Scott Peterson Double Murder Trial Concludes Its Second Week

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 18, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Scott Peterson Double Murder Trial Concludes Its Second Week

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
June 18, 2004

Redwood City, CA ( — The jury in the Scott Peterson double murder trial heard additional testimony from Modesto police this week, giving further insight into the early search for Laci and the reasoning for her husband becoming a suspect.

Officer Jon Evers, was the first police officer dispatched to the Peterson home on December 24, 2002, when Laci Peterson was first reported missing. He testified Tuesday that Scott Peterson had offered evidence of his trip that day, his alibi.

"I had a quick conversation with Scott about where he went fishing," said Evers. "And he said. ‘In fact, I have a parking receipt. Would you like to see it?’"

Evers did notice the crumpled rug and dirty rags on the washing machine, which two of his fellow officers said Monday that partially led to their suspicions of Peterson.

Peterson’s hesitancy later during police inquiries and his alleged emotionless reaction reported by Laci’s family, along with the fishing story, led the officers to call for a detective to come to the scene.

On Wednesday Sgt. Ron Cloward testified about the search efforts shortly following Laci’s disappearance. He said police thoroughly searched the Modesto neighborhood, including investigating known sex offenders in the area, and within days began searching the San Francisco Bay area where Peterson said he had been fishing. In April 2003, the bodies Laci and her son Conner washed up on the shore.

Cloward said police first searched the bay December 28, and was searched 26 times between then and April. After the bodies washed ashore, another 23 searches were conducted. An average search day would be conducted by 29 law enforcement officers and 38 citizen volunteers, as well as 75 percent of the state’s water-certified search dogs, said Cloward.

In cross-examination defense attorney Mark Geragos focused on the Modesto neighborhood search. He pointed out that police had received approximately 8,900 tips from callers, many of whom claimed to have seen a pregnant woman resembling Laci that morning, as well as the Peterson’s dog running loose. Peterson told investigators that when he left to go fishing his wife was preparing to take the dog for a walk.

Geragos again mentioned the possibility that homeless persons in the area could have been responsible for Laci’s disappearance, especially considering that 47 registered sex offenders gave the local homeless shelter as their address.

Among the witnesses Thursday as a pawn shop owner to whom Laci had sold some of her inherited jewelry, and a saleswoman from a Modesto jewelry shop, to whom Laci had brought her jewelry to be appraised. Laci had told her that her husband had wanted to know how much the jewelry was worth, and upon hearing it was worth about $100,000, she allegedly said her husband would be very happy to hear it.

Laci’s obstetrician also testified, particularly about Laci’s concern about dizzy spells during her 20 minute walks. Dr. Tina Edraki said that she instructed Laci to quit the walks or walk later in the day.

Dr. Edraki also testified that Laci’s due date was February 16, a detail that should become more important as Geragos had said during opening statements he was going to prove Conner was born before Laci died.

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, Sharon 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.