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Peterson team disputes prosecutors' timeline

Suggests Laci was using computer

By Lisa Sweetingham
Court TV

Scott Peterson in court with attorney Mark Geragos, left.

REDWOOD CITY, California -- A computer forensics expert who studied Scott Peterson's Web-surfing habits in the weeks surrounding his wife's disappearance told jurors it was possible that Laci, not Scott, was using the couple's laptop computer the morning of December 24, 2002.

Detective Lydell Wall, who examined the hard drives from four computers in Peterson's home and warehouse office, said that "computer trails" -- e-mails and Web-surfing habits -- may have helped pinpoint who was using the couple's laptop from 8:40 a.m. until 8:45 a.m. the morning Laci disappeared. The couple appeared to share an e-mail account, Wall said.

"But no one ever asked you to determine who was logged on that morning?" defense attorney Mark Geragos asked during cross-examination.

"No," Wall said.

The defense's implication that Laci may have been online could cast doubt on the prosecution's timeline.

Laci, who was eight months pregnant at the time, was last seen by her mother on the evening of December 23, 2002, and Peterson claims that, when he left the couple's home at 9:30 or 9:45 a.m. the next morning to go fishing, she was mopping the kitchen floor.

A previous expert witness testified that Peterson made a cellphone call at 10:08 a.m. to check his voice mail. Wall testified that Peterson's work computer also was accessed from 10:30 until 10:56 a.m. that morning.

If Laci were alive at 8:45 a.m., as the defense suggested during cross-examination of Wall, then there was too narrow a time frame for Peterson to have killed her, secreted her body onto his boat, dumped her in the San Francisco Bay and then surfed the Web from his office at 10:30 a.m.

At exactly 8:40 a.m. on December 24, Wall said, someone used the couple's home laptop to look at a five-day weather forecast for San Jose and a Yahoo shopping site featuring a garden weather vane. At 8:44 a.m., a Gap fleece scarf, priced at $6.99, was viewed, as well as a sunflower motif umbrella stand for $29.99.

At 8:45 a.m. Peterson's e-mail account was accessed and an e-mail (regarding a Ping Staff golf bag he had auctioned on eBay) was viewed, but no e-mails were sent.

Almost two hours later, from 10:30 to 10:56 a.m., someone accessed Peterson's computer at his office. The Web sites viewed, including a page that gave instructions on how to assemble a mortiser and a Yahoo! search of the words "Delta machinery help" appear to indicate these were Scott's keystrokes.

Wall previously testified August 4 about Web searches Peterson made December 7 and 8, among them, classified ads for a fishing boat, maps and fishing reports on San Francisco Bay and charts of water currents.

Peterson apparently zoomed in on a mapped section of the bay that included Brooks Island, near which he later told police he was fishing when his 27-year-old wife vanished.

A state expert in hydrology is expected to testify that Laci Peterson and her unborn son's remains floated ashore April 2003 from a position that indicated her body may have been dumped near the island.

Wall's testimony was interrupted because of evidence problems and the testimony of Peterson's former mistress, Amber Frey. Jurors, for the most part, appeared restless and bored during the computer talk that dominated Wall's Monday morning testimony.

Wall also said he was asked by investigators to do a keyword search to look for three specific words in Peterson's computers.

"And you didn't find anything of significance on those keywords, divorce, silencer and shooter. Did you?" Geragos asked.

"No, I did not," Wall said.

Steven Jacobson, an investigator for the Stanislaus County district attorney's office who supervised wiretaps of Peterson's phone calls, is expected to return to the stand Monday afternoon.

The double-murder trial is in its 13th week of testimony. Peterson, 31, could face the death penalty if convicted of killing his wife and unborn son.

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