CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Brenda van Dam
Aired January 3, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENDA VAN DAM, MOTHER OF DANIELLE VAN DAM: I ask you why did you not let her go? Why didn't you drop her off in a safe place? If you had done so she would be with family now and you would not be facing death. What where you thinking as you killed her? Did she not touch your heart one bit? If not, you are heartless. You are an empty shell. You are nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY GRACE, GUEST HOST: Tonight David Westerfield sentenced to death for the kidnap and murder of a beautiful 7-year-old little girl, Danielle van Dam. As the dust settles in a California court room, we go live to Danielle's mother, Brenda van Dam.
And then, Laci Peterson, 27-years-old and eight months pregnant. Went missing from her Modesto, California home Christmas Eve. We go live to Laci's family. Her mother, Sharon Rocha, Laci's sister, Amy, her brother, Brent Rocha, and Laci's in-laws, Jackie and Lee Peterson.
Now, their son Scott says he was on a fishing trip when his wife disappeared. Police have not yet eliminated him from the investigation.
It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It was a dark day in a California courtroom today as family and friends were forced to relive the death and disappearance of a beautiful little girl, Danielle van Dam. Today Judge William Mudd followed a jury decision, sentencing David Allen Westerfield to the California death chamber.
Let me go now to Danielle's mother, Brenda van Dam. Hi, Brenda.
VAN DAM: Hi.
GRACE: Brenda, today the dust is settling, everybody's cleared out of that court room. Tonight are you feeling victorious or just empty?
VAN DAM: Exhausted emotionally and empty.
GRACE: You know, I watched you today when you were delivering that victim impact statement. And when you turned to David Westerfield and asked him why he didn't just let her go, I almost expected him to stand up and answer you. You were so compelling. Where did you find the strength?
VAN DAM: I don't know. It just kind of -- when I got to that part of my statement, it just kind of came out of me. I don't know where it came from. I wanted to deliver it very strong. I wanted him to hear that part of it. And I think I got my message across.
GRACE: You know, today I watched him very carefully. As always, Brenda, he was totally stoic, no emotion, no change in his demeanor whatsoever. Is that what you expected?
VAN DAM: Yes. I didn't expect him to show any emotion. I don't think he's capable of doing that.
GRACE: You know, Brenda, when we first started covering the case on Court TV, we watched you every single day. And it made me wonder back to the initial moment that Danielle went missing. When did you first suspect it was David Allen Westerfield?
VAN DAM: I never really -- lot of people have asked me this. I think once I was told that he was the only person in the entire neighborhood who wasn't there, I may have had a little mother intuition type feeling that something wasn't right.
But I really didn't believe it. Anything -- when they first came to me and told me they suspected him, it was hard to believe that. This is someone who lived two doors down from me in a neighborhood I thought was completely safe.
GRACE: You know, you came to the court room every single day. The local radio stations were having a field day trying to skewer you and your husband. But you never missed court. You held your head high. You walked up those courthouse steps. I watched you every single day.
Brenda, did you ever feel, you know what? I can't take the crap? I can't do it today? I'm not going to go?
VAN DAM: I did feel like that. There were quite a few days I felt like that.
But in the beginning I had made a decision that I was going to go straight through this and see it through for Danielle. And actually for myself, because I think that's the way I needed to deal with it. And everyone deals with a crisis in a different manner. And I wanted to see it through until the end. And so that's what I did.
GRACE: Brenda, you were there every single day. Your husband was there nearly every single day until Judge Mudd kicked him out of the court room. Do you think that impacted the jury, that you were there every day?
VAN DAM: I think it made them maybe possibly made them realize that I am a wonderful mother. I adore my children. And I would do absolutely anything possible if I could get her back.
And I think that it was -- Damon and I being there every day was -- we were there for Danielle. The state was there for the state, the prosecuting attorneys. The defense attorneys were there for Westerfield. I felt that Danielle needed to be represented every day in the courtroom.
GRACE: You know, I was wondering something. We're showing our viewers photos of Danielle right now.
VAN DAM: Are you?
