Suspicion crept in at Christmas dinner

December 24, 2007 

Karen Servas, Laci Peterson's next-door neighbor and a key witness in the Scott Peterson trial, sat down with The Bee in her first on-camera interview about her role in the Peterson case. December 11, 2007. Brian Ramsay/The Modesto Bee

BRIAN RAMSAY — Modesto Bee

With his pregnant wife nearby, Scott Peterson splashed in his swimming pool with the 8-year-old son of neighbor Karen Servas and talked about playing with his own son someday.

Servas never dreamed that Laci Peterson would vanish a few months later, that Scott Peterson would become the main suspect and that she, Servas, would provide key testimony for prosecutors seeking his death sentence.

For the first time -- and the last, she swears -- Servas candidly shares in an exclusive Bee interview an inside look at Scott Peterson's attitude as he transformed from happy father-to-be into a national pariah.

Here are some excerpts. You can view the video at www.modbee.com/peterson.

Two days before Laci vanished:

I had gone over with the intention of having Scott straighten out my Christmas tree. He was a little quiet. Right before he walked out the door, unprompted, he turned to me and said, "Oh, by the way, we picked out a name. We want to name the baby Conner."

Christmas dinner:

I went over there and we watched the news. A number of people were there -- Laci's friends, Scott and Scott's mom and dad had just gotten into town. After the news, I went to leave and Scott said, "Why don't you stay? We're going to have dinner." I said, "No, I don't eat meat" because there was a turkey somebody had brought on the countertop. I felt really uncomfortable. I just wanted to go home.

About 10 minutes later, he called me and said, "I found some cheese tortellini in the freezer. Will you come back over?" I was like, "All right, fine." So when I went back over, all of Laci's friends were gone and just Scott's mom and dad were there with Scott. I was stuck.

Scott was making the tortellini and he asked us what kind of wine we wanted. Scott's dad was really, really upset; he was crying. After Scott made the pasta, we sat down and ate. Sharon (Rocha) came over and she was just incredibly distraught. She's hysterical, eyes darting, talking to herself, "Where could she be?"

You want to talk about funky feelings? Here was Scott eating tortellini and here was Sharon, just emotionally distraught, obviously not wanting to eat.

People have speculated he was going to try to determine whether I knew more than I was saying, whether I'd seen anything. And the only thing was, I had found the dog. That was it.

So that was very disturbing. That was, probably for me, where I was kind of, "Something's wrong here," coupled with the next day when I left to go to the airport, just this funky look in Scott's eyes.

He called the night I got back, and I didn't answer the phone.

He came over one night, I think in the beginning of January. He talked about how he wished he could find Laci, he thought (searchers) might be getting closer, and, "Oh, by the way, I'm going to make some lasagna one night. Do you want to come over?" I'm like, "Not really," and I stood on my front porch.

When Scott came over to my house, I'm like, "Oh, yeah, I'm getting hassled by detectives, I know what you mean, Scott." I didn't want to put myself in a situation where he thought I might be afraid of him because at that point it had already been determined that there was definitely something awry. I began to get really scared at that point.

A neighborhood overrun:

(TV reporter) Ted Rowlands was there every single morning for a month-and-a-half or two months, reporting from the corner. Most days there were media on the block.

I'd come home from work (and say), "Can I get in my driveway?" I'd unlock the door, get my son in, lock the door and, "Knock, knock, knock." They'd be looking in the window. I never answered the door. My son thought it was rude. I didn't want to open the door and have a camera stuck in my face.

Recovery of the bodies:

I know that when they announced the positive identification (of the bodies), I was really upset. I was crying. Just hearing that, tears were just like, (phew). You hear that confirmation and you think, "It can't be, it can't be, it can't be." And it was.

Peterson's lawyer:

(Mark Geragos) would give me something and then pull it away before I could read it. I got really upset about it and I turned to Judge (Alfred) Delucchi and said, "Could you make him keep it here so I can read it?"

I got to the point where it was like, "I'm not playing this game with you. You're wanting to discredit me. If you don't let me read this stuff, I can't answer your question, so bring it back."

I was scared to death and I was really upset. The minute I stepped out of the witness box, I started crying hysterically and I cried all the way back to the witness room.

Through the whole lunch I felt like I was going to throw up because I didn't want to go back out there. The DA's Dave Harris said to me, "He's doing this to you because you're winning."

"I don't feel that way!"

I was upset, not just for the way he treated me, but about being there and some things hinging on my recollection.

Why not divorce?

I just think, what a waste. Why would you do that? Why kill your wife and your child? If you're that unhappy, I mean, I got divorced, it wasn't that difficult.

Why not be honest and say, "You know what, this isn't working out for me, this is the lifestyle I prefer, so let's work something out where we can have joint custody of our kid and we can go on our merry way?"

Nobody would have faulted you for doing that. Look at the decision (he) made. She was no threat to him; the baby was not a threat to him. It makes no sense to me.

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