Shock of discoveries hits home

04/15/2003 6:50 AM

11/20/2007 6:14 AM

The people closest to Laci Peterson had the least to say Monday about the discoveries of two bodies along San Francisco Bay.

Laci's father, Dennis Rocha of Escalon, said: "We have to wait and see. This could be another wild-goose chase."

Her mother-in-law, Jackie Peterson,said she had spoken with her son, Scott: "We're praying that it isn't Laci."

Friends and neighbors expressed horror and sorrow, and someone even went to Laci Peterson's home to lay a single rose in front of a sign that notes a reward for information in the missing person case.

Speaking by telephone from her home in San Diego County, Jackie Peterson said her son was in the Modesto area on Monday. The Bee could not get in touch with him.

"We of course feel bad for whoever it is," Peterson said about the two bodies. "We pray for Laci's sake, because we still don't want to give up."

Sharon Rocha and Ron Grantski, the missing woman's mother and stepfather, had no comment. At their Modesto home, a sign on the front door asked reporters to direct their questions to Kim Petersen, who has been acting as the Rocha family's spokeswoman.

Petersen is executive director of the Modesto-based Sund-Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation. An employee there said Petersen did not have a statement from the family.

Shirley Dickerson, who said she has been a neighbor of Sharon Rocha's for about 30 years, said: "It's been a trying time for the whole neighborhood.

"During the holiday, we prayed that Laci would be found safe, but after this long, well, I really don't want to say if they could have found Laci."

Terri Western, a friend of the Rocha family and mother of one of Laci Peterson's best friends, said: "It's a bittersweet moment in that we all want this to be a positive outcome.

"But if it is Laci, there's closure for Laci and her family and friends."

In the Petersons' La Loma neighborhood, Terry Katen and her sister, Kathy Melton, went for a walk Monday and heard the news upon returning to Katen's home.

"It's horrible," Katen said. She and her sister said they had been praying for Laci Peterson and her family.

Nearby, Mike Peel said he arrived home from work, turned on the television news and heard the report about the discovery of two bodies.

"Nobody wants to jump to a conclusion till they know for sure," he said.

Nicole Medrano said she cannot help but wonder every day what has happened to Peterson, whose home is just a block away from hers.

"We would like to know what's going on," said Medrano, who drives past an impromptu shrine in the Petersons' Covena Avenue front yard every time she leaves her house.

In a green minivan, Marianne Wilson of Gustine drove slowly by, pointing out the house for her passenger, Mary Hernandez.

"It's upsetting," Wilson said. "Even if it's not her, it's sad they found a baby."

Katie Heinze, who lives on Covena Avenue, said the news "gives me the chills."

"I just hope they figure out soon who did this," Heinze said. "It's our neighborhood, and if it was a stranger, that's scary."

Jeanette Meyers of Modesto said she brought a rose to the house to show "sympathy to the family."

"She didn't have that coming to her whatsoever," Meyers said.

Salvador Romero, 35, is a hairstylist who works a few chairs away from Peterson's sister, Amy Rocha, at Salon Salon in Modesto.

He was the only person left there late Monday afternoon, preparing to lock up. He said the discovery of what might be Peterson's body triggered shock and nostalgia among the hairstylists.

Romero recalled how Peterson and his wife kept tabs on each other's pregnancies. The new father said he still cannot believe his wife is home cradling a 4-month-old, "but Laci is gone."

"I'm in shock and my wife has been crying all day," Romero said.

Bee local news and story editor Dave Jones contributed to this report.

Bee staff writer Blair Craddock can be reached at 578-2385 or bcraddock@modbee.com.

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

Bee staff writer Julissa McKinnon can be reached at 578-2324 or jmckinnon@modbee.com.

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