(Originally published Dec. 28, 2002)
Investigators expanded their hunt for clues Friday to a warehouse used by the Modesto man whose pregnant wife has been missing since Christmas Eve.
Also, police and FBI crime-scene analysts spent a second day working inside the La Loma neighborhood home that belongs to the missing woman, Laci Peterson, 27, and her husband, Scott, 30.
The warehouse, which Peterson uses in his work as an agricultural salesman, is on North Emerald Avenue near Kansas Avenue in Modesto. Police sealed the warehouse as well as the Peterson home.
In other developments:
Modesto and Berkeley police went to a marina on San Francisco Bay to investigate Peterson's claim that he was fishing at the time his wife disappeared. No details were available about what detectives might have found out.
"At this point, he is not a suspect," Detective Doug Ridenour said. Police said they had no evidence of foul play in the disappearance.
Police expanded their search zone to take in Tuolumne River Regional Park as well as Dry Creek Regional Park, and urged farmers and ranchers in the area to scour their orchards and fields for anything "out of character."
Ridenour said investigators were looking for evidence in two computers and two vehicles seized Thursday night from the Peterson home.
Neighbors told about their home being burglarized across the street from the Peterson home some time around Christmas.
Susan Medina said she and her husband, Rudy, were gone from Christmas Eve until about 5 p.m. Thursday, and discovered then that someone had broken in and stolen a safe holding $50,000 worth of jewelry. Police have been going in and out of the house the past two days.
The missing-person case has drawn intense media attention. Friday, Police Chief Roy Wasden discussed the case on "Good Morning America."
According to police, Peterson said he last saw his wife at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday when he left with his aluminum fishing boat for a trip out of Berkeley, and she headed to East La Loma Park with their dog.
Police said Peterson told detectives that he tried to call his wife after he was done fishing, but was unable to reach her. He reported her missing shortly before 6 p.m. after returning home, authorities said.
Thursday, Peterson left a news conference shortly after it began at the Police Department, apparently upset that reporters were asking questions about the fishing trip.
He did not appear with other family members at either of two press conferences Friday.
"(Scott) is totally distraught, and he's really tired right now," said Lee Peterson, Scott's father. "It weighs on him that not only his wife and baby are gone, but that he's under suspicion."
At one of the Friday news conferences, as a reporter questioned police about Peterson's fishing trip, Lee Peterson stood and said that his son had provided detectives with a launch receipt that verified his trip. Later, Peterson also said his son had turned over a receipt from a Bay Area gas station.
"There's no possibility that he would be involved," said Jacqueline Peterson, Scott Peterson's mother. "They were like honeymooners even after being married five years. They doted on each other. We all wanted to be like them."
About Scott Peterson
Scott Peterson grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of San Diego High School in 1990, his parents said. He moved to San Luis Obispo to attend college, where he met Laci Rocha. Friends said the two dated several years before marrying.
Friends said the couple moved to Modesto two years ago to start a family.
"In the short time I've known him, he's probably one of the nicest guys I've ever met," said Guy Miligi, a family friend. "He's always a gentleman with women. We'll be at dinner with them, and when my wife and Laci get up to go to the restroom, he'll always stand up. And he'll stand up again when she returns. You don't see that anymore."
Before reaching the later months of her pregnancy, Laci Peterson occasionally worked as a substitute teacher.
Scott Peterson is a salesman for Tradecorp, a Spanish company that manufactures and distributes a line of special fertilizers. He joined the Modesto Rotary Club about one year ago.
"He's the type of person that if you had broken down on the freeway, he'd be the guy who would stop and help you," said Kenni Friedman, president of the Downtown Rotary Club. "He's just a very compassionate, giving person."
Gregory Reed and his wife, Kristen, have known the Petersons for about a year. The couples became close in recent months when they attended Lamaze sessions together in the Reeds' La Loma home.
"They are very thoughtful people," Gregory Reed said. "When we had our baby, they came over multiple times, bringing meals and doing anything they could do to help. They were always together each time we saw them."
The Reeds are one of several Modesto couples who canceled holiday plans to stay closer to news about the case and to offer support in any way possible.
"It's had a big effect on my wife," Gregory Reed said. "I can't keep her from crying. She's absolutely devastated by this. We look at our baby and think about Laci. We cannot imagine where she is without wondering about her condition. Or her child's."
Bee staff writer Jeff Jardine and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Ty Phillips can be reached at 578-2331 or email@example.com.
December 27, 2002
December 26, 2002