Scott Peterson told his lover in late December to send a Christmas present to his private mailbox, according to well-placed sources.
Peterson rented a private mailbox on Dec. 23 -- the same day that his pregnant wife, Laci, visited her obstetrician and watched her sister cut her husband's hair. Authorities have said they believe Scott Peterson murdered his wife that night or the next morning.
Around the same period, Peterson told Fresno massage therapist Amber Frey that he could not spend the holidays with her, but "would be able to be with her more exclusively like Jan. 25," a detective testified Thursday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Peterson also told Frey that he would be out of the country for the holidays, his first without his wife, Modesto police Detective Al Brocchini testified Thursday.
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Frey, 28 and a single mother, has said she did not know that Peterson was married when they met Nov. 20. On Dec. 9, he told her that he had "lost his wife," Brocchini said at Peterson's preliminary hearing on double-murder charges.
Also on Dec. 9, Peterson bought a 14-foot aluminum fishing boat -- a central part of the prosecution's case. Authorities say they believe Peterson carried his wife's body in the boat. A hair found in pliers in the boat could have been Laci Peterson's, an FBI expert testified Oct. 29, the first day of the hearing.
Peterson is accused in the deaths of his wife and their unborn son, Conner. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Frey's attorney, Gloria Allred of Los Angeles, refused Friday to confirm or deny the account of Peterson's private mailbox.
Peterson accompanied Frey to a party in Fresno on Dec. 14. A photo, widely circulated since, captured the cozy couple by a Christmas tree.
Sources said Frey, downcast at having to spend the holidays without her boyfriend, talked to him on the phone about exchanging gifts. Peterson instructed her to send a gift to his private mailbox, the sources said.
Brocchini testified Thursday that Peterson denied having an affair when the detective interviewed him Christmas Eve for a missing person report on Laci Peterson.
Scott Peterson also denied the affair to reporters. He came clean Jan. 28 -- four days after Frey revealed their romance at a news conference arranged by Modesto police.
Frey secretly taped her phone conversations with Peterson after she learned the truth about his marital status and went to investigators, Brocchini testified. Authorities also put taps on Peterson's phones.
Prosecutors put Frey on notice to be ready to testify at the preliminary hearing. A five-day break in the hearing, which is due to start again Wednesday, makes it unlikely that Frey would be called until late this week.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.