GRACE: Yes. Yes. And it's one of my favorite ones I saw. It's of her walking along, Brenda. She's got on this little plastic looking brown necklace and she was wearing Mickey Mouse earrings. And those items took on -- there you are -- specific importance in the court room because those items helped identify her body.
VAN DAM: They did.
GRACE: Do you have them back?
VAN DAM: No. I will probably never get them back. I think the necklace will remain in evidence. I'm not sure about the earrings. But I don't know if I'll ever get that back.
GRACE: Today you mentioned her brothers. I believe Dillon and Derek. And that they are afraid to sleep separately at night. That they sleep together now. How have they weathered this whole thing?
VAN DAM: Well, they stick together. They've actually formed a closer bond because Derek is 10 and Dillon is 6. Danielle was in the middle. So Dillon and Danielle had a really close bond because they were only 21 months apart.
Derek was, you know, off doing his own thing and now they've grown closer. Derek is more protective of Dillon. He kind of feels like sometimes it's his -- he tries to be responsible in making sure Dillon is safe. He's a very loving older brother.
And -- I don't know. I think that them sleeping together gives them a sense of safety at night.
GRACE: Yes. Yes.
You know, I was thinking about this case over the holiday. I was with my family. I was wondering, how you handled the holiday without Danielle this year.
VAN DAM: Wow. You know, when November -- when all of a sudden November was here and it hit me and I thought my goodness, what do I have to be thankful for this year?
And I sat down and I thought about it. And like I said today before my statement, it's very hard, but I was given one of the most precious gifts anyone could ever receive, and that was Danielle. I got to nurture her. I got to love her. I got to form a bond with her that was so special that if you asked her who her best friend was, she would tell you it was me. And I had seven years of that. And then my two beautiful boys and my husband, and our loving family. There's -- out of considering everything that we've been through, I was surprised that I found so much to be thankful for.
GRACE: At any moment, Brenda, did you feel mercy toward Westerfield? Did you want him to get life instead of death?
VAN DAM: Absolutely not. I don't think that he showed my daughter any mercy. And I don't think he deserves to be shown any at all.
GRACE: Well, the judge and jury certainly agreed with you, Brenda van Dam. We are taking a quick break. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE WILLIAM MUDD, SAN DIEGO SUPERIOR COURT: It is the judgment and sentence of the court, Mr. Westerfield, that for the crime of murder in the first degree, committed under the special circumstances that the murder was committed during the course and scope of a kidnapping that you shall be put to death within the walls of the California state prison at San Quentin in the manner prescribed by law upon a date to be fixed by this court in a warrant of execution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMON VAN DAM, FATHER: I'll miss seeing her on her wedding day. I won't get to walk her down the aisle. I'll miss seeing her become a mom. She's such a good -- I know she would have been a great mom. As the years pass and all these things don't happen, all I'll have are the memories of her held by some old pictures and videos and dreams of her, which I hope are always as vivid as they are now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: That was a shot of Damon van Dam, Danielle's father, as he spoke to Judge William Mudd today in a California courtroom asking the judge to sentence his daughter's killer to the California death chamber.
Welcome back. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV in for Larry King. Let me go back to Danielle's mother, Brenda van Dam. She is with us live tonight.
Brenda, I got to tell you, that brought tears to my eyes today and then again when I just saw Damon in the courtroom. At one point Damon was thrown out by Judge Mudd. Why?
VAN DAM: Well, Damon was actually in the hall one morning and Westerfield was being transported from the jail to the courtroom, and when he passed by Damon, he said good morning to him. And it was very... GRACE: Man, that was a lot of nerve to say good morning to Danielle's father.
VAN DAM: He did. And so Damon was determined to let him know that he was in the courtroom every day. And so he asked about the transportation schedule so that he could stand in the hall. And I guess they thought that he was going to do something to Westerfield. And that was not his intent. He intended to make sure that he was seen every day by the man who killed his daughter.
GRACE: Well, at the time I disagreed with Judge Mudd, Brenda. And on the whole, I thought he did a heck of a job in the courtroom. But I disagreed with throwing Damon van Dam out of the courtroom during the trial of the man now convicted of his daughter's murder.
