Crimes of Scott Peterson

Scott Lee Peterson was born October 24, 1972 in San Diego, California to Jacqueline Helen Latham and Lee Arthur Peterson. His family was big and athletic and he was raised on strict guidelines set by his father. As a kid, Scott loved to hunt and fish and played golf in high school.He attended the University of San Diego High School and graduated from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo (A. K. A. Cal Poly) with a B. A. in agricultural business in 1997.

While attending Cal Poly, he worked as a waiter in a cafe, when he met his future wife, Laci Denise Rocha. Those who knew him described Scott as gentle and generous and very reserved when it came to expressing emotion. His father always told him to keep his feelings in check but every once in a while something would push him over the edge and he would snap.Scott Peterson would soon be under fire for the disappearance and murder of his wife Laci and unborn son Conner.

OFFENSE/CRIME December 23, 2002 would be the last time anyone other than Scott Peterson would see or hear from Laci Peterson, Scott’s 27 year old pregnant wife, when Sharon Rocha, Laci’s mother, phoned her daughter on the evening of the 23rd. Exactly what events played out later that night or early the next morning may never be known. A neighbor reported seeing the couple’s dog roaming the street with a muddy leash dragging the ground.The neighbor was in a hurry and only put the dog in the fenced backyard after seeing Laci’s car in the driveway.

