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The Laci Peterson Case

Aired January 1, 2013 - 20:00   ET



SCOTT PETERSON, CONVICTED OF MURDERING HIS WIFE, LACI: That`s the important thing, is that I had nothing to do with Laci`s disappearance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Berkeley police took to the Bay waters last night, it was hardly a routine patrol. The department continues to assist Modesto investigators in the Laci Peterson case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Laci Peterson was married and eight months pregnant when she vanished from her home in Modesto, California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After his wife`s disappearance, Scott Peterson told police he had come here to the Berkeley marina on Christmas Eve day in his Ford-150 truck and 14-foot boat to fish for sturgeon. He presented a launch ticket voucher like this one as evidence.

PETERSON: I also called Amber shortly after Laci`s disappearance, a few days after, and told her that I was married and told her, you know, about Laci`s disappearance, if (ph) she knew. And then shortly after that, she had a meeting with the police.

AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON FORMER LOVER: Scott told me he was not married. We did have a romantic relationship.

PETERSON: I`m very glad that she came forward, Amber did, in the press conference because that clears the way -- not clears the way, but we can keep looking for Laci easier since that`s out there and done.


NANCY GRACE, HOST: I remember when I first heard about Laci Peterson, an expectant mother, going missing. The facts surrounding the story made it so much more poignant. It was Christmastime. She was just about to give birth. The delivery of her son, her unborn son, Conner, was imminent.

And I recall going to Laci`s home, and it was lovely, very homey. And she put so much time and love and energy into her home. There was a big get-together planned for that evening and she had worked so hard on it. You know, her whole family was coming, just a very, very happy time in her life.


PETERSON: It is entirely too selfish for me to defend myself amongst these accusations when Laci`s missing and all the media time should be spent towards finding her and all of our energy should be spent towards finding her. Unfortunately, suspicion about me has risen to such a degree that I think people stopped to look for Laci. They`ve stopped -- I mean, that`s why I`m interested in being in the media now.


JEAN CASAREZ, "IN SESSION": Scott and Laci Peterson seemed like the all-American couple. I mean, they were a beautiful couple, and they seemed like they were so much in love and their families said that they were so much in love.

Scott and Laci originally met at college, at Cal Poly. Laci frequented a restaurant where Scott was a server, and there seemed to be an instantaneous connection between the two of them. They moved in together around 1994, and then they got married around 1997 and were building a life together.

ELLIE JOSTAD, NANCY GRACE PRODUCER: The timing of Laci Peterson`s disappearance was so shocking, goes missing on Christmas Eve. You know, her husband says that he last sees her watching an episode of Martha Stewart. She`s planning to get things ready for dinner. They were going to celebrate Christmas Eve with a dinner with her family.

So it just seemed really shocking. Who goes missing on Christmas Eve? I mean, she`s pregnant. She`s looking forward to the holidays. She`s obviously not going to take off, or you know, just be gone longer than expected. So that seemed really strange right off the bat that she would go missing at holiday time.

RITA COSBY, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: They had just moved into a new home near her family in Modesto. They were expecting their first child just about a month away. It seemed like this was a very happy time. But looks can be deceiving.


PETERSON: That`s why these next couple weeks are so critical. February 16th`s the due date, so we need to get the fliers out there to all the medical offices that we can. The nursery`s ready for him. That door`s closed. I can`t look, you know, in that door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You worked on it? What was the -- sort of preparation did you do?

PETERSON: Yes, it`s completely outfitted. The furniture is there. The paint is ready. You know, all the little itty bitty clothes and all those wonderful things we have is waiting for him.


GRACE: Conner would be her first child, a baby boy. And she and her family, I guess, were living out the happiest time of their life when she went missing.

I remember the fact scenario striking me wrong. Everything was wrong about it -- taking the dog for a walk in the park. The facts didn`t seem to gel together for me, the way that Scott Peterson delivered them.

And I felt instinctively that it would be a matter of time before we found out more about Scott Peterson. There was something in his demeanor. When he did not publicly beg for her return, I think I was stunned.


PETERSON: Well, the polygraph is another one of those things. I`m not saying I have, I`m not saying I haven`t. That`s within the scope that the investigators asked me not to speak about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you describe yourself as a proud father-to- be? Was it -- what...

PETERSON: I can`t -- I don`t -- it`s too difficult. You know, there are times when -- times when you can keep going and those are times when you have a task. And there are times that you completely lose it and won`t be able to do anything productive. I don`t want to reach that second point right now.


