A Fresno attorney has been making the interview rounds with a story that his client has crucial information linking Scott Peterson to the murder of his wife and unborn son.
During the last two weeks, Frank Muna has appeared on network television and given interviews about his version of the Laci and Conner Peterson deaths -- that they were victims of one of several contract kidnap and killing scenarios.
Little information has surfaced to corroborate his accounts and questions about his motivation have been raised.
Muna has repeatedly said his client, Fresno jail inmate Cory Lee Carroll, is not asking for anything in return for the information.
But Muna was in contact with tabloid news outlets to sell Carroll's story, two sources said. Muna called that untrue.
According to the sources, Muna sought more than $75,000 for the story from The National Enquirer.
Enquirer Senior Editor Charlie Montgomery confirmed his publication pays for stories, but he would not comment on whether Muna had contacted them or sought payment.
Muna said Wednesday he had not shopped the story. He said tabloids contacted him after The Bee reported the story Sept. 20.
"The National Enquirer made the offer, and we turned it down," Muna said. "This sounds more like there is some law enforcement -- some third party -- trying to influence credibility. We don't have anything to sell. All the information we have has been released."
Elements added to story
Muna's information has come in distinct batches. He first said his client arranged a meeting between Peterson and two neo-Nazi gang members to discuss stealing Laci Peterson's vehicle for insurance money, but the talk soon turned to kidnapping.
The next week, Muna added to that account, saying Carroll heard Scott Peterson arranging to pay the gang members, identified as "Dirty" and "Skeeter," $22,000 to abduct and murder his pregnant wife. To this date, "Dirty" and "Skeeter" have not been publicly identified.
Muna suggested Scott Peterson failed to pay the money after he came under intense police scrutiny and Laci Peterson died while being held. The disgruntled kidnappers could have dumped the bodies where Peterson said he went fishing to implicate him, Muna said.
Credibility was lent to the original car theft story because Carroll passed a lie-detector test administered by a veteran Fresno investigator.
But polygraph tests are not admissible in court because they are unreliable, and other parts of the story remain uncorroborated.
The identities and whereabouts of people named as key players in the scenarios remain elusive.
Authorities are refusing to comment on Muna's information, citing a sweeping gag order imposed in the case.
Bounty offer disputed
"I am authorized to reveal," Muna said, "that Scott Peterson offered Skeeter and Dirty $3,000 apiece to kidnap Laci and $8,000 apiece to get rid of her -- to kill her."
Melvin King, a former Fresno police lieutenant who administered the polygraph, said he did not hear Carroll describe dollar amounts for a kidnapping or mention a contract killing.
"I specifically do not remember that, and my position is it never happened," King said. "I took some pretty thorough notes. I certainly didn't hear anything like that."
King's report shows Carroll passed the polygraph when he was asked about kidnapping. But Carroll was not questioned about a contract killing, and no dollar figures were mentioned for either crime, according to the report.
Muna said King was unaware of the payment offer and his questioning had not probed the extent of what Carroll reportedly heard during the November meeting at a low-rent Fresno motel.
Muna said he didn't immediately reveal the payment details "because we wanted the prosecution to have an opportunity to conduct their own investigation" of Carroll's story.
"We were caught off-guard because the story broke before we thought," Muna said. "But we knew upfront."
Muna said he delivered a copy of King's report to Stanislaus County prosecutors, who have charged Peterson with two counts of murder in the death of his wife and unborn son, Conner.
Laci Peterson was reported missing Christmas Eve. Her body and that of her son were found in April about a mile apart along the shore of San Francisco Bay, within four miles of where Scott Peterson said he went fishing Dec. 24.
Chief Deputy District Attorney John Goold said the gag order prevented him from confirming whether his office received King's report.
"As new things come to light, some are investigated and some are not," Goold said. "Some have to be looked at one way or the other to determine if they are true or if they're not. Some things don't pan out."
Con describes first meeting
In his interview with King, Carroll said he met Scott Peterson in late November at City Lights, a Fresno strip club. Peterson asked whether Carroll knew anyone who could steal his wife's car for an insurance payoff, Carroll said.
Carroll said Peterson agreed to pay him $300 to set up a meeting with two men known to Carroll as Tony, who goes by "Dirty," and Anthony, also known as "Skeeter." Carroll said they are members of the Nazi Low Riders, a violent neo-Nazi gang.
The two drove a "beige van with orange and brown stripes on the side and a place in the back near the bumper for a generator to sit," Carroll said in King's report.
Several residents have said they saw a tan or brown van in the Peterson's La Loma neighborhood on the morning of Dec. 24, but none of the accounts include stripes or a generator rack.
Diane Jackson, a Peterson neighbor whom police had hypnotized, told authorities she saw three men standing near a tan van parked in front of 516 Covena Ave., directly across the street from the Peterson home, at 11:40 a.m. Dec. 24.
Jackson said the men were short with dark complexions and appeared Asian or Hispanic, according to a report of her account.
Dirty and Skeeter are described as white and 5-foot-10 and 5-foot-8. Carroll also is white.
Investigators have not contacted Jackson since Carroll's information came to light to see if she recognized him or others as the men near the van, a source close to the investigation said.
In the report, Jackson told police one rear van door was open, the other ajar. There was no mention of a generator rack or other items attached to or near the rear bumper.
Strip club account unconfirmed
As part of his story, Carroll said that he met Peterson at a club, and that a stripper there named Tammy posed with customers for Polaroid photos, for a fee. Tammy reportedly took a picture with him and Peterson, but kept it rather than turning it over to the customers.
The club, however, has a strict policy against customers or employees using a camera inside, several staff members said. The employees declined to give their names, saying they could be fired for talking to the press.
But high-profile guest dancers would occasionally take photos with customers, an employee said. The employee could not remember any stripper, including a guest dancer, named Tammy in the last year. None of the other employees said they remembered a dancer named Tammy.
Police investigators have been seeking information at the club with a photo of a woman they've identified as Tammy, an employee said.
After their initial meeting, Carroll said, he met with Peterson and the gang members at about 12:30 p.m. Nov. 29 at Chili's Grill & Bar in Fresno, and the four continued talking at Carroll's room at the Best Budget Motel.
There, Carroll allegedly overheard the discussion about kidnapping and murder and left because he did not want to get involved.
He returned 45 minutes later and said he heard the two gang members say they were going to take care of something, Carroll said.
Father challenges timeline
Lee Peterson, Scott Peterson's father, has said his son couldn't have attended an early afternoon meeting at Chili's because he was driving home with his wife from San Diego County.
But King, the polygraph administrator, said he didn't press Carroll on the date, and the meeting could have been later. He said he focused on whether Carroll told the truth about the meeting.
Staff at the motel where the meeting allegedly took place said they recognized Carroll from a photo and said he had stayed there before. Room records were not immediately available. Staff members shown a photo of Scott Peterson did not remember seeing him at the motel.
Skeptics have questioned why it took Carroll so long to come forward.
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, he told King.
A state Department of Corrections spokesman said the prisons that held Carroll early this year experienced no extended lockdowns.
Bee staff writer John Coté can be reached at 578-2394 or email@example.com.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.