A Fresno County Jail inmate with a compelling story about neo-Nazis planning to kidnap Laci Peterson appeared to be telling the truth, said a retired police lieutenant who gave the inmate a lie detector test.
"I have no stake in this," Melvin King said Monday about the polygraph that he gave last week to Cory Lee Carroll. "I'm just saying this guy is somewhat credible."
The 34-year-old Carroll said he arranged for Scott Peterson to meet with two members of the Nazi Low Riders, and Peterson and the gang members talked about kidnapping Peterson's pregnant wife, Laci, for ransom, according to King.
The Modesto woman's family reported her missing on Christmas Eve. Her remains and those of her unborn son were recovered from the San Francisco Bay shore in April; Scott Peterson is awaiting trial in the murders.
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The Nazi Low Riders are a prison and street gang steeped in white supremacy, violence and drugs. Fear of attack by the gang is why Amber Frey, who was romantically involved with Peterson before Christmas, secured 24-hour protection, a source confirmed Monday.
"This (Carroll revelation) goes to show why Amber has got security," the source said, referring to the 28-year-old massage therapist from Fresno. She is protected by private guards and lives in a gated community.
Frey, who said she did not know that Peterson was married when they met in November and started dating, figures to be an important witness in his double-murder case.
"Laci ended up deader than hell," the source said. "How safe is Amber if other people involved are still out there floating around? This is no game."
An article in Saturday's Bee outlined Carroll's account of meeting Peterson at a Fresno strip club in November. According to King, Carroll said he arranged for Peterson to meet with the gang members so that they could steal Laci Peterson's car for an insurance payoff, but that talk turned to kidnapping the woman and Carroll left.
The meeting took place the afternoon of Nov. 29, Carroll said. Peterson's father, Lee, said it could not have been: He said Scott and Laci were in San Diego County for Thanksgiving, Nov. 28, and started their drive home at noon on the 29th.
Carroll said the gang members, known to him by their street names of Dirty and Skeeter, often lived in a beige van -- a description similar to that of a vehicle spied by people in the Petersons' La Loma neighborhood the day that Laci Peterson disappeared.
King revealed additional details Monday:
Carroll once called a number given to him by Scott Peterson and a woman answered. It may have been Laci Peterson, Carroll said.
He did not immediately learn of the woman's disappearance because he went back to prison on a parole violation soon after the meeting with the gang members, he told King.
Carroll said he did not have access to television and newspapers because of an extended lockdown in prison. He recognized Scott Peterson months later while watching a TV report and tried to relay his story to prison officials and later to a parole agent, without success, he told King.
A state Department of Corrections spokesman said the prisons that held Carroll early this year -- Wasco State Prison and Eagle Mountain Community Correctional Facility -- experienced no extended lockdowns. Even if they had, inmates generally have access to TV and newspapers, spokesman Russ Heimerich said.
Carroll, paroled in early July, said he subsequently came under attack twice by men who warned him to "keep his mouth shut," King reported.
Carroll was back in custody in early August, this time for driving with a suspended license. He said he shared his story with a cellmate who convinced him to tell that man's Fresno attorney, Frank Muna. The attorney hired King to assess his credibility.
"My initial thought was, 'Yeah, yeah, this guy's wacko,'" said King, who has administered polygraphs for 28 years. Inmates are known to offer information in the hope of getting lenient sentences, King said.
But Carroll never asked for special treatment, King said.
Carroll balked at the polygraph because he did not want to implicate himself in a kidnapping -- not because he was about to lie, King said.
"I was impressed with his ability to speak clearly, to articulate," King said. "He said, 'I don't want to be charged with a heinous crime when all I did was arrange a car theft.'
"After I met and talked with him," King continued, "my final position is, I believe Mr. Carroll believes it's true. Whether it is, I don't know, but he believes it is."
King said he interviewed Carroll extensively before the test. He then hooked the inmate up to sensors that record changes in heart rate and breathing, and asked him 10 questions, of which only four were relevant to the Peterson case.
"All I can say is, I didn't see any significant signs of deception," King said.
However, King said, he found parts of Carroll's pretest story questionable:
When asked for the real names of Dirty and Skeeter, Carroll said their first names were Tony and Anthony -- forms of the same name.
When asked for Scott Peterson's phone number, Carroll said he had left it in his car, which authorities towed when he was arrested. The car later was sold at auction, Carroll said.
Bee staff writer John Coté contributed to this story.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.