GRACE: Laci was just so pure. I mean she`s the all-American girl -- cheerleader, sweetheart, good neighbor, good daughter, planning to be a good mother. I saw her through the eyes, I guess, of Sharon Rocha, her mother, and just the devastation this heinous act wreaked on Sharon and her husband and their family.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, how are you doing?

PETERSON: I`m losing it. I miss her. It`s unbelievable. They`re not helping me find my wife!


PETERSON: I`m sorry, I just -- yes, physically (INAUDIBLE) I just can`t do anything right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not telling you that there`s anything that`s pointing any direction right now that is somewhere other than you, Scott.


GRACE: I remember it very well. It was Scott Peterson at a Christmas party the night he was supposed to be with his wife, Laci, at a Christmas party. And Amber Frey, his lover at that moment -- they were at her Christmas party and she had on a red satin sleeveless dress.

Well, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and it certainly was. Then other photos and other indicia of his affair came to light.

But what was really interesting about Amber Frey -- a lot of people have denigrated her. She went along with police. And I remember sitting in the courtroom and listening to all of these phone calls that she had recorded that Scott Peterson had made to her after Laci`s disappearance and before her body was found.


PETERSON: He said, The police have a hard-on to make a case against you, Scott. And he repeated that three times. And then he said, They are going to try to make a case against you. It`s not going to get to trial because it`s not a case. But he said this is a capital case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As she and the police continued taping her phone calls with Scott Peterson, Amber Frey no longer seemed to welcome words of love. Like a seasoned prosecutor, Frey grills Peterson, who dodges her questions again and again.

PETERSON: Fact is, you don`t know all the facts and I can`t share everything with you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Legal analysts say suspicion he was being taped might have kept Peterson cagey. When Frey threatens to talk to the police, he gives her the green light.

PETERSON: I also have nothing to hide in her disappearance, and if you -- you know, if you want to go to the police, that`s, you know, fine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On one call played last week, Peterson reads a poem to Frey. CNN discovered it was the same poem Peterson posted at the volunteer search center within days after his wife disappeared, saying it was a poem they read to each other often.

PETERSON: "(INAUDIBLE) willow wound round with ivy. We take cover from the worst of the storm with a greatcoat `round our shoulders and my hands around your waist."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, you and I both know what happened to Laci.

PETERSON: Do you know what happened to her?


PETERSON: Craig, I need to know what happened to her. Are you telling me you know what happened to her?


GRACE: It was the night of Laci`s vigil, and he was leaving this preposterous message to Amber Frey about where he was on vacation or out of town, or some lie. And it wasn`t just one, it was call after call after call explaining his absence in her life at that time, why he had to be out of town.

It was just -- and the jury was just staring at him. This is during the search for his wife and unborn baby, and he was making up very, very intricate, highly embellished stories to tell his girlfriend.


PETERSON: I mean, I know that I had nothing to do with this, but it`s scary that they, you know, could potentially make some BS thing enough to arrest me, I don`t get bail, and it takes him a week or two weeks to get me out.


GRACE: It`s crazy! And it made him -- it made him very dislikable to the jury. And not that a jury trial is a popularity contest. I mean, nobody`s going to go home Miss Congeniality in a murder trial. But when I say dislikable, I mean unbelievable. And believability is highly important in a murder trial.


FREY: Do you?

PETERSON: Interesting day, to say the least.

FREY: Why? What happened today?

PETERSON: Well, I met with a bunch of people that called in and said they had tips about where Laci was and could point us in the right direction. (INAUDIBLE) meet with these people.


GRACE: I had long analyzed that, like many other murders, if there was evidence to be found, it would be found in a place where Scott Peterson felt comfortable. If you`re a hunter, you bury the body in the woods. If you`re a fisher, there you go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scott, I mean, let`s be serious with one another.

PETERSON: Craig, tell me what -- do you know what happened to her? Do you know where she is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I know where we`re looking for her and...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and I think we`re probably going to find her over there in the bay.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a matter of time.

PETERSON: Craig, you -- I had nothing to do with Laci`s disappearance.


GRACE: But I recall the day, the moment actually, that the news broke that Laci`s body had washed ashore, San Francisco Bay, and the body of her baby, Conner. There was only 24 hours difference in the two of them washing ashore.

