Remains to be released to family; dogs, hypnosis may be part of hearing

08/19/2003 7:55 AM

11/19/2007 1:40 PM

Testimony about human scent-tracking dogs and a prosecution witness interviewed using "hypnosis techniques" is expected to play a role in the preliminary hearing for accused double murderer Scott Peterson, newly released court documents show.

A separate court document made public Monday indicates that the remains of Peterson's wife, Laci, and unborn son, Conner, will be released to family members no later than Friday after a defense specialist X-rays the fetus.

Scott Peterson, 30, is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths. He has pleaded innocent.

The bodies were found in April along the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, roughly four months after Laci Peterson's reported disappearance from her Modesto home touched off a widespread search.

Modesto police used several dogs in the hunt for the 27-year-old substitute teacher.

Scott Peterson said he last saw his wife the morning of Dec. 24 as he left for a solo fishing trip to the bay and she prepared to walk their golden retriever, McKenzie, in Dry Creek Regional Park.

A potentially key development came Dec. 26, when a specially trained bloodhound from the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department indicated to its handler that Laci Peterson left her Covena Avenue home in a vehicle, not on foot.

The dog headed to Yosemite Boulevard, away from the park. Later, the dog led its handler from the Peterson house all the way to Maze Boulevard.

The handler at the time declined to identify herself or the dog.

The defense has requested a bevy of information about dogs used in the case, including their veterinary records, training reports, reliability tests and trainers' backgrounds, according to court documents filed by defense attorney Kirk McAllister.

In a July 29 letter to Senior Deputy District Attorney Rick Distaso, one of the prosecutors on the case, lead defense attorney Mark Geragos wrote that Distaso had "previously indicated to me that the prosecution intends to call witnesses at the preliminary hearing who will testify as to human scent-tracking dogs."

The defense specifically wants information about a dog named Merlin and the dog's handler, Cindee Valentin, a deputy with the Contra Costa County Emergency Services Search and Rescue Unit, a division of the sheriff's department. Reserve Capt. Christopher Boyer of the search and rescue unit also was named.

Valentin could not be reached for comment. Contra Costa County Sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee said Valentin had been subpoenaed and was covered by a gag order imposed in the case by Judge Al Girolami.

The dog information request was contained in an eight-page motion listing 26 areas where the defense wanted more information from prosecutors.

Prosecutors replied in documents filed Monday that they had fully complied with the law, turning over 23,700 pages of documents, 18 videotapes, 100 audiotapes, five DVDs and three CDs of wiretap recordings, among other items.

Distaso also noted in the filing that prosecutors are requesting information from the defense, including the names and addresses of potential witnesses and any real evidence the defense intends to offer at the preliminary hearing, set for Sept. 9.

At a defense request, a hearing on evidentiary issues is scheduled for Sept. 2.

The prosecution document also indicates that one prosecution witness, identified as "Kristen Deppenwolf" was questioned in a "cognitive interview where hypnosis techniques were used."

A Kristen Deppenwolf could not be identified through public records, and it was unclear what role she could play in the case.

Distaso's response also noted that the prosecution has no known evidence that would clear Peterson.

Geragos alleged in court documents filed last month that prosecution evidence turned over to the defense last month "totally exonerates" Peterson and will tip off the true killers if made public.

The contention was included in a defense request to have Peterson's preliminary hearing closed to the public. Girolami denied that request last week.

Bee staff writer John Coté can be reached at 578-2394 or jcote@modbee.com.

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