Peterson: Disappearance & Arrest

The Search For Laci Peterson Chronology

(Last updated, Monday, April 21, 2003)

DEC. 24: Laci Peterson's stepfather reports her missing. Police start searching in East La Loma Park, where Peterson's husband, Scott, says his wife had planned to take their dog for a walk. A neighbor had found the golden retriever, with a muddy leash attached, and returned the dog to the Petersons' back yard, not thinking that anything was amiss.

DEC. 26: Police search Peterson's Covena Avenue home. They do not disclose what evidence they take. A volunteer center opens at the Red Lion Hotel. Thousands of fliers with Peterson's photo and reward information are distributed and posted. Neighbors of the Petersons from across the street return from a holiday trip to find that their home has been burglarized; police later determine that the burglary and Laci Peterson's disappearance are not connected.

DEC. 27: Investigators search a warehouse used by Scott Peterson in his work as a fertilizer salesman, and go to the Berkeley Marina to investigate his claim that he was fishing on the day that his wife disappeared.

DEC. 28: The search moves 10 miles west of Modesto, to 4,000 acres of wetlands along the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers. The reward fund for Peterson's safe return soars to $500,000.

DEC. 30: The handler of a bloodhound brought into the investigation says he believes that Peterson left her home in a vehicle, not on foot.

DEC. 31: More than 1,000 people attend a candlelight vigil at East La Loma Park.

JAN. 2: Police ask the public for help verifying Scott Peterson's story that he was fishing, and ask anyone who saw his truck or boat to call in.

JAN. 4: Divers search San Francisco Bay and the shore near the Berkeley Marina, but do not find anything related to the case.

JAN. 6: Divers begin three days of searching at Tulloch Lake.

JAN. 11: Divers again take to the water near Berkeley, after sonar detects an object that might be a body. The object turns out to be an anchor.

JAN. 12: Police search rural areas of Merced and San Joaquin counties.

JAN. 16: A relative of Laci Peterson's says police told her family that Scott Peterson had an affair and last summer took out a $250,000 life insurance policy on his wife.

JAN. 17: The volunteer center at the Red Lion Hotel closes.

JAN. 19: Scott Peterson spearheads a one-day effort to get missing-person fliers posted in Los Angeles.

JAN. 20: Police report that someone broke into the Petersons' home and burglarized it while Scott Peterson was in Southern California. Police later say that they have identified a suspect, and add that the burglary was not related to Laci Peterson's disappearance.

JAN. 21: In a brief interview with San Francisco-Oakland's KTVU television station, Scott Peterson calls The Bee's report about an affair and life insurance "a bunch of lies."

JAN 24: Police call a press conference and introduce Amber Frey, who tells the media that she had a recent romantic relationship with Scott Peterson. The 27-year-old from the Fresno area says Scott told her that he was not married when they met Nov. 20. She says she contacted police on Dec. 30, after seeing Peterson's photo in news reports about his wife. Earlier in the day, Laci Peterson's family holds a press conference. Brent Rocha, Laci's brother, says of Scott Peterson: "I trusted him and I stood by him in the initial phases of my sister's disappearance. However, Scott has not been forthcoming with information regarding my sister's disappearance. I'm only left to question what else he may be hiding."

JAN. 28: Scott Peterson, in a pretaped interview with Diane Sawyer for ABC Television's "Good Morning America," cries at times when talking about his missing wife and their unborn son. He says he did not kill her and had nothing to do with her disappearance. He says he told police on Christmas Eve about his affair with Frey. Peterson says that he told his wife about the affair, and that she had made peace with it. He calls the affair "inappropriate," but he admits that he saw Frey after telling his wife about her.

JAN. 29: Peterson appears with his family on the second part of his interview for "Good Morning America." At his home, he sits down alone -- without an attorney -- for interviews with several broadcast outlets. He says he and his wife both have $250,000 life insurance policies, taken out two years ago.

JAN. 30: Laci Peterson's family, on the Web site that they have set up to aid in the search, asks people around the world to participate in a candlelight vigil. Police say that almost 5,800 tips and leads have come in.

FEB. 4: Modesto used car dealer Doug Roberts gives Laci Peterson's Land Rover to her family. He says he took the SUV in trade when Scott Peterson purchased a 2002 Dodge Ram pickup. Police had taken his Ford truck and the Land Rover on Dec. 26, and subsequently returned only the Land Rover.

FEB. 8: About 350 people turn out for the first of three Saturday searches planned by Laci Peterson's family. The first day's effort covers pasture and wetlands in western Stanislaus and southern San Joaquin County. Today also is the day for a nationwide search publicized by Scott Peterson's family. In Modesto, Peterson calls authorities to report that someone has bashed in a door to his warehouse.

