Peterson home searched

February 19, 2003 

Detectives returned to Scott and Laci Peterson's home Tuesday, hauling away about 50 bags of evidence in their second search of the house.

Modesto police spent about 10 hours at the Covena Avenue house, and said they plan to return today.

They were looking for clues into the disappearance of Laci Peterson. The 27-year-old Modesto woman, due to give birth this month, was reported missing Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, officers seized and examined the truck that Scott Peterson purchased last month. And they brought Laci Peterson's sister, Amy Rocha, to the house.

Police spokesman Detective Doug Ridenour said investigators asked Rocha to help them, but he would not say what they asked her to do.

"Amy was asked to come here today to assist detectives," Ridenour said. "That isn't unusual if there's something that a relative would know that detectives wouldn't."

Detectives took Rocha, 21, into the house at about 12:30 p.m. She came out about two hours later looking distressed. She did not make a statement.

Investigators have not named Scott Peterson, 30, as a suspect in his wife's disappearance.

"Scott Peterson is not a suspect yet," Ridenour said. "But he has not been cleared from this case."

Detectives said little else about the investigation, and police would not explain what prompted them to return to the house.

"Discoveries during the Laci Peterson investigation have necessitated revisiting the Peterson residence with a second search warrant," Ridenour said. "Mr. Peterson was cooperative with us this morning."

Ridenour said no arrest is imminent.

Laci Peterson's stepfather, Ron Grantski, reported her missing Dec. 24. Scott Peterson told police he last saw his wife at 9:30 a.m. Christmas Eve when he left to go fishing in Berkeley and she prepared to walk their dog in East La Loma Park.

Scott Peterson's mother, Jackie Peterson, told reporters from her San Diego home that Tuesday's search was part of an effort by police to harass her son.

Brent Rocha, Laci Peterson's brother, said he did not want to comment about the search until he had more information.

"In reality, I hope it helps them uncover my sister's whereabouts," he said.

Detectives arrived at the Peterson home at about 8 a.m., saw Scott Peterson driving down the street in his truck and stopped him, Ridenour said. Peterson returned home and police served him with a warrant to search the house, the yard and the truck.

Peterson left in a car driven by someone else but returned about 45 minutes later in a rented Chevrolet Tahoe. Detectives spoke with him in his driveway on several occasions during the next hour, taking notes on a legal note pad.

While investigators searched, Peterson alternately stood in his driveway, stayed in the Tahoe and sat on a nearby brick wall. He did not re-enter the home.

At about 10:15 a.m., while talking to detectives, Peterson threw his arms up in apparent frustration, then went into his back yard with detectives.

About 15 minutes later, Peterson left in the rental truck, taking two duffel bags and a plastic bag filled with clothes. Ridenour later said investigators had packed the bags with personal and work-related belongings Peterson had requested.

An hour later, a police officer drove Peterson's 2002 Dodge pickup away. He bought the truck late last month after trading in his wife's Land Rover. Police still have Scott Peterson's Ford F-150 pickup, which they seized along with his boat on Dec. 27.

Ridenour said officers took the Dodge to the Police Department, where they searched it for evidence. After about four hours, police released the truck and returned it to the house.

At noon, police sealed off both ends of the 500 block of Covena because there were so many spectators driving down the street, many of whom had seen live news reports on television. Dozens of people parked their cars elsewhere and walked down the street.

During the day, Peterson returned to the house twice. Once, he handed a detective a bag of cat food. The second time, he "returned to the scene with items he had that detectives requested," Ridenour said. He would not say what the items were.

At one point, a UPS delivery man attempted to deliver a package from a wine-of-the-month club to Laci Peterson, but was turned away.

At about 1:30 p.m., Turlock police Detective Kipp Loving put about a half-dozen brown paper grocery sacks into a car. Loving works with the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force

Investigators took two computers from the home during the search in December. They also searched an Emerald Avenue warehouse used by Scott Peterson in his work for Tradecorp, a fertilizer supply company.

At about 4:30 p.m., several officers took about 45 assorted packages out of the home, including a manila envelope, a lunch sack, several boxes, dozens of brown grocery bags and one large green garbage bag.

The search ended at about 6 p.m. Ridenour said the home would be sealed until detectives return this morning.

In the days following Laci Peterson's disappearance, police and volunteers searched several areas, including La Loma Park and the Berkeley Marina, where Scott Peterson said he spent Christmas Eve fishing.

Recently, Laci Peterson's family has put together weekend search efforts, along the Delta-Mendota Canal near Vernalis and at Don Pedro Reservoir in Tuolumne County. But they called off a search planned Saturday at Lake Pardee in Calaveras and Amador counties, rangers at the lake said Tuesday.

Bee staff writer Patrick Giblin can be reached at 578-2347 or pgiblin@modbee.com.

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