1:40 p.m., PDT: REDWOOD CITY - It was more than a woman's intuition. Call it a mother's instinct.
"I knew," testified Sharon Rocha, Laci Peterson's mother, in court this morning as rapt jurors hung on every word. "I just knew something was wrong." Rocha was describing the call she'd just received from her son-in-law, Scott Peterson, on Christmas Eve 2002. He had said her daughter was "missing."
Scott Peterson, 31, deserves a lethal injection for killing his pregnant wife and their unborn son, prosecutors say. They began a second week of testimony with what legal observers call "impact witnesses," such as family members close to the victim.
Sharon Rocha, flashing only rarely on the witness stand the broad, white-toothed smile she gave her daughter, described frequent lunches, shopping trips with and phone calls with her daughter "about every other day." If things were bad with Laci Peterson's husband, she never let on, her mother said.
"We were very close," Rocha said. "We talked to each other all the time." Rocha held together well on the stand, her voice breaking only once, when she described her daughter's plans for Dec. 23, 2002 - the day authorities believe her husband killed her because of an affair he was having with a Fresno woman. Laci Peterson had a doctor's appointment that afternoon, her mother said before a long pause as she struggled to collect herself.
"After, they were going to the hospital to preregister," Rocha finally said, referring to the expected birth in February of her grandson, Conner.
During Rocha's 75 minutes on the stand this morning, she glanced twice in the direction of Scott Peterson - both times while speaking of his parents, Lee and Jackie Peterson, who were seated behind the defense table.
Rocha hurried to the park soon after getting the disturbing news of her daughter's disappearance. "I was running all around that area, screaming her name," Rocha said, her calm voice in stark contrast to the frantic scene she described. "I just kept yelling her name." She saw her son-in-law "maybe 20-30 feet" away and yelled his name, she said. "I was very upset, anxious. I was looking for Laci.
Scott never did acknowledge I was yelling his name." Later, at the young couple's Covena Avenue home which was overrun with police, friends, family and volunteer searchers, Rocha said she saw Scott Peterson alone in the driveway.
"I was walking up to give him a hug," Rocha said. "I felt all upset. His family wasn't here and I wanted to console him myself, but I was never able to do that. He kept kind of angling away from me."
In addition to news of the Petersons' hospital visit, observers learned from Rocha's testimony:
Prosecutor Rick Distaso is expected to continue questioning Rocha this afternoon.