bay.

Amy Krigbaum, who lives across the street from the Peterson household, testified that she was making dinner for her family Christmas Eve when Scott showed up at her door and asked if she had seen Laci Peterson.

"He said he was golfing all day, and he had been trying to call her all day," Krigbaum recalled.

Scott Peterson told police that he had been fishing all day. Asked under cross-examination whether she could have confused what he said, Krigbaum said no.

"I specifically remember him saying it," she told the court.

CNN correspondent Rusty Dornin and producers Chuck Afflerbach and Bonnie Gannon contributed to this story.

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