Scott Peterson and his lover exchanged at least 37 telephone calls in the four weeks after she revealed their relationship at a Jan. 24 televised news conference, according to partial phone records.
Authorities secretly taped their conversations for 3 1/2 weeks. Amber Frey's calls to the married man would continue for 15 days after the wiretaps stopped on Feb. 4, according to the records.
Whether Frey knew about the wiretaps -- or knew when they ended -- is not clear.
But the records suggest that Frey, who first contacted Modesto police on Dec. 30, cooperated with authorities. She appears to have regularly called Modesto police Detective Jon Buehler upon hanging up with Peterson, even after authorities stopped bugging his phones.
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Peterson, 30, is charged with killing his wife, Laci, and their unborn son. Prosecutors believe Peterson pretended to know nothing about their deaths as thousands searched for the pregnant woman after she was reported missing Dec. 24. The bodies of mother and son were found in mid-April.
Though he had steadfastly denied Bee reports of the affair, Peterson reversed course in a half-dozen media interviews starting four days after Frey's Jan. 24 news conference. He admitted lying about his relationship with the 28-year-old massage therapist from Fresno, and said he had discussed it with his wife in early December. Frey has said she didn't know Peterson was married when they met Nov. 20.
The phone records show Peterson and Frey exchanged at least 76 calls over nine turbulent weeks that started nine days before Laci Peterson's disappearance. The calls stretched through the holidays, emotional news conferences, her birthday and the due date for Peterson's son before apparently ending Feb. 19.
On Feb. 10, Frey dialed Peterson's numbers four times -- and didn't call Buehler at all. The night before, the former lovers spoke for 34 minutes. Feb. 10 held significant events for both:
Frey has spoken privately about receiving seven calls from Peterson on Valentine's Day. Phone records show she called Peterson once that day as well, and again at 2:42 a.m. the following day. Frey didn't immediately report either call to Buehler.
The phone records show:
After the show aired the first segment of a two-part interview with Diane Sawyer the next day, Frey called Peterson's cell phone for a call that lasted 23 minutes.
That night, she phoned him again -- and the call lasted 52 minutes.
Frey also phoned Sawyer's office on Feb. 22. An assistant to Sawyer said the show has been trying for months to book an interview with Frey, without success.
Frey called Peterson's number nine times on two of his cell phones and spoke for almost 90 minutes. She called Buehler 19 times the same day, with the calls lasting a total of 61 minutes.
She also placed two calls that morning to Melvin King, a former Fresno police lieutenant who operates a polygraph and private investigation service. King refused Friday to say why Frey called.
King popped onto the Peterson media scene two weeks ago in connection with another aspect of the case. At a lawyer's request, he gave a lie-detector test earlier in the month to a jail inmate who claims that before his arrest he heard Scott Peterson discussing a plot to kidnap Laci Peterson with two members of a vicious neo-Nazi gang.
King has said that Cory Lee Carroll passed the polygraph.
In the nine weeks reflected in the partial phone records, Frey and Peterson totaled more than 8 1/2 hours in phone conversations -- an average of nearly one hour per week of phone time.
Frey's fingers busy dialing
Frey, who has shunned interviews, had at least some contact with several media companies from mid-January through mid-March.
Records show that in addition to phoning ABC's Sawyer, she called CNN's Connie Chung, a Fox News affiliate in Santa Monica and Fortune magazine. She also placed five calls to People magazine.
Frey last called Peterson on Feb. 19 at 7:36 a.m., the second day of a two-day search by police of Peterson's home. Investigators carried out dozens of bags of items.
The day before, police drove Peterson's white Dodge pickup away and returned it several hours later. State Attorney General Bill Lockyer would later say that police used global positioning satellite devices in the case and were tracking Peterson's truck.
Prosecutors might have put out information in an attempt to induce Peterson into making damaging statements that the wiretaps would pick up, Assistant San Francisco District Attorney James Hammer has said.
A week after a judge approved wiretaps on two of Peterson's cell phones, The Bee reported Peterson was having an affair with an unknown woman. That day, Frey dialed Peterson's phones twice -- and called Bueh-ler seven times.
At some point in January, prosecutors also confronted Peterson with a rare pre-arrest plea offer: They would take a possible death penalty off the table if Peterson would lead investigators to the body.
"It's called tickling," Hammer said. "They are going to dangle the death penalty and see if he gets scared enough to say stupid things."
DA nipped wiretap
But information from the wiretaps appears to have been of limited value to prosecutors.
According to court documents, the district attorney's office had asked a judge to cut off the first wiretap early, saying "further progress in the investigation would not be gained through additional interception."
State law allows a wiretap to run for up to 30 days, but a judge can grant an extension.
Court documents show the first wiretap was approved on Jan. 10 and ran to Feb. 4, the day a car dealer gave Laci Peterson's Land Rover to her family. Scott Peterson had traded the vehicle in toward the purchase of the Dodge truck.
Also Feb. 4, Frey phoned Peterson at 9:20 p.m. and again at 10:02 p.m.; the second call lasted 15 minutes. She then phoned Bueh-ler and spoke for 23 minutes -- the last of four calls to the detective that day. At 11:19 p.m., she called Peterson back and spoke for two minutes.
The next day, families of both Scott and Laci Peterson announced separate search efforts.
Frey hasn't spoken to the media, aside from the initial news conference revealing the relationship and another staged by Gloria Allred, her Los Angeles attorney.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bee staff writer John Coté can be reached at 578-2394 or email@example.com.