Amazon banner

A & E Special Revisits Laci Peterson Murder

A & E's mini series on the tragic murders of Modesto resident Laci Peterson and her unborn son Connor has been aired.  Anyone who lives in the greater Bay Area remembers the Christmas-time disappearance of the beautiful Laci, in part because she was 8 months pregnant and she vanished on Christmas Eve.  The story quickly went national and photos of the smiling Laci Peterson were being televised from coast to coast as Modesto residents turned out to help in the search for her.

Laci was reported missing by her stepfather on Christmas Eve, after husband Scott returned to an empty home after going fishing in the San Francisco Bay.  He told law enforcement that Laci was alive and well on Christmas Eve morning when he left for the Berkeley Marina - she planned on taking their dog MacKenzie for a walk in a nearby park.  A neighbor of the Peterson's reportedly found MacKenzie wandering on the street with her leash and put her into the Peterson's back yard.  It was approximately 10:17AM.

As law enforcement began their investigation into the disappearance, it was noted that there had been a recent break in directly across the street from the Peterson home - neighbors, family and law enforcement wondered if there was a connection between the robbery and Laci's disappearance. I remember when this was all happening and it seems to me that Laci's husband Scott was a "person of interest" from the start - in part because of his decision to go fishing on Christmas Eve when his wife was so pregnant and partially because of his detached demeanor about Laci's disappearance.  Months into the search for Laci, Scott became really the only person of interest after Amber Frey contacted law enforcement and disclosed her relationship with Scott Peterson, whom she believed was a single man.

Amber Frey did the right thing.  As soon as she became aware of the fact that Scott was married and his wife was missing AND pregnant, she contacted the police and began secretly recording her conversations with Scott Peterson.  These recordings would come back to haunt Scott Peterson and aside from the location of Laci and Connor's remains may have been the single most influential piece of evidence at the double murder trial.  

Like most people at the time, I found the behavior of Laci's husband during her disappearance highly suspicious.  He never appeared overly concerned about the whereabouts of Laci, in fact he seemed more worried about Amber Frey's feelings after he had to disclose the truth to her.  Things didn't look good for Scott, but when the remains of Laci and Connor were finally discovered and they arrested him, I thought the prosecution must have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt because they arrested him.

From what I was hearing on the legal talk shows (at the time I believe Court TV was still on the air) the things that seemed to point to Scott Peterson's guilt were the homemade "anchors" that law enforcement says Scott made at his warehouse, the piece of Laci's hair found in the pliers in Scott's toolbox or his truck - they also talked about the fact that Scott sold Laci's vehicle a short time after her disappearance and was talking about putting their house up for sale.  These actions seemed to point to a husband who didn't really believe his wife was ever coming home even though she was still missing at the time. 

Much was also made of the fact that Scott Peterson reportedly added some adult channels to his cable package; something Laci would not have approved of.  If I'm not mistaken, Scott originally planned to go golfing on that Christmas Eve but said it was "too cold" to golf so he decided to make the drive all the way to the Berkeley Marina to try out his new boat.  I actually found that odd because if he thought it was too cold to golf, did he think he would be warmer out on the San Francisco Bay?  The Berkeley Marina isn't terribly close to Modesto and certainly there are several other bodies of water he could have chosen to fish or try out his new boat.  It was odd.

The single most damning piece of evidence against Scott Peterson was the place Laci and Connor's bodies were found.  What are the odds that somebody else took and killed Laci and then disposed of her body in the same location her husband was fishing the same day she disappeared?  It really did seem to just be too great of a coincidence to ignore.  If the State's case was weak and there was really no direct evidence that linked Scott to Laci's murder, this one fact was hard to ignore.  It seems to me that either Scott was the unluckiest cheating husband in the world or that he actually killed Laci and put her in the Bay.  When you weigh in the fact that he was having this affair with Amber Frey and his complete lack of emotion the scale tipped more towards Scott being guilty than any other likely scenario.

