Of the many bombshells in the Peterson case, none has burst with greater force than that of Scott Peterson's romance with Amber Frey.
Many observers say that Frey's testimony might be the key to locking away her former boyfriend -- or sending him to his death.
The Fresno massage therapist and single mother appeared joyful in photos showing her cozying up to Peterson by a Christmas tree. Friends say the happiness turned to horror when she realized her beau was not only married, but also a suspected killer.
Laci Peterson was small, dark-haired and outgoing. Amber Frey is tall, blond and quiet. She has said she didn't know Peterson was married when they met Nov. 20. People close to Frey say she quickly fell in love with Peterson.
Phone records show that Frey first contacted police at 1:43 a.m. Dec. 30. They also suggest that she maintained an active phone relationship with Peterson as investigators bugged his cell phones.
Frey, 28, also dialed family and friends of Laci Peterson -- 53 times. She hoped to assure them she had no idea Peterson was married, and that she prayed for the return of his wife and their son, sources said.
If Frey was chatty with Laci Peterson's loved ones, she's the opposite with media. Frey has spoken publicly only twice: in a January news conference arranged by police and in May to announce she had hired a lawyer.
Gloria Allred, a self-proclaimed feminist attorney, has been at the center of many gender-issue cases. Her clients include Pamela Anderson, Paula Jones and the family of murder victim Nicole Brown Simpson.
Allred has one focus: to protect Frey's reputation and -- by extension -- her credibility. That could be hugely important to prosecutors as well.
Reporters of all stripes have pursued Frey relentlessly, turning up nude and semi-nude photos she had posed for four years ago, when she hoped to become a model. A tabloid published some in February; a porn broker said he bought rights to the pictures and posted them on his Web site in September, charging $19.95 for peeks. Last week, she sued the broker for $6 million.
Also figuring in Frey's entourage is her father, Ron. Initially eager to comment, he has drifted to the background.
Lana Romano, who worked for Ron Frey's construction firm and has been a family friend for 17 years, said Amber Frey is "kind, compassionate and caring."
The media crush has taken a toll, Romano said. "It's like her smiles don't come as fast.
"Here is a woman who thought (Peterson) was this fabulous guy," Romano said, "and then she was betrayed in the worst possible way."