During this trial, did Westerfield ever make eye contact with you? Did he have the guts to look at you in the face?
VAN DAM: He didn't look at me in the face, but I was actually standing up to leave the courtroom one day and I looked over and he was staring at us. And I at that moment, called the prosecuting attorneys over and said, I do not want him looking at me ever again. And they told me that they would take care of it.
GRACE: You know, today in court, though, as much as I disagreed with a couple of Judge Mudd's rulings, you know, he had the power to ignore the jury's decision, he could have done that, but he didn't. And when he described the condition that little Danielle was found, that was a point that you broke down and cried in the courtroom when he described her teeth being knocked out, and in her throat.
VAN DAM: Yes.
GRACE: Does it ever get any easier, Brenda?
VAN DAM: No, because I don't know -- I don't know what the last few hours of her life were like. And I just pray to God that he took her before she felt any pain, and that Westerfield did not have her alive in that motor home all weekend. I pray that it was short and that she didn't suffer. She didn't deserve to suffer.
GRACE: You know, Brenda, you're not the only one with that prayer. Many people pray the very same thing. Tonight with you is a high profile attorney that has taken on a lot of major causes in this country, Gloria Allred. Gloria, you have filed a civil suit against Westerfield on behalf of the van Dams. And you know what, if it succeeds you can make sure he doesn't even have a nickel to buy a candy bar at the jail commissary. What are your intentions, Gloria?
GLORIA ALLRED, VAN DAM'S CIVIL ATTORNEY: Nancy, yes, I haven't filed it. However, a local San Diego attorney, a very fine attorney, Spencer Busby (ph), has filed a civil lawsuit against Westerfield on behalf of Brenda and Damon van Dam. And he is seeking for them a judgment and damages according to proof at trial. I think if the criminal conviction is affirmed, then it will be a slam dunk civil case to prove liability, and the only real issue will be damages. I think in that area that the jury will be sympathetic, or the court will be, to the van Dams and probably have very little sympathy for Mr. Westerfield.
Then comes the issue of collectability, trying to execute on the judgment. And that is going to be difficult. He may not have anything. But the real purpose in doing this is to hold Mr. Westerfield accountable in both the criminal justice system and in the civil justice system and make sure he doesn't profit from his crime, that he doesn't get to enjoy any of his assets.
GRACE: Well, Gloria, Gloria, it's not just that. And I am on board with your lawsuit. It's not just about money. He could always get behind bars and create a Web site like Manson or write poetry, do artwork like Gacy does and actually make money off of it. I say no way. Power to you on the lawsuit, Gloria.
ALLRED: Yes. I definitely think the van Dams made the right decision in deciding to proceed with the civil lawsuit. And I might add, too, that Brenda wants to do everything she can to protect other children, to make other children safe. And that's why we're also going to go to the legislature to try to change the law to make sure that other children are protected, and those who would dare to commit the ultimate act of violence against children, murder, will be eligible for the death penalty even if they're not found guilty of felony murder, even if they don't commit a lewd or lascivious act against a child, because going in and taking a child out of their bed in their very own home while their dad is there, and he just tucked that little child in and wished them good night, kiss them good night, and then daring to do that cold and that callous and that criminal act of murder upon them, that should be enough to make a person eligible for the death penalty.
GRACE: Yes, yes. Brenda, let me ask you a question, speaking of collectibility on Westerfield's estate, what assets he does have are probably hidden. And speaking of assets, it brings me to his home, where police found a treasure trove of forensic evidence, Danielle's hair, fibers linking him to her. Do you have to drive by that home every day?
VAN DAM: Yes, I do. Every day. And I feel -- you know, I know that we're going to have to leave our home because it's just not possible to stay there. My boys do not want to move. They do not want to leave their friends. They do not want to leave their school. But we have to. We have no choice unless we drive by that house every day. It's not something that I can do.
GRACE: Brenda, why is it you say you've got to move?
