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CULTURE EXPOSED: Could convicted murderer Scott Peterson be innocent?

Laci and Scott Peterson on their wedding day, Facebook

Spoiler Alert: we don't think he's innocent. On December 24, 2002, in Modesto, California, an eight months pregnant Laci Peterson left her home on Covena Avenue to walk the dog, while her husband Scott Peterson was out golfing with friends. A short time after Laci left, the couple's dog returned to the neighborhood- eerily, without Laci. Peterson phoned his wife on his way home and left the kind of sweet message that would seemingly create the aura of a perfect couple ("Hey you sweetie, etc."). The time of that call would later be disputed. After he returned home and discovered their dog in the backyard with its leash covered in mud and no Laci, he rushed to the neighbor's house to ask if they had seen his very pregnant wife. The neighbor explained that they were actually the one to discover the dog in the Peterson's driveway around 10:18 AM that morning, and escorted the lone pup to the backyard. Peterson then alerted his wife's family around 5:15PM, and Laci's stepfather called the police to report his daughter "missing," as that's the term his son-in-law used.

After the Modesto Police arrived at the Covena Avenue home and began asking questions, Peterson explained that he didn't actually go golfing (as he had stated to the neighbors), he went fishing instead. Police observed Peterson to be "non-committal" with his answers and somewhat concerned about the search that was taking place at his home. As one of the detective's was looking around, he found a pile of wet towels on top of the washing machine, but a pair of jeans, a shirt and a pullover in the actual washing machine. Peterson claimed he removed the towels so he could wash what he wore that day fishing, however detectives additionally observed a hamper full of dirty clothes in the bedroom. Police also searched his truck, and found a tarp, several unused fishing rods and what was described as a "homemade concrete anchor." He also revealed a receipt that stated he entered the Berkley Marina at 12:54pm.

During Peterson's initial interview with police, he stated that it had been too cold to golf, so he decided to go fishing instead. Why Peterson perpetuated the golf lie to his friends and neighbors was unclear. He also suggested Laci could have been kidnapped or robbed because she wore expensive jewelry, then asked if police would be using cadaver dogs to find his pregnant wife. The police answered no, as no one was assuming Laci was deceased. No one... except for Peterson, perhaps? When asked about his marriage, Peterson confirmed the couple had no marital issues and were very happy together.

Upon further inspection and forensic testing a few days later, Peterson's blood was found on the bed comforter, and in his own truck. He explained that he cut his hand on the door of the truck. Police also found a pair of pliers in his fishing boat, which contained a clump of hair that matched the DNA of Laci's mother, Sharon Rocha. This meant the hair belonged to someone of the same "maternal lineage" as Rocha. Search dogs were also given Laci's scent, and were able to match the scent of Laci's sunglasses to a path that lead directly to a dock and into the water. Things were looking grim, and Peterson was becoming incredibly suspicious.

However, even the most skilled true-crime writer couldn't have predicted the events that were about to unfold. On December 30, 2002, a massage therapist named Amber Frey contacted police after seeing Scott Peterson on the news begging for his wife to come home. Frey told police she was shocked, as she had been dating Peterson since the beginning of November: they picked out a Christmas tree together, attended parties together, and Peterson had even picked up Frey's young daughter from daycare. Peterson had told Frey that his wife had died, and this would be his first holiday without her. Frey agreed to record her calls with Peterson at the direction of police in order to assist in the search for Laci. On New Years Eve, a vigil for Laci was held packed with media, family, friends and good samaritans. Peterson actually called Frey from the vigil, explaining that he was in Paris at the Eiffel Tower, and couldn't wait to see her. Truly despicable. This was too much to ignore.

