Peterson home silent

April 4, 2003 

The lawn has not been mowed for two weeks. The shades are always closed.

Every few days, the wind blows over a large yellow sign offering $500,000 for Laci Peterson's safe return. Someone always props the sign back up.

As the scene in front attests, very little happens at 523 Covena Ave. in Modesto these days.

"It is offensive to me," said Brent Rocha, the missing woman's brother. "Basically (her husband, Scott,) is saying he doesn't care about the life he had with Laci. It seems like he just abandoned that life so easily. It definitely doesn't make sense."

Six months ago, the house was home to a young couple awaiting the birth of their first child.

That scenario changed on Christmas Eve when Laci Peterson's stepfather reported her missing. Three days later, the house became a crime scene; police cordoned the residence with yellow tape as investigators collected evidence.

During the next two months, the Peterson home became the subject of a national media blitz. Television trucks parked along Covena Avenue. Reporters conducted live interviews, using the home as a backdrop.

Eventually, the reporters drove away. Curious people stopped driving past at all hours of the day.

Now, the house sits mostly silent.

Neighbors said no one lives there. One neighbor said she saw Scott Peterson there about two weeks ago when he came to mow the lawn -- and then drove away.

Jackie Peterson, Scott's mother, said Thursday that her son no longer stays at his Modesto home. During the past week, he has been spotted several times in the San Diego area. Asked if he was living in San Diego with his family, his mother said: "I'm not going to answer that."

A Modesto real estate agent, who asked to remain anonymous, said Thursday that Scott Peterson has twice contacted real estate agents to inquire about selling the Covena Avenue house.

The first inquiry came within two weeks of Laci Peterson's disappearance and happened at a volunteer search center, the real estate agent said.

"One morning, I sat down next to him and said, 'What's wrong, Scott?'" the agent said. "I could tell he was upset about something. He said, 'I need to talk to you about selling the house. I can't have Laci come back here.' I told him it really wasn't the time or the place to have that conversation."

The real estate agent said Peterson later contacted another agent to inquire about selling the house.

In late January, Peterson traded in his wife's Land Rover as part of his purchase of a 2002 Dodge Ram pickup. Doug Roberts of Roberts Auto Sales of Modesto later gave the Land Rover to Laci's relatives, who expressed outrage at Peterson's having traded it in.

They had similar feelings about his inquiries into selling the house.

"I think it was disturbing when Scott wanted to sell the house," Brent Rocha said. "By him not being there now kind of reinforces his reasoning for wanting to sell the house.

"Obviously he didn't want to be there or he didn't want to have anything to do with the house. You'd think you would want to be in the place you last saw your wife, to be there and to try to find her. But with him being out of town, that's definitely not the case."

Scott Peterson has told police that he went fishing in Berkeley the morning of Dec. 24 and could not find his wife when he returned home.

Police have not named Peterson a suspect in the case nor have they eliminated him from the investigation, spokesman Doug Ridenour said Thursday.

Bee staff writer Ty Phillips can be reached at 578-2331 or tphillips@modbee.com.

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