VAN DAM: I just think if we -- I can't drive by that house every day knowing that she was hurt in there. And that he just -- he came and he took my baby out of her room. And, you know, he just violated our whole family in the worst way possible. And I just -- I don't -- I'm not ready to give up her room. I really need to keep her room now, just so that I have a place to go and be with her. And I think that if we move to a new home and we get a fresh new start, that it might help in the healing process. GRACE: Everyone, joining us tonight is Brenda van Dam, the mother of a beautiful little girl, 7-year-old Danielle van Dam. She was a murder victim. And today her attacker was sentenced to the death chamber. We are shortly taking your calls. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VAN DAM: You sat by smugly as thousands of people frantically searched for Danielle, and her family anguished over finding her. It disgusts me that your sick fantasies and your pitiful needs made you feel that you needed Danielle more than her family. You put your needs over the needs of her entire family and entire community and entire nation to find Danielle. What could make one human being murder another? This is a question I will forever ask myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to make sure that little Danielle, when she looks down to us tonight, she sees what you're doing here this evening, and that all the angels up there can read her name.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: That was the vigil for 7-year-old Danielle van Dam. Danielle was taken out of her own home asleep in her own bed, abducted and murdered. Tonight, with us, Brenda van Dam, her mother, and their lawyer, Gloria Allred. Welcome, ladies, again.
Brenda, you were mentioning that you have to look at David Allen Westerfield's home nearly every day and are thinking of leaving. Tough question. Do you ever let yourself go to the location where Danielle was found?
VAN DAM: I have been there one time, and it was very difficult. And I haven't been back. I have friends that go there. They tell me about what is there. It's very hard that he put her out like garbage, because she's not garbage. And he just left her there like trash. And I don't -- I can't go there. It's too difficult.
GRACE: I've got to tell you, I don't think I could go there. Driving by his house every day would be enough for me, much less to go to that location. You said things were being left there by other people. Like what?
VAN DAM: Oh, there's lots of wind chimes with angels. At one point there was a bench. That's when actually when I went there, there was a bench and just there was just a lot of little mementos that people have left for Danielle.
GRACE: And you know what was so disturbing, one of the many things, Brenda, is that at the get-go Westerfield was trying to bargain with the state, allegedly, that he could get life behind bars in exchange for where Danielle's body was, to give you some peace. But then in court, knowing full well he was guilty, his lawyers skewered you in front of the jury. That was their defense. How did you manage to hold that in and not blurt it out?
VAN DAM: It was very difficult being under the gag order, because I so wanted to lash out. And all I knew is that once Damon and I were off the stand and that was over, that the real trial would start, and that's how I got through it.
GRACE: Everybody, we are taking your calls, your question for Brenda van Dam and/or her lawyer, Gloria Allred. Let's start it off with Chandler, Arizona. Are you there?
GRACE: What's your question?
CALLER: Oh, hi, Brenda, I am absolutely honored to be speaking with you right now. I want to know where you and Damon find the strength to keep your marriage together in such an awful time right now? My heart goes out to you. Watching today the live coverage of your testimonies, both of you, I was sitting there sobbing. Where do you guys find the strength to keep the marriage together?
VAN DAM: We have two beautiful boys that need parents. I think we are not selfish. I mean, even though things aren't always perfect and happy, we know that we have to give ourselves to our sons. And I'm not saying our marriage is perfect right now, by all means. I mean, we have really horrible times, but we do it for them.
GRACE: Brenda, when you say you have horrible times, is it a result of this trial and Danielle's disappearance?
VAN DAM: It is. I think we each harvest different -- you know, everyone handles situations like this differently. And there is some amount of guilt that you find within yourself wondering what if, what if I had done something different? What if I had done anything different?
GRACE: I was wondering if you blamed yourself or sometimes look across the breakfast table and blame each other. I mean, God knows there's no way you could have stopped Westerfield.
VAN DAM: I know there was no way we could have stopped Westerfield. But it is very difficult not to blame each other or not to blame yourself. And all of the stress. There's so much stress in our lives that -- you know, we're in knots all the time. And sometimes we just take time away from each other in the house, hanging out, you know, with one of the boys or something.
