Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Laci Peterson


Laci Peterson
Laci Peterson
The evening of December 23, 2002, Sharon Rocha telephoned her daughter for the last time. She and Laci's half-sister, Amy Rocha, had seen Laci Peterson just hours before, at the hair salon were Amy worked. Amy had cut both Laci and Scott's hair. Then the couple went to Laci's obstetrician's office for her check-up. That same day, Peterson called Amber Frey, and again told her that he wanted them to meet with a doctor to discuss the possibility of his having a vasectomy.

Exactly what happened to Laci Peterson later that night or early the next day may never be known.

On Christmas Eve morning a Modesto neighbor, Karen Servas, spotted the Petersons' golden retriever, McKenzie, alone in the middle of the street. A muddy leash hung from his collar. She brought the dog back to the Peterson place. She saw Laci's car and wondered whether she was around, but she was in a hurry and just left the dog in the fenced-in yard. Investigators believe that by this time Peterson had already killed his wife and was disposing of her body, and that he'd let the dog loose to make it look like Laci had somehow been abducted while walking the fiercely protective dog.

Later that morning, Scott Peterson left his wife a voice mail that police say was staged: He asked her to pick up a Christmas gift that he'd promised to handle, because he was running late after his impromptu fishing trip.

When Scott Peterson returned home late that afternoon, he relaxed and straightened the place up, washed his clothes (he'd later explain they'd got wet in the salt water when he went fishing) and ate. Then he called his mother-in-law and asked whether his wife was with her.

Sharon Rocha
Sharon Rocha
Sharon Rocha called 911.

Peterson called a neighbor, George Reed, and left a message. Reed later recounted that Peterson sounded "frantic" when he asked if Reed or his wife had seen Laci that morning or yesterday. Peterson's fuzziness on the timing led investigators to think that that he had actually killed Laci the night before.

When police arrived, they began asking the family questions in order to figure out where Laci might have gone and where the others had been, especially Scott

Police Detective Al Bronchini responded to the call. He found Scott Peterson's nonchalance suspicious. Peterson, he said, was a strange combination of polite and arrogant, disaffectedly distant and impatiently irritable. He just didn't seem like a man who was crushed or even greatly disturbed by his wife's disappearance and possible death.

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