Scott Peterson Case

November 16, 2003


So far at Scott Peterson's preliminary hearing:


FBI DNA expert Constance L. Fisher testified about mitochondrial DNA testing; prosecutors want it allowed as evidence.

Laci Peterson's brother, Brent Rocha, apparently won't be called to testify despite family members having said they were all potential witnesses.

Judge Al Girolami ruled that Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, who represents Scott Peterson's former girlfriend Amber Frey, could remain in the courtroom while other witnesses testify.


Fisher, the FBI analyst, continued to testify. She said a hair found in pliers in Scott Peterson's fishing boat could not have been his but could have come from Laci Peterson.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos attempted to show that the FBI failed to follow its own guidelines. He suggested that mitochondrial DNA analysis is unreliable and should not be allowed in the hearing.

Under questioning from Geragos, Fisher said the FBI received one of Laci Peterson's bones but did not extract DNA to compare with the hair.


Margarita Nava, the Petersons' house cleaner, said she used bleach to clean only the bathroom. Nava said she used water and "a little Pine-Sol" to clean the kitchen's tile floor.

Amy Rocha, Laci Peterson's sister, testified that when she cut Scott Peterson's hair Dec. 23, he said he planned to go golfing the next day, and he offered to pick up a gift basket for her from Vella Farms, near Del Rio Country Club. When he did not collect the basket, Rocha tried to reach him at home and on his cell phone, but he did not answer.

Rocha testified that Laci Peterson was wearing cream or khaki maternity pants and a black blouse with small cream polka dots or flowers at 5:45 p.m. Dec. 23. Photos of Peterson's remains show the tattered remnants of what appear to be light-colored pants around her waist.

Nava testified that Laci Peterson was wearing "what she almost always used to wear," a pair of black pants and a white blouse, when she saw her earlier in the day Dec. 23. The missing person's report indicated that she had on black pants and a long-sleeved white shirt the last time she was seen. Modesto police Detective Jon Evers said that information came from Scott Peterson.

Lee Peterson, Scott Peterson's father, said he spoke with his son the afternoon of Dec. 24, and Scott did not mention being at the Berkeley Marina. Lee Peterson also said he did not know Scott had bought a boat, but that he did not find that unusual.

Sharon Rocha, Laci Peterson's mother, testified that she spoke with her daughter for a few minutes Dec. 23. She said Laci seemed tired, but said there was nothing wrong. Rocha also said her daughter never mentioned serious marital problems.


William Shields, the defense DNA expert, testified that the FBI used a substandard database in its analysis of the hair found in pliers in Scott Peterson's fishing boat. He said the hair was vulnerable to contamination and could have come from roughly one in any nine Caucasians -- not one in 112, as prosecution DNA expert Fisher said the previous week.


Defense attorney Kirk McAllister suggested in court that police could have planted evidence to frame Scott Peterson.

Detective Evers testified that he saw a throw rug bunched up against a door frame, which could support a police theory that Laci Peterson's body was dragged out of the house.

Evers said he did not smell bleach when he entered the home and didn't notice moisture on the floors, undercutting a prosecution theory that someone cleaned after the house cleaner worked there Dec. 23.


Lawyers in the case appeared briefly in court. The judge agreed to a defense request to delay the hearing until the next morning. Defense attorney Geragos was in Los Angeles to work on another case.


Scott Peterson denied Dec. 24 that he was having an affair, Modesto police Detective Al Brocchini testified. Peterson has said in interviews that he told police Dec. 24 he had an affair with Frey.

Peterson told police he decided the morning of Dec. 24 to fish alone in San Francisco Bay, changing previous plans to play golf because "it was too cold to go golfing," Brocchini said.

Pliers found in Peterson's boat were not included in Brocchini's report, the detective conceded under questioning by McAllister.

In a police interview, Peterson agreed to have his hands tested to see if he had fired a gun recently, Brocchini said. He said Peterson asked if exhaust from an outboard motor he operated Dec. 24 would trigger a positive result.

