The Laçin Peterson case, 15 years later
Laura Ingle takes a look back at the murder case that captivated the country.
Fifteen years ago this christmas Eve, the nation turned its eyes and attention to Modesto, California, where the 27-year-old Laçin Peterson, 8 months pregnant and ready to give up her unborn son, who they had named Conner, had seemingly disappeared.
It was in 2002, and while many people go about their plans for the holidays, family and friends of Laçin Peterson began a frantic search to find her, after her husband, Scott, said that she was “gone”.
He called Laçin ‘s mother, Sharon Rocha, in the beginning of the evening to ask if she was at their home, and said, when he came home from a day of fishing Laçin’ s car was in the driveway, and their dog was in the backyard with his belt, and that Laçin was not at home.
The word “missing” immediately struck a chord with Laçin ‘ s mother, who said that it was a strange choice, because Laçin was not the type to go missing.
That call at about 5:15 o’clock, there is a chain of events that would move an entire community, who jumped into action to try to find her, while the rest of the nation watched with anticipation, hoping for an outcome that would bring her home safely.
As the days and weeks went on, the search became more desperate, because there were no signs of Laçin Peterson everywhere.
Her husband claimed that she was at home in the morning when he left that christmas Eve to go fishing in the Bay of San Francisco and that was the last time he saw her. Her family went on TV to ask for her safe return and to help her to find.
Rocha asked the public in a press conference: “We’ve been through so much these last days, that I want to make a plea to the person or persons who have my daughter. Bring my daughter home.”
Attention quickly turned to Scott Peterson, who told family members and investigators that he had nothing to do with her disappearance, though many to his alibi that he had left for a fishing trip after 9 pm on christmas Eve.
Peterson repeatedly said that it is not uncommon for them to do things on their own.
In January 2003 interview, Peterson gave Gloria Gomez, a reporter at the time for KOVR-TV in Sacramento, he said: “You know, 7 1/2 months pregnant, she is not going to go out in a boat, but it is just a recreational activity to pursue that day, and you know that it was what our plans were.”
Prosecutors would later claim she did go out on a boat that day after Peterson had killed her and took her body to the San Francisco Bay to get rid of her and their unborn child.
A month after the disappearance of Peterson, police show that her husband lived a double life, having an affair with a massage therapist who lived in Fresno with the name of Amber Frey.
The single mother went to the police after they became aware that the man she thought her friend was quickly becoming a prime suspect in a national television event.
Frey went on to wear a wire and helped the police record her conversations with Peterson, which play an important role in the process.
The suspicion continued to mount against the man a number of times was behind, but on 13 April 2003, the body of a baby boy in south Richmond, was discovered along the coast of the Bay of San Francisco.
The next day, the body of a mature woman wearing maternity clothes was found in the neighborhood.
Months of searching and hoping came to a crashing end, when the bodies were identified as that of Laçin Peterson and her unborn son Conner, confirms her family’s worst fears.
Her mother spoke in a tearful press conference after promising justice for her daughter and unborn grandchild.
“Laçin and Conner us on christmas Eve, I know that God watches over them, and he sent them back to us on Good Friday. Now we can bring them home where they belong,” she said. “Laçin and her unborn child did not deserve to die this way, and they certainly didn’t deserve to die and dumped in the bay and sent to a watery grave as though their lives are meaningless. We seek justice for her and Conner and make sure that the person who is responsible for their death will be punished.”
Scott Peterson was arrested in San Diego, just a few days after the bodies were discovered.
He had dyed his hair blond, grown a goatee, and had a lot of items in his car that led investigators to believe he may be ready to run.
A partial list of items includes camping gear,12 tablets of Viagra, four mobile phones, two-edged sword with a T-handle, a backpack, water purifier, rope, fillet knife, duct tape and more than $10,000 in cash.
The double murder trial would take a year to start, but at the end of 2004, Scott Peterson was found guilty of first-degree murder for the killing of his wife, and the second-degree murder for the killing of their unborn son. In 2005, he received the death penalty.
He is challenging his death sentence and the granting of a new trial. There are currently more than 700 prisoners on Death Row at California’s San Quentin State Prison. No prisoner has been executed in California since January 2006.
This Sunday, Fox News looks back at the murder case that gripped the nation.
Tune in to “Interview With a Monster: The Scott Peterson Case” at 8 and 11 pm ET as our panel of experts offers a reflection on the case and analyzes his 2003 interview with Gloria Gomez.
Laura Ingle currently serves as a New York-based correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) and also frequently anchors FOXNews.com/LIVE. She joined FNC as a Dallas-based correspondent in 2005.