Laci Peterson left her home in a car, not by foot, the handler of a bloodhound used in the search for the missing 27-year-old Modesto woman told detectives.
Peterson, who is 8 1/2 months pregnant, disappeared Christmas Eve. Since then, hundreds of volunteers and police officers have searched parks, neighborhoods, fields, rivers and streams. A $500,000 reward has been offered for her safe return.
Her husband, Scott Peterson, told police he last saw her at 9:30 a.m. as she prepared to walk the family's golden retriever in East La Loma Park. He said he was leaving on a fishing day trip to the Berkeley Marina.
When Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department deputies brought in a specially trained bloodhound on Thursday to help in the search, it didn't head into the park. Instead, it headed to Yosemite Boulevard. Later, the dog led its handler from the Peterson house all the way to Maze Boulevard.
Monday, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Underwater Search and Rescue Team inspected a section of the San Joaquin River about one-half mile north of the Old Fisherman's Club on Highway 132. The area is about 16 miles from the Peterson home.
The divers were there because the bloodhound made a beeline down Maze, said deputy Mark Cardoza, a member of the dive team.
"We are looking at all the areas where people could pull off the side of the road and not be seen," he said Monday.
At an afternoon news conference at the Modesto Police Department, Sgt. Ron Cloward said bloodhounds often are reliable.
"I've worked on cases where those dogs have located people six months after they disappeared," he said.
Besides checking the river, the dive team searched sloughs along the river and a large pond on Mape's Ranch. Helicopters flew over the California and Hetch Hetchy aqueducts looking for any sign of Laci Peterson.
While searchers scoured the area along Highway 132 west of Modesto, detectives spent much of the day looking at videotape from a sporting goods store's security cameras.
Detective Doug Ridenour said police received a "credible" tip that Laci Peterson shopped at Copeland's Sports Fitness Super Store on McHenry Avenue on Christmas Eve. Investigators will continue to examine the tapes today.
In other developments Monday:
Scott Peterson gave investigators a receipt last week from the Berkeley Marina where he said he went fishing. When asked during Monday's news conference if that eliminates him as a suspect, Ridenour said, "At this point, we are not ruling him or anybody out."
Police were still investigating a burglary at a home across from the Peterson home that happened about the same time she disappeared.
"We really feel a compelling need to get the burglary solved to see if that moves us any closer to finding Laci," Police Chief Roy Wasden said.
He said the police today expected to release a description of three people and a vehicle seen in the area of the burglary. Also, the Police Department is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the burglar or burglars.
But Wasden stopped short of saying the police believe the burglary and the woman's disappearance are related.
Detectives have interviewed 155 registered sex offenders who live in southeast Modesto.
Police have received more than 500 tips. Only a few have turned out to be credible, Ridenour said.
Susan Levy appeared at the Red Lion Hotel to show support for the Rocha and Peterson families and plead for the safe return of Laci Peterson. Levy's daughter, Chandra, was missing in Washington, where she had worked as an intern at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Chandra Levy's remains were found this year in a Washington park.
Officers on horses searched the Modesto and Turlock reservoirs areas Monday.
Volunteers were being sent to search areas in northwest Modesto on Monday.
Volunteers were given five to six blocks to search at a time.
"Drive through the area slowly and take a good look," Cloward told them. "It doesn't hurt to check things again."
A public candlelight vigil will be at 4:30 p.m. today at East La Loma Park, next to the tennis courts. Participants are asked to bring candles.
All proceeds from the New Year's Day Pajama Brunch at the Red Lion Hotel, 1612 Sisk Road, will be donated to the Laci Peterson volunteer command center. The brunch starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. and costs $2.03 for guests who wear pajamas. The cost is $6.95-$8.95 for others. The hotel is the headquarters for the command center, which is still accepting volunteers.
Bee staff writer Patrick Giblin can be reached at 578-2347 or firstname.lastname@example.org