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On Christmas Eve 2002, Scott left Laci a voicemail asking her to pick up a Christmas gift that he wasn’t able to get because he was running late after his “fishing” trip. When Scott returned home late that afternoon, he cleaned up the house, did laundry and ate. He then called his Laci’s mother, Sharon, and asked if Laci was with her. After their conversation, Sharon called the police. Later that night, Laci was reported missing by Scott from their Modesto, California home.At the time, she was just over 7 months pregnant with a baby boy they had planned to name Conner. The story quickly gained national attention. Initially, Scott Peterson was not considered a suspect in the case. It only became clear that he should be looked at as a suspect when inconsistencies in his statements to police were discovered as well as extramarital affairs. Peterson told Diane Sawyer of Good Morning America “his wife accepted his affair with Amber Frey, a single mom from Fresno, when he told her back in early December. (Sawyer, 2003) The extent of these extramarital affairs would unfold throughout the investigation. It is believed that Scott had at least three affairs during the time he was married to Laci. Police also found it difficult to verify his alibi at the time Laci went missing. For months, the nation followed the disappearance and later on, the murder of Laci and her unborn son Conner. This case divided the nation of people following the trial in two, as groups rallied around him or against him.The case was such a powerful topic throughout the nation that People magazine named the trial “Trial of the Year” for 2004 (AccessData® Corp. , n. d. ). The Scott Peterson case was one of the most important, high profile cases in the nation. Lydell Wall, a detective with Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and winner of the Timothy Fidel award said “there was an intense pressure to ensure accuracy. Because when it came down to it this case was about more than computer data, it was about people’s lives” (AccessData® Corp. , n. d. ).Little hard evidence existed in this case but a trial would yield much of the answers demanded from Americans following the case. On April 14, 2003, a male fetus, later identified as the unborn child Laci Peterson was carrying at the time of her disappearance, washed ashore Richmond’s Point Isabel Regional Shoreline in San Francisco Bay, where Scott Peterson had been boating the day of Laci’s disappearance. The following day, the badly decomposed body of a female with only partial limbs still attached and head missing washed ashore nearby.The body was confirmed to be Laci Peterson. Autopsies of the bodies were performed but due to the level of decomposition, the causes of death could not be determined. The autopsy of Laci’s body did reveal that she had several broken ribs that would not have been the result of her body being drug across the rocks in the Bay where she was discovered. The Modesto Police Department and FBI performed forensic searches of the Peterson home, Scott’s truck and tool box in the back of the truck, his warehouse, and boat.Police arrested Peterson on April 18, 2003 in the parking lot of the Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California, a suburb of San Diego approximately 30 miles from the Mexican border, where he stated he was meeting his brother and father for a game of golf. In Peterson’s car, police found a large sum of cash, survival gear, several cell phones, his brother’s ID and Viagra as well as numerous other compelling items that made Scott look like he was planning to flee to Mexico.Police say they moved forward with the arrest just hours before DNA tests confirmed the bodies’ identities because they feared he would flee across the border. Prosecutors presented their case against Scott Peterson. They believed Peterson murdered Laci on December 23 or 24, 2002, and dumped her body into San Francisco Bay from his boat. The defense led by Mark Geragos, argued that Laci was alive when Scott left early Christmas Eve to go fishing and when he returned, she was gone. There is, as far as the public knows, no crime scene, no murder weapon and no cause of death for Laci and the fetus” (Oakland Tribune, 2004) The only significant physical evidence prosecutors presented at Scott Peterson’s preliminary hearing was a 6-inch strand of dark hair on a pair of pliers police found in Scott Peterson’s boat. However, they had to fight for its admission. The only kind of DNA sample able to be extracted from a single strand of hair is mitochondrial and cannot be narrowed down to a single person. It is rarely used in California cases because of this.The defense attempted to have this evidence thrown out but the judge allowed the prosecution to inform the jury it is possible that the DNA from the hair could be Laci’s. In another testimony by a computer forensic investigator, just a couple weeks before Laci was reported missing, Scott Peterson had searched the Internet about Northern California bodies of water including San Francisco Bay and Modesto-area lakes, including information on the currents in the Bay. However, this information could have just been a part of a fishing website Scott visited.In the testimony of Amber Frey, the woman with whom Scott was having an affair with, she stated Scott told her he had “lost his wife” and that the upcoming holiday season would be his first without her. Laci’s sister, Amy Rocha, testified that Scott told her and Laci’s mother he had golf plans on Christmas Eve but he went fishing instead. A detective testified Scott initially denied having an extramarital affair. All these testimonies and facts presented by the prosecution seemed to form a pattern of inconsistencies in Peterson’s statements to his family, police and the women he had affairs with.However, testimonies alone weren’t going to convict Peterson of murder. There was no crime scene, a murder weapon or cause of death. The fate of Scott Peterson would fall in the hands of a key piece of the prosecution’s theory – motive. MOTIVATIONS/OFFENDER BACKGROUND The intent to commit these heinous crimes would originate from Scott Peterson’s emails and internet searches. Lyndell Wall, Detective of High-Tech Crimes Unit, Stanislaus County Sherriff’s Department, was able to restore deleted files on Scott’s computer