I remember that the pedestrian out walking his dog, as I recall, saw little Conner and thought it was a baby doll, it was so perfect. Even in death, Laci Peterson had protected Conner. I mean, we all knew Laci was dead, but just the finality, the baby`s body coming ashore and at first being mistaken for a baby doll -- it`s very, very hard to even think back on it, especially now that I have my own children. I think of them and how defenseless and dear they were when they were first born.


PETERSON: I`m going to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scott, what I`m offering you is an opportunity here to end all of this nonsense.

PETERSON: I`m going to find her, Craig.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will not treat you badly. You can tell me what happened. We can get Laci back where she needs to be. We can end all of this stuff for you. I mean, think about it, really.

PETERSON: I`m not involved in my wife`s disappearance, but we`re going to find her and I need your help to do that. And I just hope that you`re following -- your department is following the leads, the right ones, to find her. That`s all there is to it. I`m going now. `Bye.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The body was found by a person who was walking along the shoreline with their dog.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bodies were not far from where Scott Peterson says he went fishing the day Laci disappeared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A pair of dog walkers apparently discovered a full-grown fetus. A woman walking her dog discovered a very badly decomposed female body.


GRACE: The defense apparently pulled a stunt during the trial, and that was bringing the boat or a similar boat and parked it near the courthouse to prove something or other that they wanted to prove about the -- what they were arguing is the improbability that he could have carried Laci`s body in that boat.

Instead, it was like a whiplash. It had the reverse. It came back on them because that boat turned into a makeshift shrine of sorts, full of flowers and candles and teddy bears. I remember walking by it and looking at it, and people would just stand in front of it and cry, people that had never met Laci Peterson, just over the sadness of the scenario.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that you mentioned on "Good Morning America" that it wouldn`t surprise you if they found blood...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... in your vehicles. Explain why?

PETERSON: Well, take a look at my hands. You can see, you know, cuts here on my knuckles, numerous scars. I work on farms. I work with machinery. I know I cut my knuckle that day.


PETERSON: On Christmas Eve.


PETERSON: Reaching in the toolbox of my truck and then into the pocket on the door. I cut open my knuckle and there`s a blood stain on the door.


GRACE: Many court watchers and probably the jury looked at Scott Peterson during the trial, and many people -- not me, of course, but many people thought that Scott Peterson was handsome, attractive -- attractive, good-looking, smart, college degree, job, car, golfer. His whole family worshipped him. He had everything, right, beautiful wife, home, baby on the way?


PETERSON: The facts are that we know that on Christmas Eve, I left the house here around 9:30 and she was here in the home, OK? That`s a fact that has to get out there because it`s been erroneously that I saw her leave the house, OK? She was in the house. That`s one thing we know.

The second thing we know is that the dog was returned to our yard with its leash on at 10:30 by a neighbor. Those are the two things we know about her disappearance. Hopefully, those can help some people.


GRACE: How many millions of people in the world would kill to have what he had? So it was as if the mind was tricking the eye because you would see this guy that seemingly had everything, yet you were hearing evidence that he had murdered his beautiful and loving wife and his baby. It was very hard to reconcile what you see and what you know. That was the conundrum for me.



PETERSON: I had nothing to do with Laci`s disappearance. Even if you think I did, think about Laci. And I know that there`s a nation that wants to bring her home to our families, OK? So you can think what you want of me, question my moral character, question how I`ve acted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Family members may offer testimony of the impact of an execution on them if by so doing they illuminate some positive quality of the defendant`s background or character which is offered as a basis for a sentence less than death.


GRACE: I have learned the hard way that murderers come in all shapes and sizes and colors and with all sorts of college degrees or not, and that all that matters -- just the facts is all that matters. And I believed from the get-go that the facts in the Scott Peterson case were overwhelming.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I think the fact that the bodies were found where he was fishing was the most compelling piece of physical evidence. And then I think what the -- you know, if you think Scott Peterson did it, his actions after his wife went missing are repulsive. If you don`t think he did it, then the actions are just a little strange.

But I think that the bodies showing up where he was fishing by far and away the most compelling evidence. It`s hard really to get around that. And I know the Peterson family and the defense believes that whoever did this took the time then to dump Laci and Conner in the bay to frame Scott Peterson because of all of the attention that this case got.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people of the state of California versus Scott Peterson. We the jury in the above entitled cause fix the penalty at death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scott has a way of sort of displacing himself from the arena in which he`s in. It`s like he`s not the one on trial. He`s very, very subdued at times. And at other times, he`s -- he`ll be laughing with his attorney. So it`s -- he`s never taken anything serious, it looks like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s fair to say that the Petersons were warned that this was most likely going to be the verdict of death. Therefore, they didn`t seem to show any emotion on the outside. Scott Peterson showed no emotion on the outside, as well. In fact, when he walked in, he had the same sort of swagger and he nodded and smiled at his family when he sat down.

