Modesto police ordered forensic analysis of a 10-inch knife reportedly found in the back yard of the home where Scott Peterson likely killed his pregnant wife.
Police questioned whether the knife recently had been planted in a dirty cabinet, only days after a tabloid magazine published rumors that Laci Peterson's throat was slit.
Gerry Roberts, who bought the house at 523 Covena Ave. on July 1, said Monday, "You could tell there had been liquid on the blade" and described a "red stain on the handle."
"Whether it's barbecue sauce," Roberts said, "I don't know."
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But detectives saw "no obvious signs of blood or tissue on the knife," police spokesman Rick Applegate said Monday.
The Bee was unable to reach Peterson attorney Mark Geragos for comment Monday.
In a blockbuster trial that stretched through most of last year, prosecutors said Peterson, 32, likely smothered or strangled his wife in their home on or just before Christmas Eve 2002. Jurors in December sentenced him to death for murdering her and their unborn son, Conner.
Roberts said he called police Thursday immediately after two friends found the knife while cleaning the yard.
Roberts confirmed he is considering releasing photos of the knife to a tabloid magazine.
"I didn't have to tell anybody about this," Roberts said. "I know it's coincidental. I didn't ask to find this, but I found it and I called the right authorities."
His friends asked him not to divulge their names, Roberts said. One discovered the knife in a wood cabinet topped with tile on a patio near the swimming pool, Roberts said.
The friend was searching for an outlet in a cabinet void where the Petersons kept a small refrigerator, Roberts said, and put his hand on the floor in a corner apparently obscured from sight.
Police believe knife planted
"It's a nasty-looking knife to just leave there," Roberts said. The handle and serrated blade were each about five inches long.
Roberts said dust on the knife led him to believe it had been there "quite some time."
"It's surprising how police overlooked it," he said.
Detectives painstakingly combed over the property after Laci Peterson went missing, according to trial testimony.
"It is somewhat believed that this knife was put, planted or placed there recently by a person or persons unknown," Applegate said. "There is nothing to make us believe the knife was used in the crime."
Authorities decided to send the knife to a crime lab for testing Friday after receiving a media inquiry, Applegate said. He said results could take weeks because the test is considered low priority.
Roberts, 54, a Modesto real estate agent, paid $390,000 for the three-bedroom, two-bath cottage-bungalow, or $10,000 more than the asking price. The sale was completed earlier this month. He said he plans to live there with an adult daughter after renovating the home.
Roberts praised detectives for their courtesy and thoroughness. He said he had heard about a recent tabloid story on the stabbing rumor but had not read it.
"I don't know what peoples' big deal is about it," Roberts said. "It's just a freak thing. It's in (police) possession, in their control and they know what they're doing. I just turned over something I thought was important for them to have."
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.