Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Laci Peterson

An Investigation Begins

Mark Geragos, Scott Peterson's attorney
Mark Geragos, Scott Peterson's attorney
Scott Peterson told police that when he left the house that morning, his wife was watching a Martha Stewart Living segment about meringues. Investigators would later confirm that that episode was shown not on Christmas Eve but on the previous daythough, at the trial, Peterson's lawyer showed that the December 24th episode did indeed use the word "meringue." At one point Peterson also told police that his wife was mopping when he lefttheir housekeeper would testify that that was unlikely, as she herself had mopped just the day before. Furthermore, Laci's advanced pregnancy was making physical activity difficult. She'd been advised not to walk the dog, and bending to wring a mop would have been difficult. But the mop was out and wet when police got there; someone indeed may have had to clean something up.

Scott Peterson told them he'd been out all day: He went to his office that morning, went fishing, then returned to his office for a few hours before coming home. Unasked, he insisted on showing police his parking receipt from the lot at the Berkeley Marina.

Harvey Kemple, on Laci's side of the family, later said that Peterson had told him that night that he'd been playing golf that day, presumably at the Del Rio, a country club where Peterson's parents had paid his hefty initiation fee. A neighbor whom Peterson asked about Laci also recalled that he said he'd been golfing.

Questioned about that discrepancy, Peterson explained that it was too cold to golf that day. But evidently he had thought it balmy enough to sit in a boat, splashed by the waves of the December Pacific. After dodging the question of what he'd been fishing for, he finally told police he'd been trolling for sturgeon; experts would note that his fishing tackle had the wrong lures and it was the wrong season.

Ron Grantski, Laci's stepfather, asserted during his testimony at trial that right away he knew the fishing story was fishy. He said he'd asked Peterson if he was trying to cover up a meeting with a girlfriend. Grantski testifiefd that Peterson had never before seemed interested in fishing and he noted that, with one exception, Peterson had never taken him up on his offer to fish together. That one time Peterson did accompany him, Peterson left his rod at Grantski's house and never picked it up. Grantski also noted that, while Peterson had bought the 14-foot aluminum boat police connected to Laci's disappearance that fall, he'd never mentioned it the many times Grantski brought up boating and fishing. Furthermore, Grantski scoffed at Peterson's fishing schedule: 9:30 a.m. would be the time a good fisherman might be returning, not when he would set out.

The fishing story wasn't the only thing Peterson said that night that seemed suspicious. He told his mother-in-law that he wouldn't be surprised if they found blood in his truck, since he cut himself all the time. And when officers brought him to the warehouse that served as his office, he told them it didn't have electricityright before they discussed the fax he'd received there that morning on the machine hooked up to the computer right in front of them.

They never did find out what Peterson was trying to conceal with his misstatement in his office, but police expected foul play almost immediately.

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