Less than a month after Laci Peterson disappeared, a woman who lived nearby entered Peterson's house and left with several objects, including Laci's wedding dress, according to several sources.
The suspect, Kimberly Ann McGregor, had been active in searches for her missing neighbor.
Sources close to the burglary say Mc-Gregor, 30, went into the Covena Avenue home early on Jan. 18, when Scott Peterson was in Los Angeles heading up a one-day search for his wife.
Police originally said there was no connection between the burglary and the case of the missing Modesto woman, but now authorities claim that it could be part of the case being prepared against Scott Peterson on charges that he murdered his wife and their unborn son.
Peterson's attorneys could raise the incident in their defense of the 30-year-old fertilizer salesman. He faces the death penalty if convicted of murdering his 27-year-old wife and their son, Conner.
Jackie Peterson, Scott's mother, told The Bee in May that items taken in the January burglary included her daughter-in-law's wedding dress. She said her son got the dress back, then had it cleaned and boxed.
On Jan. 17, The Bee reported that police had informed Laci's family that Scott was having an affair with a Fresno woman.
Later that day, Laci's family members released a statement, through a spokeswoman, saying that they thought Scott Peterson lied when he said he did not have a girlfriend, and they urged him to fully cooperate with police.
They also closed the volunteer center that had coordinated the massive search effort, citing "recent developments and the incredible media attention."
Shortly after midnight, McGregor entered the Peterson home, drank some alcohol and left with items in hand, sources said.
McGregor also was at the house on Christmas Eve after family members reported Peterson missing, and she was in the home over the next two days, said Ron Grantski, Peterson's stepfather. Mc-Gregor also walked the Petersons' dog.
Grantski said he could neither confirm nor deny whether McGregor was involved in the burglary.
McGregor declined to comment on the incident or her involvement in the search.
"I don't have anything to say," she said Wednesday. "I'm just a single mom. There's a reason that stuff has not come out."
Scott Peterson reported the burglary Jan. 19 upon his return from Southern California.
"Detectives don't believe the burglary is connected to the Peterson case," police spokesman Detective Doug Ridenour said Jan. 20.
City attorney gets involved
The city attorney's office late last month refused to allow police to release any information on the burglary, citing a court-imposed gag order in the double-murder case.
"I don't know how the prosecution or defense intends to use the information contained in that investigation," said Phaedra A. Norton, senior deputy city attorney. "I'm not privy to their strategies."
Pressed further, Norton said, "To tell you how it's related, I'd have to discuss the facts of the case, and I'm not prepared to violate the gag order."
Stanislaus County Chief Deputy District Attorney John Goold also said he could not discuss the case. But, he said, "If it is shown that there is intense interest in the house by people in the community, that's potential evidence."
Shortly after news of the burglary surfaced, police reported that the burglary suspect was known to the Petersons and had access to the home. The suspect cooperated with police and the stolen property was returned, police said at the time. No arrest was made.
Court records indicate that a judge issued a bench warrant in March 2002 for McGregor for failing to appear in court on a misdemeanor charge of challenging a person to fight in public.
She was not arrested on that warrant until about a month ago, at the time of her booking at county jail on a public drunkenness charge, according to the Sheriff's Department.
Ridenour would not comment on the case, but said in general that officers are not required by law to arrest someone on a bench warrant if they come in contact with them, Ridenour said.
"It depends on the circumstances why they stopped them," Ridenour said. "For the most part they do take them in, but there may be some extenuating circumstances."
McGregor also was booked for public drunkenness on May 31, 2001, and Sept. 22, 2001, according to Sheriff's Department records.
Bee staff writer John Coté can be reached at 578-2394 or email@example.com.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MORE ON THE PETERSON CASE
Dec. 24, 2002 -- Laci Peterson's family reports her missing. Kim McGregor, a 30-year-old neighbor, joins family and friends in the search effort.
Jan. 17, 2003 --The Bee reports that police informed Laci Peterson's family that her husband, Scott, had been having an affair.
Jan. 18 -- McGregor enters the Peterson home and leaves with several items, sources say. Police arrive afterward. Scott Peterson's mother later says Laci Peterson's wedding dress was taken.
Jan. 19 -- Scott Peterson returns from a trip and reports the burglary.
Jan. 20 -- Police tell The Bee that the burglary is not connected to the Peterson disappearance.
Jan. 22 -- Police say they have identified a suspect, who cooperated with investigators. The person is known to the Petersons and had access to the home. No arrest is made.
June 22 -- McGregor is booked on suspicion of public drunkenness for the third time in 25 months.
June 25 -- Authorities, citing a court-imposed gag order, refuse to release information on the January burglary at the Peterson home.