When police confronted Peterson with a photo of he and Frey together that she had provided, Peterson denied that it was him in the photo. Frey soon came forward and held a press conference- Peterson was then forced to admit the affair. In an interview with Diane Sawyer, he claimed that Laci knew about the affair and was "fine with it." Like many of the viewers, Sawyer had a hard time believing that a most likely, very emotional 8 month-pregnant woman, would be so understanding about her husband's infidelity. Police have now zeroed in on Peterson and kicked things up a notch in their investigation. They receive a warrant to track his vehicles and implement a camera outside of the Peterson home. It was discovered that the month following his wife's disappearance, he had driven to the Berkley Marina (which is 90 miles away from Modesto) five separate times while driving a different rental car. One day he drove a Subaru, the next day he drove a Honda. Police also discovered that Peterson had sold Laci's car, began having conversations to sell the home on Covena, turned the nursery for their unborn baby into a storage room, and even cancelled their TV services. One could speculate he was not expecting his family to return home. Over the next few months, Peterson appeared to show very little interest in finding his pregnant wife.

Tragically, in April of 2003, the bodies of both Laci and her unborn son Conner, washed ashore after a storm swept the Bay Area. The bodies were estimated to be in the water between three and six months, and because of the marine conditions, a cause of death could not be determined. Laci's mother contacted Peterson to inform him about his wife, and he didn't return her call. Additionally, Peterson's new appearance had raised some eyebrows- he had dyed his hair bleach blonde and grew a goatee- perfectly normal to undergo a makeover while your pregnant wife is missing (note the sarcasm). Police feared that he may flee, and had enough evidence to have him arrested. They appeared to be correct. Upon his arrest, police discovered that Peterson had multiple cell phones in his possession, a gun, camping gear, extra clothes, two drivers licenses (including one that belonged to his brother), foreign currency and almost $15k in cash. It was also reported that after his arrest, Peterson casually asked police if they'd get him a burger and a milkshake.

Scott Peterson, Associated Press

The theory of the prosecution was that Laci's murder was partially financially motivated. Peterson had racked up almost $25,000 in debt and had the jewelry that Laci recently inherited appraised- it was worth over $100,000. Witnesses came forward stating that Peterson was not looking forward to becoming a father and would openly make comments about it. Police also learned that Peterson never registered his fishing boat, or even told his father-in-law about the purchase, who was an avid fisherman always inviting him out. They believed that Peterson killed Laci on the evening of December 23rd, disposed of her body at the Marina on December 24th, then let the dog out himself to support his story. The lies, the concerning behavior, the pliers, the search dogs, Amber Frey- it was all mounting evidence.

The defense argued that Peterson was not a murderer, but a sex addict who was just a serial cheater. They also argued that police never investigated any other possible suspects besides Peterson, and didn't follow through on a lead regarding a burglary that occurred in the neighborhood the week of Laci's disappearance. Scott Peterson was eventually convicted on two counts of murder and was sentenced to death. The death sentence was later overturned and Peterson received life in prison without the possibility of parole. It's been reported that he's living an easy and comfortable life while in prison.

Per Greg Macek of ABC News, the case and conviction against Scott Peterson was based on circumstantial evidence which was given the same weight as direct evidence under the law, and the jury felt like the prosecution presented their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Why over 20 years later is The Innocence Project filing motions on Peterson's behalf? Shortly after Laci's disappearance, the Modesto fire department was called to the scene of an arson fire of a van about a mile from Covena Avenue. Inside the van was a piece of fabric with a "rust colored" stain. The Innocence Project has filed a court order to get the fabric tested for DNA, which could support the initial defense theory about Laci potentially walking in on a neighborhood burglary and being killed for it (the arson being an attempt to destroy possible evidence as a cover-up). According to a 2024 Nightline Special, a detective stated that two men were arrested and charged for the burglary in question and cleared of any involvement in Laci and Conner's death. It's also worth mentioned that author Donna Thomas (said to be a pen name), released her 2009 book I'm Sorry I Lied to You: The Confession of Scott Peterson. Thomas claims she was romantically involved with Peterson and was able to elicit his confession while visiting him at San Quentin.

The Innocence Project also claims that there was a witness who did in fact see Laci walking her dog the morning of December 24, 2002, and that witness was never interviewed by police.

A status conference is set for March 12, 2024 to determine whether or not a judge sees reason for further DNA testing. Scott Peterson was sent an official notice to appear in court. Laci and Conner's tragic deaths were so devastating to her family and friends, and we believe that the jury had it right the first time. Peterson is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Prove us wrong.


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