FEB. 10: This is the day that Laci Peterson's family says is her due date. Her sister and some of Laci's friends meet just after sunset for a candlelight vigil, with poetry and prayer, at East La Loma Park.

FEB. 13: Scott Peterson's relatives, at a press conference in San Diego, say they are contacting hospitals and clinics around the country in the hope that Peterson may have arrived to give birth. Scott Peterson does not attend the conference.

FEB. 15: Laci Peterson's family's second Saturday search takes place around Don Pedro Reservoir; about 130 people turn out.

FEB. 18: Police return to the Petersons' home with another search warrant. Officers spend about 10 hours in the house. Police seize Scott Peterson's new truck, take it to the Police Department, and return it about four hours later. Police escort Laci Peterson's sister, Amy Rocha, into the house -- and she stays inside with police for about two hours.

FEB. 19: Investigators search the Petersons' house for a second day. During the two-day search, police haul off dozens of bags of evidence -- nearly 100 items in all. The second day's effort includes outside measurements of the house, driveway and other areas of the property.

FEB. 22: The third of three Saturday searches, organized by Laci Peterson's family, takes place around New Melones Reservoir; about 100 volunteers turn out.

FEB. 26: Police acknowledge that they have not returned calls to everyone who has called the Police Department's Laci Peterson tips line. A neighbor says she saw Laci Peterson on Dec. 24, between 10 and 10:15 a.m., about 45 minutes after Scott Peterson says he left on his fishing trip. Vivian Mitchell says police never called her back. Police Chief Roy Wasden says the department has received more than 8,000 tips since the case began.

MARCH 5: Police reclassify the Laci Peterson case a homicide. "As the investigation has progressed, we have increasingly come to believe that Laci Peterson is the victim of a violent crime," says the lead investigator, Detective Craig Grogan.

MARCH 6: Jackie Peterson says she fears people will stop looking for her daughter-in-law now that police have reclassified the case as a homicide.

MARCH 12: Searching around Point Richmond in San Francisco Bay yields something of interest, as detected by sonar. Police eventually call off the search without turning up anything.

MARCH 20: A Modesto woman says she stopped beside Scott Peterson at a red light at about 9:45 a.m. Christmas Eve, and motioned to him that something might be coming loose from the bed of his truck. "He looked out his side window, and he gave me a look that was the most horrifying, scary look I have ever seen in my live," Connie Fleeman says. She says police had not responded to two calls to the tips line.

MARCH 24: The Stanislaus County district attorney's office says "history and common sense mandate that the public and the press be kept out of the search warrant application process." The statement is part of the district attorney's response to The Bee's motion to have Superior Court unseal all eight warrants in the Peterson case.

APRIL 4: Judge Roger M. Beauchesne rules that Superior Court acted improperly in sealing the warrants. He says the court erred in sealing the warrants without public notice and without hearings.

APRIL 6: Police in Tempe, Ariz., check out an anonymous report that Laci Peterson had been seen in or near a car at a specific address. An officer spends almost an hour talking with people, and is unable to find Peterson or anyone matching her description.

APRIL 10: Judge Beauchesne, after reviewing the warrants with prosecutors in closed court, decides that the information will stay sealed, in part because the case could involve the death penalty for whomever might be brought to trial.

APRIL 11: Calls to the police tips line have dwindled in recent weeks. From 8,000 in late February, the count rose slowly through March and into April, to 8,891.

APRIL 13: Someone finds the body of a baby boy in south Richmond, on the shore of San Francisco Bay.

APRIL 14: A woman walking her dog finds the body of an adult female lodged in rocks at Point Isabel Regional Shoreline, on the bay about a mile south of where the baby's body was found the day before. East Bay Regional Park District police notify Modesto police. Autopsies on both bodies are conducted at the Contra Costa County coroner's office.

APRIL 15: The Contra Costa County coroner's office declares that the autopsy on the woman's body does not show an obvious cause of death. The baby's autopsy also was inconclusive. DNA testing will be needed to try to identify the remains, and to see if the baby and the woman are related. The testing could take days, or weeks or longer.

APRIL 16: Stanislaus County District Attorney James Brazelton says: "I feel pretty strongly it is (Peterson)."

APRIL 17: A state lab still does not know if the woman's body will yield enough DNA for testing, an official says. The DNA sample from the baby's body is sufficient.

APRIL 18: Modesto police arrest Scott Peterson in San Diego, on two counts of murder. California Attorney General Bill Locker confirms that the bodies found near the bay are those of Laci Peterson and her son, Connor.

APRIL 21: Scott Peterson pleads not guilty to two capital murder charges during his arraignment. Stanislaus County Public defender Tim Bazaar represents Peterson at the arraignment hearing.