Police respond to yelling match between Rocha, Peterson families

Killer's relatives were moving items out of the couple's Modesto house

February 27, 2005 

Laci Peterson's mother, Sharon Rocha, got into a loud argument with Scott Peterson's family Saturday morning as the Petersons removed furniture and other items from the couple's vacant Covena Avenue home.

Scott Peterson's family, including his mother, Jackie, and his brother, John, still were loading a large rental truck after noon.

"We're moving out what's left," John Peterson said as he carried a box to the truck.

Sharon Rocha confronted the Petersons shortly after 10 a.m., authorities said. Modesto police were called to the home about 10:20 a.m. after neighbors reported a loud argument.

Scott Peterson, a 32-year-old fertilizer salesman, was convicted in November of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, just before Christmas 2002 and putting her body in San Francisco Bay. The same jury decided in December that Peterson should be executed.

Shortly after officers arrived Saturday, Rocha left and didn't return, officer Derrick Letsinger said. There was no physical altercation, and no one was arrested or cited, Letsinger said.

After Rocha left, two people who had accompanied her stayed and watched. The pair used a camera to photograph items the Petersons were loading into the truck.

Rocha's attorney, Adam Stewart, said Rocha telephoned him from the house and told him about the argument with Jackie Peterson and her son.

"I advised her to calm down and leave immediately," he said. "It could have been a more explosive situation."

Stewart said he was surprised the Petersons showed up Saturday.

He said he thought he had a commitment from one of Scott Peterson's lawyers to honor timelines to clear remaining items from the house.

"But Jackie Peterson took matters into her own hands to move things out. I guess our timeline wasn't acceptable to Jackie Peterson," Stewart said.

He said Rocha went to the house Saturday after someone told her the Petersons were there. Stewart said he talked to the police and requested that officers monitor what was going on.

Stewart said no one but the Petersons and Rochas have a right to be on the property. He said someone with the Petersons "broke the locks on the house" so they could get inside.

Laci Peterson's estate owns at least 50 percent of the home, and Scott Peterson and his parents own the rest, Stewart said. He said the home will be listed for sale in the next couple of weeks.

Police said there were no major problems.

"We were called out here to keep the peace, and we stood by while they (Peterson family) loaded the truck and then left," Letsinger said.

Several times, Jackie Peterson, without the oxygen tank she usually carries, brought boxes out of the house and to the truck.

John Peterson said the Rocha family already had removed electronic equipment, including a television and computer.

Stewart said the Rochas have taken only what they're legally entitled to and what was important to them as far as Laci Peterson was concerned.

John Peterson declined to say where the furniture and other items were being taken.

Just before getting into the rental truck's passenger's seat, Jackie Peterson scoffed at members of the media gathered outside the house, "Is this entertainment in Modesto on a Saturday?" she asked.

Scott Peterson is scheduled to be formally sentenced March 16.

Mark Geragos, his Los Angeles-based attorney, filed a motion for a new trial. Judge Alfred Delucchi has sealed the motion and it will remain under wraps until prosecutors submit their response March 9.

Bee staff writer Daryl Farnsworth can be reached at 578-2337 or dfarnsworth@modbee.com.

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