Peterson: Preliminary Trial

September 20, 2003

Inmate: Peterson pursued kidnap

FRESNO -- A jail inmate here says Scott Peterson, during a November meeting with two members of a neo-Nazi gang, broached the idea of kidnapping his wife.

Laci Peterson, 27 and pregnant, disappeared from her Modesto home just before Christmas, and her remains washed ashore in San Francisco Bay in mid-April. Her 30-year-old husband is charged with the murders of his wife and their unborn son.

Inmate Cory Lee Carroll's information led Modesto police and district attorney's investigators to the Fresno County Jail to interview him this week, said his attorney, Frank Muna.

The attorney said he contacted authorities after Carroll's account checked out in a lie detector test administered by Muna's private investigator.

Detective Doug Ridenour, police spokesman, said a gag order prevents him from talking about the Peterson case.

In general, he said, law enforcement has a duty to follow up all leads: "It doesn't matter where or what time, if it has a potential connection to a case, we're going to investigate it."

The district attorney's office did not respond to inquiries, but in the past has referred to the gag order when questioned about potential evidence.

Peterson's lead attorney, Mark Geragos, also cited the gag order. "Unfortunately, I can't comment," he said. "I would love to, but unfortunately, I can't."

Peterson has pleaded innocent in his death penalty case. A preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 20 to let a judge determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a trial. Lie detector test results are not admissible in court.

The 34-year-old Carroll's statement is detailed in a memo summarizing his lie detector exam. The examiner, Melvin W. King, a former Fresno police lieutenant, wrote the memo; The Bee obtained a copy on Friday.

Muna said the memo was identical to one that he received from King. The memo's writer said: "I can't confirm or deny anything. It's been made very clear to me, I'm under a gag order."

According to the memo, Carroll was truthful when he gave this statement:

He met Peterson in November at the City Lights strip club in Fresno. Peterson, who had discovered that Carroll had spent time in prison, asked whether Carroll knew anyone who could steal his wife's car. Peterson wanted to report the theft for insurance purposes.

Peterson agreed to pay Carroll $300 to set up a meeting with two men known to Carroll as Tony, who goes by the name "Dirty," and Anthony, also known as "Skeeter," members of the Nazi Low Riders gang.

Peterson met with Carroll and the others Nov. 29 at Chili's Grill & Bar in Fresno, and the four continued talking at a motel.

Carroll heard "Peterson mention to Dirty and Skeeter something about kidnapping Laci," and left because he did not want to get involved. He returned 45 minutes later and said he heard the gang members say they were going to take care of something.

Carroll said Dirty and Skeeter often lived in a beige van with orange and red stripes. A witness in the Peterson case said she saw a van across the street from the Peterson home on the day Laci Peterson disappeared. The van's description is similar to Dirty and Skeeter's van.

Police have discounted reports of a suspicious van, saying it belonged to landscapers.

Muna said Carroll had nothing to gain by coming forward: "We've never asked for anything and we don't plan to."

Carroll has been in custody since December on a parole violation. Records show that he has been in prison several times for grand theft, possession of stolen property and forgery.

Bee staff writer John Coté contributed to this report.

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