On December 24, 2002, Scott reported that his wife Laci was missing from their Modesto, California home. Laci was eight months pregnant with a due date of February 10, 2003. The couple had planned to name her baby boy Conner. The story attracted nationwide media interest. Scott told police that he had made a trip to Berkeley Marina that day, and police made an intensive but unsuccessful search of the Bay near that location, suspecting that he may have murdered Laci and disposed of the body there.
On December 30, 2002, Amber Frey called the Modesto Police and reported that she was having an affair with Scott.
On April 13, 2003, Conner’s body was found close to shore just North of Berkeley Marina, and the next day Laci’s body was found in the same area, also close to the shore. The exact date and cause of Laci’s death could not be determined.
Scott was arrested, tried and found guilty of the murder of his wife and unborn son, and sentenced to death on March 16, 2005.
On July 6, 2012, Scott’s lawyer, Cliff Gardner, filed an Appeal.
The fundamental question is whether Scott disposed of Laci’s body, or whether some unknown person or persons planted the bodies in order to cause his arrest and trial.
The State alleged that the murder was premeditated, and that Scott bought a boat to dispose of Laci’s body. Police found a concrete anchor Scott had made, and suggested that he had made four similar anchors to weigh Laci’s body down. A single hair, said to have been Laci’s, was found on a pair of pliers from Peterson’s boat. The state suggested that Laci was murdered before Scott left the house on December 24,
In more detail, the state’s theory was that
- Scott killed Laci in their home between the night of December 23 and the morning of December 24, possibly by suffocation.
- Scott put the leash on McKenzie and let him loose in the neighborhood so that it would appear that Laci had been abducted while she walked the dog. Scott moved the body to his Modesto warehouse by putting it in a toolbox in the back of his truck.
- At the warehouse, Scott then attached homemade cement anchors to the body and placed it in the back of his 14-foot Sears-Roebuck boat which he then towed to the Berkeley marina.
- When Scott got to the marina he launched the boat and, once on the bay, he pushed the body (with the anchors) overboard.
- Scott committed the crime either for financial reasons or to obtain freedom from Laci and Conner.
It is not disputed that Scott took his boat out on the bay, but the state did not prove Laci’s body was in it. Scott accurately described an island he visited near the marina.
The state suggested that a dog detected Laci’s scent at the marina, however this seems very doubtful, and is one of the main grounds for appeal.
Is that some unknown person or persons abducted Laci after Scott left home on 24th December, and that some unknown person or persons later planted the bodies in order to cause his arrest and trial.
There was a report that Laci was seen by a burglar burglarizing the Medina house across the street after 10:30am on December 24, implying that Laci was alive when Scott left. However this did not come into evidence, see Medina.
The state suggested that if Scott was telling the truth, Laci must have been abducted in a narrow ten minute period. The family dog had been found by a neighbour and returned to the yard at 10:18am shortly after Scott left the house at 10:08am.
In the appeal, the defense counters that the abduction could have taken place later, the dog had escaped on other occasions, and no strong conclusion can be drawn from the return of the family dog. See appeal brief, page 45.
A number of questions have been raised about the case.
(1) Scott’s alleged pre-meditated plan seems very poor, disposing of the body but making no attempt to conceal where he had been does not seem plausible. In addition attempting to dispose of the body in daylight in such a public location seems a very risky plan.
(2) The police were unable to discover Laci’s body. If Scott had indeed dumped it in the bay, that is surprising. Multiple search technologies and dogs that can detect a corpse in water were deployed. See Bay Search.
(3) Connor’s body was found beyond the debris line that marks high tide. Distaso argued in closing that heavier objects would be left further up, but this is incorrect, see Debris Line. It is also hard to imagine how Conner’s body could have come through the rocks of the breakwater without significant damage, so it seems that Connor’s body was not washed up by the tide.
(4) There is detailed evidence of Scott’s activities on 24th December, it is hard to see when or how he could have carried out the murder.
(5) It is hard to see how Scott could have left no forensic trace of Laci in the boat, apart from the single hair (which is hardly conclusive).
(6) The defense suggested that Laci must have lived for some time after she disappeared, based on Connor’s measurements.
(7) Scott had no apparent motive to murder his wife and unborn child (with pre-meditation), and showed none of the psychopathic traits that would be expected.
(8) [Added March 2015] A known serial killer, Edward Wayne Edwards left a digitally signed confession that he killed Laci. This and other circumstances strongly suggest Edwards abducted and murdered Laci.
(9) The gate was opened after Servas put the McKenzi back, and Laci Peterson was sighted after Scott left home. See the summary of Habeas Appeal.
- Facebook discussion group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ScottPetersonOpen/
- Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/FreeScottPeterson
- or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Scott-Peterson-Case-Truth-be-Told/127523270602413
Site maintained by Scott’s family: http://www.scottpetersonappeal.org/
A summary site: https://sites.google.com/site/another9912/home
Site by Marlene Newell with a great deal of useful information: http://www.pwc-sii.com/
A detailed article by Lise LaSalle