Scott Peterson’s Neighbors and Police Testify in Murder Trial

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 12, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Scott Peterson’s Neighbors and Police Testify in Murder Trial

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
June 12, 2004

Redwood City, CA ( — Jurors in the Scott Peterson double murder trial heard testimony from the Petersons’ neighbors and police, with prosecutors continuing to build a case on Peterson’s suspicious behavior following his pregnant wife’s disappearance.

Susan Medina, a neighbor, testified Thursday that homeless people used the neighborhood as a shortcut to get to a nearby park. Medina had installed a locking mailbox at her residence, due to her nervousness about the frequent presence of suspicious characters.

The Medina’s home had been broken into a few days after Christmas, within two days of Laci Peterson’s disappearance. Medina’s admission aided the defense’s efforts to sow seeds of doubt that someone else could have kidnapped Laci.

Modesto Police Sgt. Byron Duerfeldt also testified Thursday, saying that police became suspicious of Peterson within hours of the search for Laci. Duerfeldt said that reports from family and friends of the family, who have already testified about Peterson’s strange behavior, prompted him to call for a detective, an unusual step so early in a missing person case.

"Based on what they told me I felt it was necessary to have a detective respond," Duerfeldt said.

The neighborhood’s mail carrier, Russell Graybill, also testified, recalling that the Peterson’s dog would sometimes get out of the backyard and, being territorial, interfere with mail delivery to the Peterson’s home. Graybill did not recall the dog bothering him on December 24, 2002, when Laci disappeared.

In opening statements, the prosecution put forth a case based on Scott Peterson’s erratic behavior, affair, and alleged secret purchase of a fishing boat that could have been used to dump Laci’s body into the San Francisco Bay.

Peterson’s defense attorney, Mark Geragos, has pointed out that the prosecution has no murder weapon, no eyewitnesses, and a case built entirely on circumstantial evidence. He has put forth explanations for Peterson’s strange behavior as well as theories that a satanic cult or men with a tan van abducted Laci on the morning of December 24.

Scott has pleaded innocent to charges that he murdered his wife on Christmas Eve 2002, when she was eight months pregnant, and dumped her body into San Francisco Bay. Her body and that of her son Conner washed up on the California coast in April.

The double murder charges against Peterson have received national attention and spurred the passage of numerous unborn victims laws.

The laws allow prosecutors to charge criminals with two crimes when they kill or injure an unborn child in addition to a pregnant woman.

Laci’s mother, Susan Rocha, has become and outspoken advocate of Unborn Victims Laws, both for individual states and the entire nation.

President Bush signed a federal Unborn Victims of Violence Law in March. Rocha had voiced her support of the bill, and had criticized members of the Senate, including presidential hopeful John Kerry, who had stalled and opposed the bill.

According to the National Right to Life Committee, 30 states have unborn victims laws, most recently Kentucky and Virginia, and 18 cover mothers and their unborn children throughout pregnancy. None of those laws has ever been successfully challenged in Court.