The most emotion in the room came from jurors, obviously, at the end of this horribly difficult process to come to this conclusion. They were obviously upset, you know, just emotional about what they were about to do, and then collectively because so much has gone into this. You could feel the raw emotion in the room, even though it really wasn`t articulated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most difficult day for me would be today. It doesn`t get any harder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was two miles from where we went fishing, and for me, it wasn`t a coincidence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A big part of it was at the end, the verdict. No emotion, no anything. That spoke a thousand words. That was loud and clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This wasn`t an act of -- he flipped out and he went and did something. You know, I can understand that and I could -- you know, but this was planned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The way the jurors talked today, they were convinced by the main points the prosecution made, which was the bodies were found in the bay where he said he was. He had a strange demeanor. He lied a lot.


GRACE: The Modesto law enforcement and the district attorney`s office did such a great job. And really, what it al boiled down to was the credibility of Scott Peterson, who, of course, did not take the stand, but credibility in the sense that he had pulled the wool over the eyes of so many people in the past.

I mean, come on, if you`re going to lie to the people that love you just to have a sex affair, you won`t lie to save your own skin? Of course you will.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he was innocent, he lost his wife and his child, and it didn`t seem to faze him. And while that was going on, they`re looking for his wife and his child, he`s romancing a girlfriend. That`s -- that doesn`t make sense to me.


GRACE: Peterson and his whole camp came into the game, you know, snakebit because they had a reason to lie. And that is something that I`ve long argued to juries. When I assess a case, I look at the potential witnesses to determine their credibility. What, if anything, do they have to win or lose based on the outcome of the trial?

Many of them have nothing to gain or to lose. For instance, police, the crime lab analysts. They`re not going to get a raise or a promotion if there`s a conviction. They`ll be on to the next case the next week. But Scott Peterson and his family had a lot to lose based on the outcome of the trial.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should that matter, how he appears in court?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It shouldn`t matter, but there was something not normal. When he was convicted back on November 12th -- I mean, here`s a guy who`s -- he and his lawyers have said, I`m not the guy that did it.

You know, instead of turning to his lawyers, like, throwing up his hands, like, How could this happen? What happened? This is wrong. No! An outburst, No! You know, like an innocent guy would do. You know, he sat there and stared straight ahead, almost like he knew it and expected it.

And the jury talked about it today. Should it matter? No. But in the human drama that a courtroom trial is, it does matter.


GRACE: I kept watching Scott Peterson in his various statements. He never gave a public plea to find Laci, but I would watch him walking here and there, and he did give a couple of local interviews, as I recall, in which he spoke about Laci in the past tense. And this was before her body was found.

I also remember during one interview in his home, his phone kept ringing. If I spouse or child was missing, I would be living on top of the phone, hoping somebody would call me. He didn`t even go pick it up. He let the answering machine get it. I kept looking at him and thinking, Something`s just not right. What is it?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Little man was the hardest for me. Little man - - that`s what I call him, Conner. That was the hardest for me because, as I said, that was his daddy who did that. You know, his daddy should have been the protector of him, and instead he took his life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As any new mom, she had lots of questions and we all reassured her that we would be there to help. Now we will never know his face, never see his smile and never hear his cry. We will miss the chance for our children to grow up together.

We can only find comfort knowing that we will -- they will always be together and that Laci is with her son that she loved so much. We feel we will never truly have closure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Matter of fact, Wednesday the 15th was the last time Sharon and I saw Laci alive. As you know, about Christmas, New Year`s, birthdays. So I`m hoping you all will just give us some time.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now Scott Peterson is a convicted killer, found guilty of the first-degree murder of his wife, Laci, and second-degree murder of their unborn child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury in the above entitled cause find the defendant, Scott Lee Peterson, guilty of the crime of murder of Laci Denise Peterson.


GRACE: Being in that courtroom in Redwood City -- I was out in California for I don`t even know how long anymore, months, covering the trial. And I saw jurors come and go. That jury was like a revolving door. I watched everything that happened in the courtroom, every nuance, every move a juror or a witness or the defendant, Scott Peterson, or his lawyer would make.

