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Laci Peterson case: Father-in-law rips fishing story

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Editor's Note: As part of CNN.com's new Crime section, we are archiving some of the most interesting content from CourtTVNews.com. This story was first published in 2004.

(Court TV) -- Laci Peterson's stepfather testified Tuesday that within a day or two of her disappearance, he had concluded his son-in-law's alibi was bogus and suspected he might be carrying on an affair with another woman.

"I said, 'I think your Berkeley fishing trip is a fishy story,'" Ron Grantski recalled telling Scott Peterson, who claimed he was trawling for striper and sturgeon in San Francisco Bay when his wife went missing 90 miles away.

Grantski, an avid fisherman, said he told Peterson the account seemed unbelievable and asked if perhaps he was trying to cover for a liaison with a "girlfriend."

"He said, 'No,' and turned around and walked away," Grantski said.

With the testimony of Grantski and Laci Peterson's brother, Brent Rocha, prosecutors continued building a circumstantial case against Peterson for the murder of his wife and unborn son.

Prosecutors have no murder weapon, eye witnesses or even a cause of the pregnant woman's death, and have focused their case so far on suspicious behavior by the defendant as observed by his wife's family.

Like Laci Peterson's sister and mother, Rocha and Grantski provided a laundry list of strange incidents seemingly uncharacteristic of a loving, concerned husband.

Brent Rocha told jurors that when the rest of the family assembled on stage at a Dec. 31 community vigil for Laci Peterson, her husband was nowhere to be found.

As the event got underway, Rocha said, Peterson phoned him from the audience.

"He says, 'Well, if people are looking for me, I'm going to watch the vigil from down here with my friends,'" Rocha said.

He also testified that Peterson refused to give media interviews, even in the frantic early days when the family believed getting the word out might bring his wife safely home.

Both Grantski and Rocha said Peterson repeatedly demurred, saying, "This isn't about me, this is about finding Laci."

Rocha said his brother-in-law didn't seem too upset to speak, as his distraught mother did. He also said Peterson wasn't known to be shy in front of cameras.

At Rocha's own wedding, he said, "He kind of took the microphone for like 10 minutes and gave a long speech ... and had no problem doing that."

Rocha also related two previously unknown conversations with his brother-in-law in the month after his wife vanished. Both, Rocha said, were prompted by tabloid articles about evidence in the case.

One claimed Peterson had a mistress. Rocha said he finally got Peterson to admit the article was true, but when he asked if the mistress, massage therapist Amber Frey, might have had something to do with Laci Peterson's disappearance, Peterson said it was impossible because she hadn't even known that he was married until after his wife went missing.

The second story concerned a cement anchor police found in Peterson's warehouse. Rocha said Peterson explained that he "used to make cement anchors." When Rocha pointed out that investigators found only one anchor, "He said, 'Well, I used the rest as cement for my driveway.'"

Much of Grantski's testimony came in light of his own enthusiasm for angling.

Prosecutors argue that Peterson's claim that he went fishing on Christmas Eve is suspicious because, they say, his main hobby was golfing. But Peterson's defense insists he has been a lifelong fishing fanatic and the trip was not unusual.

Grantski, who said he owns "eight to 10" poles and carries a rod in his car at all times, testifies he repeatedly invited Peterson on fishing trips and, with one exception, Peterson always turned him down.

That time, about a year before his wife went missing, Peterson brought his own rod, Grantski said. At the end of the day, Grantski said, Peterson left the rod at his home and never returned to pick it up. It is still in the garage of Grantski's home, he said.

Peterson purchased a 14-foot aluminum boat in mid-December, but Grantski said that when they met for dinner on Dec. 15, Peterson never raised the issue of the boat despite much discussion about fishing and boats in particular.

"In fact, I had mentioned to him that I wish I had a boat," Grantski said.

He further testified that he found it strange Peterson set out from home for day of fishing at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 24, and told his son-in-law so.

"I said, "9:30? That's what time I get home from fishing, not when I go,'" Grantski recalled. He said Peterson appeared to take umbrage at the comment.

On cross-examination, he conceded he faulted Peterson for an act he too had committed: On Christmas Eve, he put a rod in the water at 12:30 p.m.

"Almost exactly the time Scott Peterson went fishing?" Geragos asked.

"That's correct," he said.

Grantski also testified that three weeks after he first confronted Peterson about the possibility that he was having an affair, police gave the family concrete proof that he was seeing Frey.

"That was the final straw, let's put it that way," Grantski said.

He said the following day he called Peterson and told him that he should tell them whatever he knew about his wife's disappearance.

"Your world is crumbling," Grantski remembered telling Peterson.

He acknowledged on cross-examination by defense lawyer Mark Geragos that Peterson still insisted on his innocence, replying, "My world is done without Laci and our child."

Many jurors appeared tickled by Grantski, a construction superintendent, and his unabashed love for fishing.

When he recalled the one fishing trip he and Peterson took together, he noted that they had not caught anything.

"That's why they call it fishing," Grantski said.

He smiled at Senior Deputy District Attorney Rick Distaso, who quickly pounced on the joke.

"And not catching," the prosecutors said.

The courtroom erupted in laughter. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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