that provided details of the area where Laci and Conners’ bodies were eventually discovered (AccessData® Corp. , n. d. . “The realities of work, marriage and parenthood can leave some feeling trapped. Peterson consoled himself with a series of affairs. He could have left his wife and child, but that would have meant saddling himself with child support and alimony, not fully freeing himself. ” (Montaldo, 2004) Peterson wanted the bachelor lifestyle. He didn’t want children and had previously told Amber Frey he was considering getting a vasectomy. Those who knew Scott would say he no doubt loved Laci and was content with his marriage until Laci became pregnant with Conner. The pregnancy sent Scott into a downward spiral of panic and feeling trapped.Scott was also feeling the pressures of the couples’ finances. It is believed that from the time Laci became pregnant, Scott had been hatching a plan to hopefully assure his freedom. Shortly after finding out she was pregnant, Scott took out a $250,000 life insurance policy on her. The prosecution stated Peterson’s affair with Amber Frey and money were the primary motives for the murders. It appeared Peterson wanted to be single again and free himself from increasing debt. “He wants to live the rich, successful, freewheeling bachelor life… He didn’t want to be tied to this kid the rest of his life.He didn’t want to be tied to Laci for the rest of his life. ” (Montaldo, 2004) THEORY By the time the neighbor found the couples’ dog roaming the street, prosecutors believe Peterson he had let the dog loose to make it look like Laci had somehow been abducted while walking the dog as she had done many times before. The defense argued that Laci could have been the victim of abduction as a result of the lavish jewelry she would wear or someone had taken her for the baby (Crier, 2004). Police also believed the phone call made to Laci by Scott later that morning asking her to pick up a gift was also staged.He added two X-rated channels to his cable service just days after his wife’s disappearance, which to the prosecution meant Laci was not coming home. He sold Laci’s car and later looked into selling the couples house. When Scott took out a $250,000 life insurance policy on his pregnant wife just after finding out she was pregnant, no one thought anything of it. Those who knew about it thought it was just a precautionary measure in case something should happen to Laci as a result of the pregnancy. It wasn’t even a thought that crossed the minds of those who knew the couple that Scott could be hatching a plan to kill Laci and her unborn son.VICTIMS The main victims in this case are Laci, Conner, and Laci’s family. Laci Denise Peterson (Rocha) was born in Modesto, California on May 4, 1975. Her parents, Dennis and Sharon Rocha, split up when she was very young. After her parents split, she lived with her mother with her older brother, Brent and later, Ron Grantski, her stepfather. She lived with her mother along with, eventually, her stepfather Ron Grantski. She and her brother still spent a lot of time at her father’s dairy farm in Escalon, California. Her father remarried and they had a daughter, Amy. Laci was the girl next door.A popular, pretty cheerleader at Thomas Downey High School, she was inspired by her father’s love for agriculture and farming. She would later attend Cal Poly where she met Scott and graduate with a degree in ornamental horticulture. She had plans to open her own flower shop but was never able to do that. Laci and her mother were very close. It’s no surprise that Sharon was the last person in her immediate family that would speak to Laci, with the exception of her husband. Sharon couldn’t have been happier about Laci’s pregnancy. She, Laci and her sister Amy spent many days shopping for the new addition to their family.COSTS OF CRIME The prosecution of Scott Peterson cost Stanislaus County taxpayers $4. 13 million. These costs included $1. 55 million of the police investigation, $1. 37 million for the prosecutors and their staff, $742,000 for court costs and $182,000 for San Mateo County where the trial was held (Montaldo, 2005). In addition to the costs accumulated by the trial process, the families involved in the case also incurred costs from the crimes, such as the funeral of Laci and Conner. The defense expenses are not included in this number because Peterson retained a private attorney.Because the prosecution was seeking the death penalty, the case took more time from local police because of the additional investigation required. Now, as Peterson sits on death row, the cost of his imprisonment adds to the total cost. PROSECUTION/SENTENCING The trial of Scott Peterson lasted from June 2004 through March 2005 and ended in guilty verdict and the death penalty for the first-degree murder with special circumstances of Laci and second-degree murder of their unborn son. The conviction came on November 12, 2004 by a reconstituted jury after several replacements were made in the previous months.The penalty phase began on November 30 and ended on December 13 when the twelve-person jury recommended a death sentence for Peterson and a prescribed method of execution by lethal injection. Judge Alfred A. Delucchi sentenced Peterson to death on March 16, 2005. The request made by the defense for a new trial due to jury misconduct and media influence was denied and Peterson was ordered to pay $10,000 toward the costs of Laci’s funeral. After having been on death row for eight years, Peterson’s lawyer, Cliff Gardner, filed a 423-page appeal on July 16, 2012 of his sentence.CONCLUSIONMany books and publications have resulted from this trial including one’s written by Laci’s mother, Sharon Rocha, Anne Bird, Scott’s sister, and Amber Frey, Scott’s lover. Sharon’s book details Laci’s life and death and the trial, Anne’s book details 33 reasons why she believes Scott is guilty, and Amber’s book – the most controversial of all – details her account of the trial as a witness. In addition, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004, also known as Laci and Conner’s Law now protects a fetus from the moment of conception from any harm by recognizing a “child in utero” as a legal victim. R

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Crimes of Scott Peterson. (2019, Jun 20). Retrieved from

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