ALLRED: Nancy, I hope that they don't blame themselves and constantly remind Brenda not to do that, even though it's a natural reaction. I'm sure of the many parents of murder victims that suffer that. There is only one person who is guilty, and that's David Westerfield. I mean, here was a little girl at home with her daddy in the house. I mean, she wasn't even with a baby-sitter. She was with her dad. And you know, they did everything they could to protect their children, and so he is the only one who is at fault.
GRACE: Brenda, let's take one more question before we go to break. We are going to Lansdale, Pennsylvania. Are you with us? Lansdale, Pennsylvania, are you there?
CALLER: Yes. I wanted to ask Brenda, who is living in the Westerfield home? And has anyone from the Westerfield family contacted her or her husband?
VAN DAM: Actually, I don't know their names. There's a couple that live there, and they actually contacted our priest and asked him to bless the home. And they asked him to invite us if we wanted to come. And I was very shocked that they even thought we could step foot into that home.
GRACE: Bless it? They need to exorcise it. Are you kidding? Forget the blessing.
VAN DAM: It was very hard.
GRACE: Brenda, we've got to go to break. Stay right there, everybody. With us tonight, Danielle's mom, Brenda van Dam, along with her attorney, Gloria Allred. We're taking your calls. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VAN DAM: I started looking around the house and looking under the beds and looking in the closets. And Damon came upstairs and he started looking with me. We were yelling out her name. And then we went downstairs. Damon went out front and I went out back. But we couldn't find her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Little Danielle did not come home. The 7-year-old little beauty had been kidnapped from her own bed in her home and murdered by a neighbor, David Allen Westerfield. Today he was sentenced to death by California Judge William Mudd.
With us, her mother, Brenda Van Dam. Her attorney, Gloria Allred.
Brenda, I know by now you could teach a law school class on trial strategy. And you know, our constitution is set up to protect the accused from the power of the state. Did you ever feel that you had been put on trial and you had no protection?
VAN DAM: Definitely. I think that we were revictimized over and over throughout this entire ordeal. And it really saddens me that people are willing to do that to other human beings. We lost our daughter, something that was so precious to us, it's not replaceable. And people felt the urge to hurt us over and over again. And I don't understand why.
ALLRED: You know, in terms of the questioning about their private lives that they were subjected to by the defense, Nancy, there's good news and bad news about that. Of course, the bad news is that it inflicted tremendous emotional distress on both of them.
And it was just -- you know, I feel a lot of questions that were asked that were really not relevant to the proceeding, but the defense trying to show someone else other than Westerfield may have had access to the home. The only good news about it is that the judge did permit him wide latitude and so that now on appeal he will not be able to argue as ground for appeal that he was restricted, that his defense attorneys were restricted in their questioning about who else might have been able to come into the home.
GRACE: Well, what was so galling about it is that the whole time they were dragging Brenda and Damon through the mud in front of a jury, they knew all along that the only one who knew where the body was was David Westerfield.
Guys, let's go to Sault Ste. Marie. Are you with us? Hello?
CALLER: Yes. Yes, Nancy. My question for Gloria Allred and Danielle's mother is, What are their thoughts on placing microchips in children in order to use technology to aid in the search for missing children?
VAN DAM: Wow. I kind of thought of that for awhile because we have actually have a chip in our dog. You know, and at first I thought, this is something I want to do. I want to chip my other two children. I don't know that much about technology and how it would actually work.
I mean, to tell you the truth, they can --they can track our vehicles. You know, if a car is stolen they have that special equipment on there to track a vehicle. I don't see why we couldn't somehow make so it that we could do it to our children.
GRACE: Interesting. Let me go now to Sault Ste. Marie. Let's try that again. Are you with us?
GRACE: Hi. Got a question?
CALLER: Yes, I just wanted -- hello?
GRACE: Yes, ma'am.
CALLER: OK. I'm calling from Sault Ste. Marie. I just wanted to ask Mrs. Van Dam if she was going to be getting involved in any organizations that involve helping to find missing children or prevent this type of tragedy from happening again?
