Since her daughter became one of America's best-known murder victims five years ago, Sharon Rocha has seen her son-in-law sentenced to death, lobbied for a fetal protection law that was signed by President Bush, written a best-seller and donated some of the proceeds from it to help those who search for missing people.
Doing good for others in Laci Peterson's name helps deaden the pain, Rocha said. But there is no way, she said, to silence it.
She recently invited her oldest grandson, who is 6, to help decorate a Christmas tree. He had no idea the gesture would help heal his grandmother's heart. Rocha hadn't kept a Christmas tree in her home since her 27-year-old daughter, pregnant with a boy to be named Conner, was killed at Christmastime five years ago.
"I surprised myself" by asking, Rocha said in an extensive Dec. 11 interview with Bee staff writer Garth Stapley. "I guess maybe subconsciously I was thinking, 'Well, it's time.' "
Below are excerpts from the interview. You can view the series at www.modbee.com/peterson.
On Laci as a child:
She usually would like more uplifting movies. I remember when she was younger, I really had to screen (movies) because she'd cry over everything. I can't tell you how many times (we) saw "Superman." She was only 5 or 6 at the time. She could watch the same movie 10 times and still cry at the same spot every time, so I had to screen them because she'd get so upset.
At least that shows she had a heart. So many people can see their own child, their own friend, their own granddaughter in Laci. I think that's why they could relate so much to her.
On remembering Laci:
I miss everything about her. It just changes your life totally and completely. There is nothing about my life that is like it was before. Even though it's been almost five years, it still feels as though it was just yesterday.
It changes, but it doesn't go away. There are many times that it seems like forever since I've seen Laci. I've gone through a day and think, "Wow, I finally didn't cry today." But it wasn't that I didn't think about her, because I always do. There is always something that makes me think about Laci.
On empathy for Scott Peterson's mother:
At times it's very difficult when I think about the things she put us through needlessly and it's hard to have empathy for her.
As far as to think about your child on death row and he'll eventually be put to death, it if was my child, it would be very difficult to deal with. But he's not my child. He murdered my child. So as far as I'm concerned, he's where he's supposed to be.
Which brings me to, what do I think about lethal injection? I just have one question: Who came back and said how bad it hurt? Honestly, did they give any thought to the person they murdered, which is the reason they're sitting there on death row, whether it was cruel and unusual? So it's hard to have any empathy whatsoever for those people.
On grave site of Laci and Conner:
It's sad you have to visit your child at a cemetery, that anybody should have to do that. (I go there) just to have a little peace, many times, when I find myself getting really, really upset about what has happened. It seems a little odd, but it's almost as if she's saying, "Mom, it's time to go out to visit me." If I go out there, for some reason, it calms me down and I feel much better afterward. That's my therapy.
On December memories:
Being around my grandchildren (helps me cope). I would like to withdraw but I know it's better for me if I don't. The entire year is difficult, but December is always the worst. I have to make myself keep going. There are many times I don't and I just hide out.
On bonding with survivors of other crimes:
I actually thought prior to this that I would understand how a parent would feel if they lost a child, but you really don't know the feelings, the emotions you go through. You think, "Oh my gosh, am I ever going to get over this? What's wrong with me? Why can't I get out of bed today? Why can't I have a clear thought?" Those are different stages you go through. In talking to other people, it seems that is just the course of what you go through.
I don't think the wound ever closes. The word closure means nothing to me. It's just a word because nothing closes, nothing ends because Laci's gone, so that is never going to come to an end. I miss her as much today as I did at the very beginning. She should be here with us. She should be here with her son.
I said it to Scott in my victim's impact statement, that just because he didn't want her doesn't mean I didn't want her. He didn't have the right to make that decision to take her life. He was a coward. If he wanted to get out of the relationship, he should have left. If he wanted to move to Europe, he should have moved to Europe. He should have left her but not taken her life. She would have survived without him.