Once the trial started I was expecting to hear more from the State.  The trial wasn't televised so we got the updates via newspaper, the internet and the many TV anchors and legal analysts updating the viewing public every day.  I can remember thinking to myself that if Scott had golfed instead of taking that boat to Berkeley on Christmas Eve, how could the State have tied him to the murder?  I don't know that they had the evidence to convict beyond a reasonable doubt if he hadn't been to the Berkeley Marina that same day.  As we all know, he was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders.  It was a case that was watched by prosecutors who saw that a jury actually convicted someone and sentenced them to death based on largely circumstantial evidence.

I always felt that Scott Peterson was probably responsible for Laci and Conner's deaths, but there was always the thought that if you take away the location of the remains - there wasn't much to link him to the murder.  When A & E's special began airing, I knew I'd watch it because it looked like it had a lot of information that wasn't previously available to the public. Being sentenced to death is the most serious punishment you can dish out.  There shouldn't be room for error.  After watching the first four episodes of A & E's mini series, I have serious doubts about the whole case.  This may be a very unpopular viewpoint, but the A & E special really shined a bright light on the investigation and the actions and inactions by the Modesto Police Department.  If the investigation was flawed, that's a serious problem if you have someone on Death Row.

I don't believe the A & E special was made to prove the guilt or innocence of Scott Peterson.  What it did ultimately uncover is what a huge role the media played in this case and how the public's absolute hatred of Scott Peterson may have affected the jury.  If you saw the special and heard how the jurors talked about Scott Peterson after the verdict, it seemed clear that they despised the man and the way he treated Laci.  The special also revisited the setup of the Redwood City courthouse, where all witnesses, court personnel, jurors and members of the gallery had to enter through the same doors daily.  Right outside the courthouse doors were a sea of satellite trucks and legal analysts jockeying for position as the key players left the courthouse each day.  It was clearly a media circus in Redwood City, as it may have been in any city that was chosen to hold this trial.

The special was critical of the way the Modesto Police Department handled the investigation from the time Laci was reported missing.  Almost immediately they keyed in on Scott Peterson based probably on a gut feeling and his cold demeanor.  Sure, when a spouse goes missing we want to see the husband's emotions and we want to hear him begging for help to find his missing wife and unborn son.  That's what we have all come to expect, and anything less is suspicious.  Some people just aren't wired that way.  Had Scott been crying, the media probably would have called them crocodile tears.  He truly couldn't win in the eyes of the media.  He just didn't come across as someone who was overly concerned with Laci's absence.  It's odd, it's strange - and I don't understand it, but it's not illegal.

One of the things that bothered me the most on this special were the numerous Modesto residents who reportedly saw Laci Peterson walking MacKenzie on Christmas Eve morning.  I believe there were as many as 8-10 people in the Peterson's neighborhood who thought they saw her.  Did the Modesto Police Department take statements from each of those people?  Did the defense team's investigator talk to those people, and if so why didn't they get those people in front of the jury?  That would have been huge.  If even one of those neighbors really saw Laci on Christmas Eve morning than Scott Peterson couldn't have been the one who killed her. Scott was gone, on his way to his warehouse to pick up his boat before the Laci sightings.  Could every one of the eye witnesses be wrong?  Why didn't the Modesto PD investigate every tip and obtain written statements from the witnesses?  Is it their job to simply dismiss the tips without documenting them?  It's these types of errors or omissions that taints the investigation.

The A & E special had a few of those eyewitness neighbors on the show, and many of them say the police never contacted them with the exception of a phone call.  Wouldn't these types of tips warrant law enforcement seeking each and every person out and at least taking a written statement?  I guess we are taught to assume the police have done their job.  You don't ask for the death penalty unless you have asked all of the questions and exhausted all avenues in looking for other suspects or witnesses who could eliminate a particular suspect.  So what happened here?  I'm not saying that Scott Peterson is innocent.  I'm suggesting that it appears the investigation was one sided pretty much from the start.  You don't just investigate the tips that help you with your theory of the crime.  An investigation should be fair and neutral, and the A & E special certainly casts doubt on the fairness of the investigation into Laci's disappearance and murder.

Will these issues be enough for Scott Peterson to appeal his conviction and get a new trial?  We simply have a duty to ensure we are holding the right person responsible for a crime as horrific as this one was.

My Apologies for Yesterday's Offensive Photo

I wanted to apologize for the photo posted with yesterday's story about a large mural that appeared suddenly on Christmas Eve in NYC.  I...

Most popular posts