Scott Peterson's mother is seeking $35,000 from Laci Peterson's estate for maintaining the couple's Modesto home for a time after she was murdered.
"I expect to be reimbursed for all my expenses," Jackie Peterson wrote in a court document dated March 27. "I do not ask to profit. I ask for what is fair and proper."
The law says it's proper for creditors to seek payment for debts incurred before death — not after, said Modesto attorney Calvin Moorad. He represents Sharon Rocha, Laci Peterson's mother and administrator of her estate.
Jackie Peterson, who lives in Solana Beach in Southern California, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. She acted as her own attorney last week in Modesto, accompanied by her husband, Lee, when her claim delayed the estate's final resolution.
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Calls to the firm of attorney Mark Geragos, who represented Scott Peterson at his double-murder trial in 2004, were not returned. Other attorneys in his office had handled Scott Peterson's civil work before last week.
Also last week, Scott Peterson's family and supporters offered a $250,000 reward leading to Laci Peterson's "real killer."
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge David G. VanderWall scheduled an April 13 hearing on the probate issue. A clerk wrote on a procedural form, "There is a question of validity of Mrs. Peterson's creditor's claim."
Most of the claim represents mortgage payments Jackie Peterson apparently made on the home owned by Scott and Laci Peterson at 523 Covena Ave. in the La Loma neighborhood. Jackie Peterson said in documents that she paid $26,664 from the time her son was arrested in April 2003 until February 2005.
The latter date was two months after jurors decreed a death sentence for Peterson and one month before a judge sent him to death row.
Authorities believe he murdered his pregnant wife in the house just before Christmas 2002 and used a solo fishing trip as cover to slip her body into the San Francisco Bay. Remains of mother and son washed ashore nearly four months later.
"The payments were made by me to protect and preserve the estate," Jackie Peterson wrote. She also paid property taxes and utility and pool service bills and financed various repairs, she wrote.
Value more than doubled
Peterson, whose parents are his legal heirs, was the home's legal owner until he lost his claim when he was convicted.
The parents of Scott and Laci Peterson agreed to sell the home on July 1 for $390,000, or $10,000 more than the asking price. The young couple bought the home in October 2000 for $177,000.
Jackie and Lee Peterson received some proceeds from the house. They had given Peterson a loan, with the house as collat-eral, to help pay for his legal defense.
In June, Rocha listed her daughter's estate value at $402,466. She added $27,019 in February after receiving state teachers benefit proceeds because Laci Peterson had worked as a substitute teacher, for a total of $429,485.
Lee and Jackie Peterson early last month appealed a judge's December ruling that gave Rocha $250,000 in life insurance proceeds.
Rocha and Dennis Rocha — Laci's father — also are suing Peterson for $25 million in a wrongful death claim. A trial is scheduled in September.
Dennis Rocha, Laci Peterson's other beneficiary, agreed to close out the probate of his daughter's estate. No other creditors made claims during a four-month window, until Jackie Peterson's last week.
"I feel pretty confident in our position," Moorad said Tuesday.
The families of Scott and Laci Peterson locked horns several times over the home's contents and in courthouse hallways during the trial. Rocha remained bitter when she wrote "For Laci," a national best seller published in late December.
Sharon Rocha's longtime companion, Ron Grantski, helped raise Laci Peterson from the time she was 2. On CNN's "Larry King Live" on Thursday, Grant-ski was asked about Lee and Jackie Peterson.
"I do feel sorry for them," he said. "But I don't know why they can't see the big picture. I understand loving your son. But sometimes I get the feeling that they think I or Sharon or both of us or all of us had put their son where he is. He put him where he is."
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.