Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Laci Peterson

The Bodies and an Arrest

On March 5, 2003, police announced that they were treating Laci Peterson's disappearance as a homicide case. Later, they'd reveal that they'd offered Peterson a plea bargain deal back in February. Their suspicions about the arrogant and uncooperative Scott Peterson kept growing, and they felt sure by now that Laci Peterson wasn't going to suddenly turn up safe.

On April 13, 2003, a couple walking their dog in Point Isabel State Park found a male fetus. The next day, the body of a pregnant woman washed ashore nearby was discovered by another dog-walker. This was some 90 miles from the couple's home, but just 5 miles from the Berkeley Marina where Scott had said he'd gone fishing the morning of Christmas Eve.

The baby was well preserved. Not much more than a skeleton remained of Laci Peterson. Her hands, feet, and head were missing. Her ribs had been fractured. There was still duct tape on her thighs. As Laci's body decomposed, the abdomen and uterus had torn, expelling the fetus.

Forensic scientists were able to get genetic material from her tibia and from the baby's femur. Her DNA matched DNA swabs taken from her parents. The baby's DNA matched the Rochas, as well as a blood sample that the courts had mandated Scott give.

By then, police were following Scott Pearson and listening in to his phone calls. When he rented a car, they got a warrant to track him with a GPS unit.

Jackie Peterson
Jackie Peterson
Lee and Jackie Peterson contended that Modesto police ignored other leads to focus on their son. They regarded it as suspicious that the body was found where Scott had been fishing, after the police had contended that Scott wasn't fishing that day. On a wiretap, police recorded her saying that, "I can't imagine anyone would be stupid enough to say they went fishing in Berkeley Bay after committing a crime there. I mean, not even you, Scott."

Peterson seems to have inspired many such backhanded compliments. During Peterson's sentencing, a family friend, Coni Fritz would take the stand to defend Peterson's character. "I'm sure arrogance is not a word he even knows how to spell, because that's not who he is."

Investigator Steve Jacobson listened to a voicemail from Jackie Peterson telling her son to "deny everything." Jacobson suggested in one of his routine reports that Scott's parents might know more about Laci's disappearance than they'd let on.

On April 18, 2003, cops arrested Scott Peterson at gunpoint just as he pulled his golf clubs out of a Mercedes at San Diego's Torrey Pines. He seemed to have been planning to flee to Mexico. He'd bleached his hair and grown a goatee. In the car police found $15,000 in cash, survival gear, four cell phones, his brother's ID and 12 Viagra tablets.

A few weeks later he wrote Amber Frey a letter, telling her that he believed he'd be exoneratedand that he'd use his time locked up "doing the work of the Lord." They hadn't seen each other since Laci disappeared, and they wouldn't see each other again until she testified at his trial.