Taxpayers shelled out about $4.13 million to put Scott Peterson on death row, according to final tallies by the agencies most involved in Modesto's high-profile double-murder case.
A spokesman for the family of victim Laci Peterson said the expensive effort is deeply appreciated.
"I firmly believe Scott thought this was a little podunk town and he could get away with this," said Ron Grantski, who raised Laci Peterson as his own daughter. She was nearly eight months pregnant when her husband killed her and slipped her body into San Francisco Bay.
Her mother, Sharon Rocha, is attending a convention in New York with Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden to talk about relations between a victim's family and law enforcement, Grantski said.
"If (the investigation) hadn't been done professionally — and that's where the costs come in — he wouldn't have been convicted," Grantski added.
Gail Leland, director of the Arizona-based National Coalition of Homicide Survivors, said justice is important to healthy communities and not just survivors.
"Otherwise, you're going to have these criminals walking the streets," Leland said. "The cost shouldn't be calculated so much in terms of dollars, but in terms of human lives. And that's pretty much immeasurable."
The Peterson trial may be the costliest in Stanislaus County history, Superior Court Executive Officer Michael Tozzi said Thursday.
The only comparable case, in terms of public funding, ended with three men on death row. They murdered four people in Salida in 1990. Those costs weren't tabulated, Tozzi said.
Other high-profile Northern California trials with similar price tags ended in death sentences for killers Cary Stayner and Richard Allen Davis. The trial for Stayner, who murdered three Yosemite sightseers in 1999, and Davis, who killed 12-year-old Polly Klaas in 1993, cost about $2.5 million and $3 million, respectively.
Tuesday, Rocha and Wasden asked lawmakers in Sacramento to cover $2.3 million of the $4.13 million cost of bringing Scott Peterson to justice. The rest is mostly salaries that aren't eligible for reimbursement.
Public costs for Peterson's trial surged over the $4 million mark Thursday. That's when salaries for sheriff's deputies helping investigate Laci Peterson's disappearance and a final bill from San Mateo County were revealed.
The trial, which stretched through most of last year, was moved to Redwood City because of publicity in and around Modesto.
San Mateo County sent bills totaling $182,118, said Stanislaus County Auditor-Controller Larry Haugh, whose office still owes $54,118. He intends to ask Stanislaus County supervisors in the next week or two to approve paying that amount, which exceeds the money they set aside before the trial started last June.
The tab represents costs to house and guard Peterson in San Mateo County jails, Haugh said.
Both counties and the state spent an additional $742,000 in court costs, and Stanislaus County prosecutors spent $1.37 million.
Modesto police spent $1.55 million, the highest cost borne by a single agency. Most of that came in the fruitless search for Laci Peterson, who disappeared Christmas Eve 2002. Jurors handed down a death sentence two years later.
The alternative to paying the cost of justice is unthinkable, Grantski said.
"It just scares me to think if other police departments have to cut back on solving crimes because of money, how many criminals will go free," Grantski said. "That's just not right."
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or email@example.com.