Police mum on results of search

February 21, 2003 

The Modesto Police Department maintained its silence Thursday on what officers collected from Scott and Laci Peterson's home during a two-day search this week.

Detectives searched the house with a warrant that was believed to be the eighth in the investigation into the disappearance of 27-year-old Laci Peterson. She was eight months pregnant when she was reported missing Christmas Eve.

Other search warrants have been issued for Scott Peterson's workplace, phone records and vehicles, and his "person," court records show.

In other developments:

False rumors circulated Thursday about Peterson's body being found.

"There is no significant change in this case as we speak right now," Detective Doug Ridenour said late Thursday afternoon.

Laci Peterson's family announced that the site for a Saturday search will be New Melones Reservoir.

Police have confirmed only three search warrants in the case: one for a Dec. 26-27 search of the Peterson home, one for this week's search there, and one for the Modesto warehouse that Scott Peterson uses in his business as a fertilizer salesman.

"As far as I know, all the warrants have been sealed," Ridenour said. "We are not going to try this case in public."

Stanislaus County Superior Court officials said they have no records of the house and warehouse warrants, nor any indication that they had been sealed.

Court records reveal the issuance of five other search warrants in the Peterson investigation, and show that all of them have been sealed by judges' orders:

Three were sealed Jan. 22. Those warrants were for Scott Peterson's "person," which usually means hair and bodily

fluids; one was for an unspecified vehicle used by Scott Peterson; and one was for his phone records.

Two warrants were sealed Feb. 10. Each was for one of Peterson's vehicles.

Police seized Peterson's 2002 Dodge Dakota pickup on Tuesday, searched the pickup, and returned it to him that night. Police still are in possession of his 2002 Ford F-150 pickup and his aluminum boat.

Under state law, a search warrant must be returned to the issuing court within 10 days after being issued. Each warrant must be accompanied by a list of items collected as possible evidence, and an explanation of why

authorities believed that they needed the warrant. Warrant documents become public record unless a judge seals them.

Phaedra Norton, a senior deputy city attorney, in a letter to The Bee, said the warrant records in the Peterson case are exempt from public disclosure.

Norton cited the California Public Records Act, which states that records are public "unless the disclosure would endanger the safety of a witness or other person involved in the investigation, or unless disclosure would endanger the successful completion of the investigation."

In this week's search of the Peterson home, police carted off nearly 100 items.

Scott Peterson, 30, became a focus of attention after the revelation that he had an affair with another woman in the month before his wife's disappearance.

Police say he is not a suspect, nor has he been ruled out.

Search site: New Melones

Laci Peterson's family is once again calling for volunteers to help with a Saturday search, the third one this month.

Brent Rocha, the missing woman's brother, said the family is coordinating its searches with the Police Department, and he added that investigators have suggested all of the sites so far.

This Saturday's effort is set to begin at 9 a.m. at the Glory Hole Recreation Area at New Melones, on the border of Tuolumne and Calaveras counties.

"We are hoping to get volunteers with horses, boats, or

on foot," Rocha said. The family said there is no need Saturday for the four-wheel-drive, all-terrain vehicles known as quads.

Rocha described New Melones as "a place where the Modesto Police Department would like searched with more eyes."

As of Thursday, no other searches had been scheduled beyond this weekend's. Rocha said that when Saturday's search is over, his family will discuss how to proceed.

"We will re-evaluate our goals," he said. "We will keep searching, but we don't know in what manner."

Glory Hole Recreation Areais off Highway 49 between Sonora and Angels Camp. From Modesto, take Highway 108 (McHenry Avenue in Modesto) through Riverbank and Oakdale, and continue east to Sonora. Turn north on Highway 49 and go across the Stanislaus River to the recreation area. The search staging area will be the Black Bart Day-Use Area. A map and more information on the search is posted at www.lacipeterson.com.

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

Bee staff writer John Coté can be reached at 578-2394 or jcote@modbee.com.

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