Modesto police confiscated shotguns and a handgun from Scott Peterson while investigating the slayings of his wife and unborn son, Peterson's father said Thursday.
Lee Peterson, who lives in San Diego County, made the revelation while explaining that he keeps a shotgun at his bedside when staying in his son's Covena Avenue home.
"I'm not going to stay in that house without some kind of protection," Peterson said, "and I'm going to continue to take it up there."
Scott Peterson faces the death penalty if convicted of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, who was reported missing Christmas Eve. Her body and that of their unborn son, Conner, were recovered in April along the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay.
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Authorities said autopsies on the decomposed bodies did not determine causes of death. A judge has sealed related documents pending court proceedings.
Lee Peterson said he and his son have hunted birds with shotguns. He said, "Police have Scott's guns. He had some bird guns and a handgun. It's not against the law. This is the United States."
Police Chief Roy Wasden, citing a court-imposed gag order, refused to comment Thursday on evidence that has been seized. His investigators served eight search warrants before arresting Peterson in April.
Lee Peterson, his wife, Jackie, and their daughter-in-law Janey Peterson stayed at Scott and Laci Peterson's La Loma-area home Tuesday night, in advance of a hearing in the case in Stanislaus County Superior Court on Wednesday.
Of his shotgun, Peterson said, "It was in a (gun) case. I took it in the house and put it by the side of the bed with shells nearby."
He said the house has been subject to "two or three break-ins" and family members have heard "people banging on the gate."
"I'm not a violent person. I am a hunter," Peterson said, adding that he would protect his family if threatened.
Shotgun offers safer protection
Modesto's Dave Thomas, an accomplished marksman, former Army range master and firearms instructor, keeps a shotgun at his bedside. It offers protection with less fear of bullets piercing walls and harming innocent people, he said. And, the recoil is minor compared with other firearms, he said.
"If an unwanted stranger is in your home, you have every right to protect yourself," Thomas said.
Scott Peterson's parents are making mortgage payments on their son's house and paying a swimming pool service to keep the pool in working order, Lee Peterson said. Family members have taken to staying at the home to perform landscaping and maintenance tasks -- and to save on hotel bills, he said.
Scott Peterson was not among 34 people in Modesto who had concealed weapons permits when his wife disappeared. By law, such a permit is not necessary unless a firearm owner wants to carry a handgun in public.
Many shotgun owners, like Lee Peterson, keep their firearms in protective cases, which are not required by law, said Lt. Marvin Harper, head range master for the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department.
When traveling, handgun owners must keep them in locked compartments or in locked trunks, Harper said. Rifles and shotguns may be left in open view but must not have ammunition within reach, according to the Penal Code, he said.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.