Neighbors weary of the spotlight

April 27, 2003 

Since Laci Peterson was reported missing on Christmas Eve, her neighbors on Covena Avenue have been under siege.

Four months of reporters ringing their doorbells, requesting interviews, clicking cameras and asking to use their restrooms.

Four months of listening to the buzz of news truck generators that keep them awake late at night.

In the beginning, when hope was high that searchers would find Peterson, neighbors said they did not mind the noise and inconveniences of being in the national spotlight. Anything to find her, they said.

But now that her remains have been found, they just wish the news trucks would go home and that their doorbells would stop ringing.

It is bad enough, some said, to lose Peterson, the young lady known for her radiant smile and green thumb. But they have grown tired of discussing her loss with reporters.

They expect to grow more tired.

Laci Peterson's husband, Scott, has been charged with murdering his wife and their unborn son. His journey through the court system is just beginning.

A handful of neighbors said they do not expect the door knocks to stop. Orange cones will continue blocking off their street, lest there be a traffic jam, some said.

"You're the 35th reporter to ring my doorbell," Melville Ikerd told a Bee reporter who came to the door.

"Now when we hear the doorbell ring, we know it's not a visitor, it's a reporter," the retired Modesto police officer said with a chuckle.

But while Ikerd still answers his door to chat, other neighbors have posted signs on their property. Some read, "Do not disturb." Others are more blunt: "No reporters."

Amy Krigbaum, 28, who lives across the street from the Petersons' house, said she no longer answers her home phone. Anybody who needs to reach her knows her cell number, she said, standing outside her home as a television reporter tried to convince her to go before the camera.

But Krigbaum said the media barrage is the least of her concerns regarding the deaths of Laci Peterson and her unborn child. Every time she looks outside her window, she is reminded of Peterson's absence by the dead grass in the front yard of 523 Covena Ave. She recalled how Peterson meticulously cared for her lawn and garden.

"Life can't be normal when we look out our window every time we wash the dishes and see a memorial," she said.

Krigbaum added that even after the last television satellite truck leaves Covena Avenue, life will never return to normal.

"We're never going to see Laci bringing in her groceries or working in her yard again," said Krigbaum, who graduated one year before Peterson at Downey High School.

While many neighbors on Covena are struggling with the national attention, one person is waiting for the media to disperse before he moves in.

Vladimir Rodriguez, 43, a real estate agent, said he bought the home next door to the Petersons shortly before Laci Peterson disappeared. He is temporarily living elsewhere.

"I didn't want to run into reporters," he said as he dropped off tools for the work crew remodeling the house. "I decided to wait until this whole thing blows over."

Rodriguez said Laci Peterson and his sister-in-law, who also lives on Covena, used to take morning walks together on a nearby trail along Dry Creek.

Though he said he is saddened by Peterson's death, once he moves onto Covena he will not dwell on it.

"This tragedy could have happened anywhere," he said. "Hopefully, something like this will never happen again."

Bee staff writer Julissa McKinnon can be reached at 578-2324 or jmckinnon@modbee.com.


'Life can't be normal when we look out our window every time we wash the dishes and see a memorial'

-- Covena Avenue resident Amy Krigbaum

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