Prosecutors: Hair in Scott Peterson’s Boat Belonged to Laci, Defense Objects

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

Prosecutors: Hair in Scott Peterson’s Boat Belonged to Laci, Defense Objects Email this article
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by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
September 9, 2004

Redwood City, CA ( — The prosecution’s testimony in the Scott Peterson double-murder trial has now run into the trial’s 15th week. Following the testimony of Peterson’s mistress, Amber Frey, the case against the Modesto fertilizer salesman has again turned to DNA.

On Wednesday, an FBI DNA expert testified that the hair found on Peterson’s boat was not his, but could be his wife’s — only 1 in 112 Caucasians could possibly match the hair.

Constance Fisher, who tested the hairs, told jurors that the mitochondrial DNA testing that was done cannot narrow the field down to one individual, but can exclude certain persons. It can also be done when the hair has no root, as in the case of the hairs found in Peterson’s boat.

Defense attorneys attacked the mitochondrial DNA testing method as being unreliable, and part of a ”raging debate” among scientists.

Another FBI expert, Karen Korsberg, testified that, upon a visual examination, the hairs found in Peterson’s boat matched those of found in Laci’s hairbrush.

The hair is critical to the prosecution’s case, as it is the only evidence linking Laci Peterson to the boat that her husband allegedly used to dump her body in the San Francisco Bay. Prosecutors have argued that Laci did not know about the boat, while Peterson’s defense team has argued she saw the boat in a storage facility before she disappeared.

Wednesday’s proceedings also included testimony from four women from the Peterson’s neighborhood who resembled Laci – all also happened to be pregnant when Laci was and one testified she was walking her dog Christmas Eve. The prosecution brought them forward in a defensive move to explain why there were witnesses who say they saw a woman that looked like Laci, walking a dog the morning Laci disappeared.

On Tuesday, investigators came under fire for not following up on leads that pointed away from Scott Peterson. San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Mears admitted that no officers were sent to search a dangerous area where a tipster said Laci was being held.

Modesto police officer Eric Beffa testified that he was assigned to follow up on the lead, which said Laci was being held in a storage container behind two white houses in a town 30 miles from Modesto. Beffa was unable to locate the site, but Mears was to accompany him and another officer, as Mears said he knew of several locations matching the description.

However, 10 minutes after the set out, the officers were called back to investigate another lead, and the followup attempt was abandoned.

Mears also testified that he had a heat-sensing helicopter fly over a nearby compound of shanties known to be a haven to drug dealing and other criminal activity, but despite the presence of several people in the buildings, no officers were ever sent to investigate on foot.

Last week, prosecution witnesses told of Peterson’s unusual behavior, including his successful attempt to shake off investigators that were following him in his car, and his concern over investigating officers writing too hard on the dining room table — a concern the officer thought was misplaced following his wife’s disappearance.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos attacked the reliability of the search dog that led investigators to believe Laci’s scent ended at Berkley Marina, where Peterson launched his boat. A training video featuring the same dog and handler showed the dog failing a training exercise similar to Laci’s scenario months before the investigation.

The prosecution has been putting 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.

Geragos, claims 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, and attacked investigators for doing sloppy work and focusing on
Peterson exclusively.

Scott Peterson has pleaded innocent to the double murder charges. The case has 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 as a result of attacking 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 returned to Washington from the campaign trial to vote against 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.