Laci Peterson's family and friends removed truckloads of items from the slain Modesto woman's house on Friday, touching off controversy between her family and that of her husband.
Police responded to the Covena Avenue home at about 10 a.m. after a security company reported that the alarm had been triggered, Capt. Greg Savelli said.
Officers determined that Laci Peterson's family and friends were removing items that belonged to Laci, said Savelli, who added that officers documented what was taken.
"We're treating this as a civil dispute over property," he said. "It was clear to the Police Department that this was not a burglary.
Peterson's husband, Scott, 30, has been charged with double murder and faces the death penalty in the killings of his 27-year-old wife and their unborn son, Conner.
Savelli said the fallout from Friday's property removal "was best handled between the families and their attorneys."
Adam Stewart, an attorney for Laci Peterson's family, said the family had been in contact with Scott Peterson's defense team, who had agreed to allow Laci's mother, Sharon Rocha, to go through the house on Tuesday. She was to be accompanied by representatives of the defense team, and all items taken were to be photographed and videotaped.
Scott Peterson's parents and lawyers expressed outrage that the Rochas did not follow the agreement.
Jackie Peterson said the people who went into the home Friday had "absolutely no permission to be in that house. I have a lot of empathy for Sharon, but she does not have a right to go in our house and take what she wants."
Rocha did not appear to be among the packers. Calls placed to the Rocha home were not accepted.
Seven vehicles loaded
Among the items loaded into seven vehicles were a crib, a rocking chair and a box with Graco printed on the outside. Graco makes such products as strollers, highchairs and car seats.
Laci Peterson's family announced Wednesday that it had hired attorneys to help recover items from the house. A list included her wedding dress, jewelry and Conner's crib.
Jackie Peterson told The Bee that the security company notified her by telephone in San Diego County that the house alarm had been tripped.
The property removal appeared to take Scott Peterson's defense team by surprise.
Matthew Dalton, an attorney with lead defense attorney Mark Geragos' law firm, drove to the house and asked reporters if someone had reported a burglary.
Dalton went to Stewart's Modesto law office Friday morning and dropped off some items requested by the Rocha family, Stewart said.
Monday, the defense team moved other items, including what appeared to be gifts, to the Modesto office of defense co-counsel Kirk McAllister, for transfer to Laci Peterson's family. But the items had not been picked up by Friday morning, McAllister said.
Stewart said in front of the home that it would be "ridiculous" to suggest that the Rochas broke into the home.
"I apologize for it coming down to this," he said. "This is not the way we operate. This is for Laci, for Conner and Laci's family. It is not for the media or Mr. Scott Peterson's defense in any way, shape or form. It's depressing that it's come down to this."
Stanislaus County Chief Deputy District Attorney John Goold said prosecutors had no legal authority over the house.
"It's not a crime scene," Goold said. " This is a civil problem between the Rochas and the Petersons."
The house title is in Laci and Scott Petersons' names, county records show. In such a joint tenancy, when one titleholder dies, the title goes to the other.
But under the state Probate Code, if a joint tenant feloniously and intentionally kills another joint tenant, the surviving tenant surrenders his or her rights to the home.
Peterson is charged in his wife's slaying, but has not been convicted. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.
After his arrest, Peterson gave power of attorney to his parents -- and Jackie Peterson said she and her son talked Thursday night about what the Rocha family wanted.
At the house Friday morning, two police officers drove up, and one talked with some packers. A few minutes later, several people emerged from the house and left.
Brent Rocha, Laci Peterson's brother, was among them. Responding to a crush of reporters who asked for a comment, Rocha said simply, "Thanks, guys," and then drove off.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bee staff writer John Coté can be reached at 578-2394 or email@example.com.