Scott Peterson won't give up his claim to more than $250,000 from an insurance policy on his dead wife, even though state law says people who kill their spouses forfeit their rights as a beneficiary.
As a result, an attorney for Laci Peterson's mother, Sharon Rocha, on Tuesday filed paperwork asking the Stanislaus County Superior Court to turn over the money, in spite of the death row inmate's objection.
"You can't murder or slay your spouse and then say, 'Hey, I want the life insurance,'" said attorney Adam Stewart of Modesto, who represents Rocha in four lawsuits she brought against Scott Peterson.
The Principal Life Insurance Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, deposited $256,429 — the value of the policy plus interest — with the court more than a year ago.
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In court papers filed last month, Peterson defense attorney Pat Harris of Los Angeles agreed that proceeds from the insurance policy must be paid to the estate of Laci Peterson, which is administered by Rocha.
He also said Scott Peterson, who maintains his innocence, does not want the transaction to take place while his case is on appeal. Appeals from death row often last decades.
Harris could not be reached for further comment.
The Petersons took out the life insurance policy on June 25, 2001, a year and a half before Laci Peterson's disappearance prompted a massive search throughout Modesto and the depths of San Francisco Bay.
A jury in Redwood City on Nov. 12 found Scott Peterson guilty of killing his wife and unborn son, and Dec. 13 the jury said he should die by lethal injection. He was sentenced March 16.
Judge Roger Beauchesne is expected to consider the dispute over the life insurance Sept. 27. A trial, if needed, is scheduled for Oct. 27.
According to court papers, Laci Peterson's estate is worth $402,466. Her assets include the insurance policy, half of the value of the Modesto home she shared with her husband, and an individual retirement account.
The Petersons' home at 523Covena Ave. recently sold for $390,000, according to a Modesto real estate agent who purchased the house.
Rocha is also pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against Scott Peterson, and in a separate lawsuit she is seeking an accounting if Scott Peterson sells anything he jointly owned with her daughter.
Both of the lawsuits are aimed at keeping Scott Peterson from profiting from the sale of his story. Harris previously said his client has no plans to sell his story.
Rocha is writing a book. "For Laci" has a December release date, according to the Crown Publishing Group. The notorious murder case has prompted five books and two TV movies.
Stewart said a fourth lawsuit, which sought money to cover funeral expenses, will be dismissed.
Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at 578-2338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.