Peterson called Brocchini at 2 a.m. to say he wished the detective had told him that he had confiscated Peterson's handgun from his truck, Brocchini testified. Brocchini said he told Peterson it was "illegal to have a loaded gun in the glove box, and I was going to put it into evidence."


Frey might have started taping telephone conversations with Scott Peterson as soon as Dec. 16, a courtroom exchange revealed. Frey began cooperating with police Dec. 30. Detective Brocchini testified that Frey said she didn't tape her chats with Peterson before then. Defense attorney McAllister suggested that was "a lie," and asked Brocchini if he had heard that she began recording Dec. 16 -- a week before Laci Peterson disappeared. Brocchini said no.

Laci Peterson's mother and brother, Sharon and Brent Rocha, cooperated with police in their phone calls with Scott Peterson, Brocchini said.

FBI expert Bruce Budowle said a computer used to analyze DNA from a hair found attached to pliers in Scott Peterson's boat malfunctioned four times during testing, but the glitches did not affect the results.

Drug enforcement agents installed an 8mm camera Jan. 3 to monitor Scott Peterson's movements, and authorities have three roughly one-hour recordings, prosecutor Rick Distaso said.

Brocchini said he didn't know whether the camera captured a neighbor breaking into the Petersons' home Jan. 18 and leaving with Laci Peterson's wedding dress and other items.


Authorities stumbled upon key evidence -- a hair in pliers in Scott Peterson's boat -- while reviewing evidence photographs in February, Detective Brocchini testified.

Brocchini acknowledged having called in a tip to a hot line operated by Scott Peterson's family and confirmed that he never tried to contact Homer Maldonado or Vivian Mitchell. Both have said they saw Laci Peterson walking her dog in the La Loma neighborhood the morning of Dec. 24 -- after authorities contend that she was slain. Brocchini also said he passed information on Scott Peterson's spending habits to officials of Tradecorp, the Spain- based fertilizer firm that employed Peterson. The detective denied telling a close friend of the Petersons that he was "going to take Scott Peterson down."

Police in early January tailed Scott Peterson to San Francisco Bay three times, Brocchini testified.

Karen Servas, the Petersons' next-door neighbor, testified that she found the couple's dog running free with a wet, dirty leash attached at 10:18 a.m. Christmas Eve. The timing conflicts with sightings of Laci Peterson walking her dog reported by Maldonado and Mitchell.

A doctor who examined Laci Peterson on Dec. 23 -- the day before she was reported missing -- said if her baby had been born then, with some assistance, he could have lived, Detective Phil Owen testified.

Allred, Frey's attorney, announced that prosecutors would not to call Frey to testify at the preliminary hearing.

Brocchini said detectives eventually found five fishing licenses apparently belonging to Scott Peterson: a two-day license valid Dec. 23 and 24; other two-day licenses issued in August 2002, October 1999 and July 1999; and a yearlong license issued in 1994.

DAY 10

Scott Peterson's defense attorney Geragos raised the prospect that Laci Peterson's baby, Conner, was born before he was killed. If true, the allegation would cast serious doubt on whether Scott Peterson was involved in the disappearance and deaths of his wife and their son. Attorney Geragos used words such as "full-term infant" and "speculation that the baby was 38 to 39 weeks old" while questioning Detective Owen.

Two hair fragments that prosecutors contend came from a single hair found attached to pliers in Scott Peterson's boat are different shades of brown, said Rodney Oswalt, the state Department of Justice expert who examined them. Also, the pliers and a pair of wire cutters examined at the lab in Ripon appeared rusted, and there was no indication that they had been used recently, according to a sections of a lab report read in court Friday.

Geragos intimated that a hair from Laci Peterson could have become attached to a tracking dog in her home, then fallen off in the boat when officers asked the dog to try picking up the missing woman's scent.

Owen acknowledged that he interviewed three people on Dec. 27 with stories that Geragos said could "negate an element of the crime." John and Karma Souza told the detective they saw a suspicious man in a puffy jacket and blue jeans who "popped out of bushes" as they jogged on a trail in East La Loma Park early that morning.

Girolami heard one last argument from each side regarding allowing mitochondrial DNA evidence in the preliminary hearing.

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