Driver says that she saw something in back of Scott Peterson's truck

03/20/2003 8:15 AM

11/20/2007 6:02 AM

A woman says she stopped beside Scott Peterson at a red light on Dec. 24 and alerted him that something might be coming loose from his truck bed.

"He looked out his side window, and he gave me a look that was the most horrifying, scary look I have ever seen in my life," Connie Fleeman said.

"As I'm trying to tell him that stuff is hanging out, the light turned green, he floored that truck, and he took off so fast, you would not believe it."

The incident, unsubstantiated by Modesto police or anyone else, would have occurred the morning when Peterson says he went fishing on San Francisco Bay. When he returned that night, Peterson has told police, his wife, Laci, was gone.

Yet, Fleeman said, Modesto police have not responded to two calls she made in January to a tips line. She is the second person to report a Dec. 24 sighting of Scott or Laci Peterson, and who claim police have not followed up or were slow to do so.

"I have been waiting for a detective or investigator or someone to call me about this information," Fleeman said. "I waited a week and then called them again."

The 27-year-old Peterson was eight months pregnant at the time; her due date passed in mid-February. Since March 5, police have been treating the case as a homicide, even though no body has been found.

Scott Peterson claims to have left their home on a solo fishing trip at 9:30 a.m. the day before Christmas.

Fleeman said she bumped into Peterson between 9:15 and 9:45 a.m. at a convenience store on Coffee Road near Floyd Avenue in north Modesto.

She said a boat in the parking lot made her think of her son, who is an avid fisherman. She took a look, she said, and did not see any fishing gear in the boat.

Detective Doug Ridenour, police spokesman, said his department is not talking about the Peterson investigation, the tips that have come in or how those tips have been handled.

Laci Peterson's relatives reported her missing at about 6 p.m. Christmas Eve. Her 30-year-old husband said he last saw her that morning as she prepared to go for a walk with their dog, and he left for the Berkeley Marina.

Fleeman claims to have bumped into him literally at Crescent Food Market.

The store manager said police have not contacted him, either. His surveillance videotape from that morning has been taped over.

Fred Hanna, father of the store owner, said he did not recognize Peterson, but "Connie said he came in, and I believe her."

Fleeman said she goes to Crescent Food every morning to buy two packs of cigarettes.

Upon pulling into the parking lot Dec. 24, she said, she saw a brown pickup towing a trailer with an aluminum boat. Fleeman said she noticed a green storage box sitting at an angle in the truck bed.

"The curious thing was the big green thing in the back of the truck. It looked like it had been thrown in there and there was something hanging out of it."

"There was nothing in the inside of the truck or even inside the bed of the truck, besides the big green thing," she said. "There was a white or light gray blanket that was hanging out."

As she made her way into the store, she said, someone pushed the door open from the inside, and the door tapped her lightly. She said it was man who she now believes to be Peterson.

"He had a big grin on his face and looked very happy," she said. "I told him that he almost killed an old lady."

He apologized, she said, and she wished him a merry Christmas.

She said he was wearing a clean white shirt, the kind that a golfer might wear, and twill pants.

She bought her cigarettes and started driving north on Coffee. She said the man with the boat was going the same way. Fleeman said she pulled into the left-turn lane at East Rumble Road and rolled down her window to let him know that the box in the truck bed was slightly open.

The driver gave her the "horrifying, scary look" and then sped off without tending to whatever was loose, she said.

Fleeman said she saw the truck and the boat again the next morning, Christmas, as she went to the store.

Police released a photo showing the truck with the green box in back, and the boat, and Fleeman realized that she had seen Peterson.

In the Petersons' neighborhood, Vivian Mitchell said she also called police with a tip -- saying that she saw Laci Peterson walking her dog between 10 and 10:15 a.m. Dec. 24.

Mitchell said she made the call about a week after Peterson disappeared. As of Feb. 26, she had not heard back from police, she said.

Ridenour, the police spokesman, said Mitchell and several other people reported seeing Peterson at about that time. He said investigators looked into the tips, but did not return calls to everyone.

Mitchell's husband, Bill, a former city councilman, said he called City Manager Jack Crist to say police had not followed up.

"Shortly after talking to the city manager, a police captain called us," Bill Mitchell said.

Bee staff writer Patrick Giblin can be reached at 578-2347 or pgiblin@modbee.com.

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