VAN DAM: Actually, I have currently formed the Danielle Legacy Foundation and we're actually working on some -- trying to i.d. children through the school system so that each child has an identification card. It's not -- you know, it's in its infancy stages so there's not -- all the kinks haven't been worked out of it. But it's on her Web site at daniellelegacy.org.
And also, I have been working with Gloria. We've talked a bit about making the laws tougher as far as -- I mean, if the special circumstance had not been found in this case, he wouldn't have received the death penalty.
GRACE: Well put. Well put. Let's go to Phoenix, Arizona. Are you with us? Phoenix?
Mrs. Van Dam, you are the epitome of strength and courage and my question is, Do you ever find forgiveness for David Westerfield?
VAN DAM: No. I feel no mercy for him. He obviously didn't show my daughter any mercy. And I don't know if I could ever forgive him for what he's done to myself -- to Danielle, first of all and most importantly to what he did to Danielle and to our family.
ALLRED: And you know, I want to say that I never feel that anyone should be forgiven. If they won't even do the minimum, which is acknowledge what they've done. And Mr. Westerfield has not acknowledged his guilt in this case, let alone apologize. Not that any apology would be sufficient.
So I don't know how anybody could be forgiven when he won't even acknowledge the criminal act he's committed.
GRACE: Well, what was interesting, Gloria and Brenda, is during the trial, he showed no emotion whatsoever until his own son took the stand, remember? He had tried to blame all that child -- vicious child pornography, where a little girl was just screaming in a video while she was being assaulted.
He never showed any emotion, remorse at all until his son was forced to take the stand and say that was not my child pornography. That is the only sign of emotion he had the entire trial.
So, you know, forget remorse from this guy. Brenda, I want to bring you back off Westerfield.
VAN DAM: OK.
GRACE: Back to Danielle. Back to Danielle.
VAN DAM: Yes.
GRACE: I have looked at her picture a million times. We covered it every day, as you know. I have heard about her. But you are her mother. Can you tell us a story, something about Danielle?
VAN DAM: About Danielle?
I can just tell you, Danielle was such a sweet little girl. You know, she was 10 pounds 15 ounces at birth. And when people would walk by the nursery, they were shocked that she was a newborn. The first night home, she slept through the night.
And she was just amazing. She's always been an amazing child. She was very headstrong, very independent. But I learned to work with that. I didn't want to take that away from her, so what I did is instead of telling her she absolutely could not do something, I would give her options. And she loved it because she would take one of those options gladly. And it made her feel so special.
And I just loved being with her as a mother. We did a lot of the -- you know, they had parties at school where they had the father- daughter dance, which Damon missed last year. We would totally go out and primp. I would take her to the beauty parlor. She would have her hair done, her nails done. And she was just totally into being a little girl.
GRACE: We are showing our viewers a shot of you with Danielle.
You told the judge today that she loved to come in the kitchen with you. And you would drop what you were doing and try to cook something with her at that young age. Like what could a little thing like her cook?
GRACE: Well, she was learning to read, so she would read the directions on the packages. And then it would take longer, because I'd have to explain everything to her. The cup, the measuring, the tea teaspoons and, you know, what certain items were. But she loved it. And in her video where she's sitting on the kitchen counter and she had her hair in pig tails, we were actually cooking a dinner and Damon came home from work and he picked up the video camera and started videoing everyone.
And she loved to cook. We would have conversations while we were cooking. Because one night I had to call my mom. I said, mom, I lost this recipe. I really want to make something that I had as a child. She said to me, Mommy, will I call you for recipes when I get older? And I said, Oh, absolutely. And I always looked forward to all of those beautiful things that you take for granted. Like the first time I got this great knife set. I said, this will last forever. And she said, oh, will I get it? I'm like, sure.
And those are little things that parents take for granted on a daily basis. I just never did with any of my children.
GRACE: Brenda, thank you. You have taught everyone what courage is all about. VAN DAM: Thank you very much.