But it all culminated when Sharon Rocha took the stand. And it sounded as if she were trying to keep her voice under control, but it just seemed to get louder and louder and louder until she got to the point where she described Laci`s bones in the coffin holding her unborn son Conner`s body.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a gasp in that courtroom. People had been waiting there for five months for the conclusion of the case. And the two most dramatic outcomes were Scott Peterson walking free or facing the death penalty, and that`s what he`s about to face. So it doesn`t get any more serious than that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Outside the courthouse, there were cheers as the verdict was announced.


GRACE: I was sitting in the very back of the courtroom. And I finally had taken off my backpack and set it on the pew and was sitting on top of it so I could see Sharon Rocha. And now I wish I hadn`t -- I hadn`t seen it because I will always remember her raw grief when she described those bones in the coffin of her child, Laci, holding her grandson in death. And that is how they were buried.

And then everyone just looked over at Scott Peterson, and he looked as if Sharon Rocha were talking about somebody he had never met. He had absolutely a blank expression on his face. I will never forget it as long as I live.


GRACE: When you think of Scott Peterson tonight, what do you think of?

FREY: You know what? I think of somebody that I didn`t really know. I mean, I think of, you know, a wolf in sheep`s clothing, is what I think of.

GRACE: Do you remember that first moment you laid eyes on him?

FREY: I do.

GRACE: Tell me.

FREY: I thought he was attractive, good looking, nice smile, you know, a lot of potential, a lot of -- you know, just...

GRACE: When you say potential, what do you mean by that, that he`s good looking, he`s got an education?

FREY: Right.

GRACE: He`s got money. Did you -- be honest. Did you think almost at the beginning about a future with him? I mean, isn`t it just natural sometimes?

FREY: Well, from everything I knew from my good friend, Shawn (ph), and you know, just the history that -- you know, that we shared together and then, you know, for the first time, she`s, you know, introducing somebody to me, you know, I had no other thoughts than, you know, he might be the one.

GRACE: OK, honest answer.

FREY: Yes.

GRACE: How long after you met him -- and you may be like every other girl in America, for all I know. You meet this guy and think, I could see him walking down the aisle. Did you or didn`t you? Did you think that after the first date?

FREY: Well, I thought definitely, you know, he was somebody that I could see. And I wasn`t the only one.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he a good son-in-law?

SHARON ROCHA, LACI`S MOTHER: I loved Scott. I used to tease him and tell him he was my favorite son-in-law all the time. Of course, he was my only son-in-law and that was the joke. He was just, you know, like anybody else would be, perfectly normal. I didn`t notice that there was any issues or any problems. You know, when you look back at things, you can kind of put a few things together, but on a normal everyday basis, nothing unusual.


GRACE: If Scott Peterson had really been looking for his wife, why would he be arrested en route to Mexico with his hair dyed another color, false ID, thousands in cash? He was set to go, set to leave the jurisdiction. He had survival gear with him. He was headed to Mexico and planned a life there.

COSBY: Amber Frey has also written a book, as well. She got married in 2006 and also had her second child. She`s trying to move on with her life.

CASAREZ: Scott Peterson is on death row in San Quentin, California.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He probably receives somewhere in the area of 25 pieces of mail every day.


CASAREZ: He gets fan letters, love letters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Much of that mail, though, is from people that do not know Scott Peterson personally, and most of them are females.


CASAREZ: His commissary account is kept pretty full because people continue to send him money.

COSBY: Scott Peterson claims he`s innocent. He has this Web site devoted to his appeal and his innocence.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being on death row is supposed to eliminate an inmate`s privileges, and this just flies in the face of justice, as far as I`m concerned, that, OK, so they say they can`t use the Internet, they go around it and they use it in another way.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So people would know Laci, about who Laci really is other than just, you know...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She had so much energy and life, and she could be silly, but she`s one of the smartest little women I ever knew.


GRACE: I walked out of the courtroom and people were cheering.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury in above entitled cause find the defendant, Scott Lee Peterson, guilty of...


GRACE: I think that if there had been a not guilty verdict in the Scott Peterson murder trial, it would have left such a wound in the heart of America. I really do.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And of course, I do wonder what did happen. And sometimes I think I want to know what happened. Other times, I`m afraid to know what happened. I think the one thing that I want to know more than anything is that she didn`t know what was happening.


GRACE: And when that verdict came out, I was rushing out to the anchor chair for CourtTV, and I wanted to cheer, too, because there was no happiness, but there was justice. Such as it is.