Police: Laci Peterson is victim of violence
MODESTO, California (CNN) -- Police investigating the disappearance of Laci Peterson now consider her to be a victim of a violent crime, authorities announced Wednesday.
Peterson was nearly eight months pregnant when she was last seen Christmas Eve.
"This investigation began as a missing person case and we were all hopeful that Laci would return safely. However, we have come to consider that this is now a homicide case," said Modesto Police Detective Doug Ridenour at a news conference.
He said while the case is frustrating, investigators remain confident it will be resolved.
Laci Peterson's family attended the news conference, but neither her husband, Scott Peterson, nor his family were present.
The missing woman's family issued a statement saying that the time since she disappeared has been a "never-ending nightmare" for them.
The change in case status has prompted a change in rewards being offered.
The Carole Sund Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation is offering $500,000 for Peterson's safe return. Wednesday it announced a $50,000 reward for any information leading to Peterson, safe or otherwise.
"While this is a difficult day for the family and for the police department and for all of us, it is a necessary step because we do need to find Laci and we are hoping that this $50,000 will encourage the person or persons who have information to come forward and tell what they know, so that Laci can be found," said foundation director and Laci Peterson's family spokeswoman Kim Petersen.
She also said the family was asking for time alone to deal with the new turn in the case.
Peterson, was due to give birth to a baby boy named Connor on February 10. The passing of her due date helped prompt authorities to change the investigation to a homicide case, said Ridenour.
Laci's husband, Scott, told police he last saw his wife the morning of Christmas Eve when he left to go on a fishing trip alone about 85 miles away. When he returned home later that day, his 27-year-old wife was gone.
Police have verified that a receipt Scott Peterson produced came from a parking lot at the marina where he said he was fishing
Peterson, who later admitted to having an affair, has been a focus of the investigation. Police repeated Wednesday that although Peterson is "not a suspect," he can't be eliminated from the investigation.
Police conducted a two-day search of his home last month. It was their second search of the premises.