GRACE: Everybody, Brenda van Dam has been with us tonight, the mother of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam. Along with her, her attorney, Gloria Allred. Stay with us.
When we come back, the story of an 8 month pregnant woman just 27-years-old. She went missing Christmas Eve. Where is Laci?
GRACE: Welcome back, everybody. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV in for Larry King tonight.
A 27-year-old mom-to-be, eight months pregnant, went missing Christmas Eve. Joining us from their Modesto home, her mom, Sharon Rocha, along with her family as well as the family of her husband.
Let me go to you. Sharon Rocha, when was the last time you spoke to your daughter?
SHARON ROCHA, LACI PETERSON'S MOTHER: I talked to her about 8:30 Monday night. The night before Christmas Eve.
GRACE: OK. The eve of Christmas Eve. What was her frame of mind?
S. ROCHA: She was fine. She was looking forward to Christmas Eve. They were coming to our house for dinner on Christmas Eve. Then we were going to their house for Christmas morning brunch. So she was happy and looking forward to it. We all were.
GRACE: Miss Rocha, there are thousands of people that are looking, hoping, praying to find Laci Peterson and her baby alive. I've noticed several times that you and your family stay, you firmly believe she is still alive. Why?
S. ROCHA: Because I still feel Laci. I feel she's here. She's with us. We just have to find her.
GRACE: Now, was it her normal M.O. to take the dog for a walk in the mornings?
S. ROCHA: Yes. Yes. She always took her dog for a walk. Not necessarily every single morning. Because she is far along in her pregnancy, but yes, that was her normal routine, to take the dog for a walk in the park.
GRACE: Amy Rocha, this is Laci's sister. Amy, when did you last speak with Laci?
AMY ROCHA, LACI PETERSON'S SISTER: It was on Monday night. Around 5:30. Scott and Laci both came into the salon where I had worked. I cut Scott's hair. So they were there together.
GRACE: Did she mention anything unusual? What was her frame of mind?
A. ROCHA: Nothing. It was just the same as always. They were both very happy.
GRACE: When was the baby due?
A. ROCHA: February.
Let me go to Brent Rocha, who is also with us, that's Laci's brother. Laci you feel very firmly is still alive, Brent. Why do you say that?
BRENT ROCHA, LACI PETERSON'S BROTHER: Just to restate what my mother said. I feel that she's still here, she's still with us. More importantly, if whoever has Laci and they get to know her, they're going to understand what a great person she is. If anyone can hang in there, Laci's strong. She can win over her captor. I really think she is still with us.
GRACE: Also with us tonight are her husband's family, Scott Peterson. Jackie Peterson is his mom.
A lot of people have been asking why did he leave his wife alone, eight months pregnant on Christmas Eve to go fishing by himself? Why?
JACKIE PETERSON, LACI PETERSON'S MOTHER-IN-LAW: They were just like that. They allowed each other's hobbies and they doted on each other. They were all ready for Christmas. Their presents wrapped. Their plans laid.
And they had a little free time. It's just like Laci to let Scott go do something he wanted to do and she wanted to do a little more shopping privately. So that was their agreement. It was only for a few hours.
J. PETERSON: It should have been fine.
GRACE: Now, did she, in fact, go shopping?
J. PETERSON: We don't know that. We don't know anything except Scott left her to go off fishing and when he came home she was not there and the dog was in the yard with his leash on.
GRACE: Lee Peterson is Scott's father. Lee, where is his fishing hole? How far away is it from the home where she went missing?
LEE PETERSON, LACI PETERSON'S FATHER-IN-LAW: Well, that day he drove to Berkeley, California, on the San Francisco Bay to fish for sturgeon. It's about 85 miles. He had just bought a new boat that he wanted to try out. So combination of wanting to catch some fish and have an adventure and try out his new boat was the motivation. That's not unusual for Scott. He's an all-around sportsman, golfer and hunter and fisherman. As the whole family is.
GRACE: Everyone, you are seeing photos of Scott Peterson's boat, his 2002 brown colored pickup truck. Police released these photos yesterday. They are asking anyone that saw them to give them a call. To help them place Scott at the time his wife went missing.
Quick break. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DETECTIVE DOUG RIDENOUR, MODESTO POLICE: We have still hope that Laci Peterson is out there and alive. And so we think it's critical. And as long as the media wants to continue to cover this, we're going to be here to provide as much information as we can and get the community's support.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Laci went missing Christmas Eve. She is 27 years old and she is over eight months pregnant. The last person to see her that morning, her husband, Scott Peterson. He took off on Christmas Eve for a fishing trip alone about 85 miles away in Berkeley. Let me go to you, Jackie Peterson. Everybody, this is Scott's mom. Where is Scott tonight? I would imagine he would be out begging the viewers to help in the search for his wife.
J. PETERSON: He is. And he has. And he is with friends this evening that have been searching all day. And we go out every day. We have many volunteers. We're headquartered at the Red Lion Inn. And they have given us a room to set up a meeting place. And they go every day. It's so many nice people and such work. But it's so -- we need more. And we're not going to give up hope.
GRACE: I heard police state today publicly that he has cooperated to an extent. Now, what did they mean by that? To an extent?
J. PETERSON: We don't know. We don't know what they mean.
GRACE: Has he taken a polygraph?
J. PETERSON: I don't know if that's -- if he's been asked to do that. He's been cooperative. They've -- he's made available to them everything they've asked for. GRACE: Yes, right. I understand they searched the truck, the boat. And that does not necessarily mean anything, because statistically speaking, boyfriends, husbands are suspect number one, so they would be derelict if they did not search his car and his truck and his boat. So that means absolutely nothing. Did they do that pursuant to a warrant, or did he volunteer the truck over to them?
J. PETERSON: He volunteered it.
GRACE: Let me go to you, Sharon Rocha. She went out for a walk that morning with her dog. Had there been any problems in her pregnancy? Was this their first child?
S. ROCHA: This was their first child, yes. They were expecting a baby boy. They had been trying for quite some time to get pregnant, and it finally happened. As far as any problems, no, nothing serious. Just pretty much a normal pregnancy.
GRACE: Question to you regarding the police investigation. What are they telling you as of tonight?
S. ROCHA: They've been very open with us all throughout this entire ordeal. Any questions we ask, they tell us whether they can or cannot answer it. They've made themselves completely available to us. They've just been wonderful. They've helped us out a lot.
GRACE: Have there been questions they would not answer?
S. ROCHA: There are questions of course they're not going to be able to answer, just because of the investigation. But anything that we really want to know, they've always been able to answer it. They've made themselves completely available to us. They've been wonderful.
GRACE: Do have they any leads so far? Anything firm at all?
S. ROCHA: To the best of our knowledge at this point, there was a robbery across the street, or a burglary across the street from their home. And they've actually made two arrests in that today. We were hoping that would be connected, but at this point we're being told that it's not, so.
GRACE: Now, was that directly across from Laci's home, the burglary?
S. ROCHA: Yes. Yes, it was.
GRACE: But not tied in. Let me go back to you, Lee Peterson, this is Scott's father, everyone. He, Scott, has a receipt of some sort of the marina where he went fishing. What time was he there fishing? Will that clear him from being a suspect?
L. PETERSON: Yes, he has a receipt, which he turned over to the police. I believe it was around 9:30 or 10:30 at the marina. And he also has a gas receipt from the area when he filled his truck up. And if you knew Scott, as far as him being implicated, it's just a non- issue. Something, like you said, the police have to pursue.
GRACE: Tell me about that. We've only got a minute left, Lee. When you say if I knew him, he would not be a suspect. What do you mean by that?
L. PETERSON: Well, he's just such a wonderful young man. He's gentle. He's kind. He's the kind of guy that's going to pull over on the freeway if you have a flat tire. He's going to go out of his way to help you.
GRACE: Guys, we have got to sign off, everyone. We are still showing photos of Laci Peterson. She's 27 years old, eight months pregnant. To her family and Scott's, thank you for being with us.
Everyone, I'm Nancy Grace, signing off for tonight. And we'll leave with a shot of Laci.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com