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Murder of Laci Peterson

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Murder of Laci Peterson

Laci Peterson
Born Laci Denise Rocha
(1975-05-04)May 4, 1975
Modesto, California, U.S.
Died c. December 24, 2002 (aged 27)
Modesto, California, U.S. (presumably)
Occupation Substitute teacher
Spouse(s) Scott Peterson (1997–2005)
Children Conner Peterson (fetal death)
Parent(s) Dennis Rocha and Sharon Rocha

Laci Denise Peterson (née Rocha; May 4, 1975 – c. December 24, 2002)[1] was an American woman who was the subject of a highly publicized murder case after she went missing while seven and a half months pregnant with her only child. She was reportedly last seen alive on December 24, 2002. Her husband, Scott Peterson, was later convicted of murder in the first degree for her death, and in the second degree for the death of their prenatal son, Conner. Scott is on death row at San Quentin State Prison.


  • Early life and marriage 1
  • Disappearance and discovery of the bodies 2
  • Investigation and trial 3
  • Aftermath 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8

Early life and marriage

Laci Denise Rocha was born in Modesto, California. Her parents, Dennis Robert Rocha and Sharon Ruth Anderson, met in high school and married shortly after graduation.[2] Their first child, Brent Rocha, was born in 1971. Laci was their second child, born in 1975. Her parents separated after her first birthday. Dennis later remarried and had another daughter, Amy. Laci grew up visiting her father's dairy farm in Escalon, California,[1] and she was a cheerleader in junior high and high school. After graduating from Thomas Downey High School, she attended California Polytechnic State University. At Cal Poly, she majored in ornamental horticulture. She hoped someday to open a specialty plant shop. While at Cal Poly, she met Scott Peterson at a small restaurant called Pacific Café in Morro Bay .

In December 1996, Scott and Laci became engaged. They later married on August 9, 1997, a few months before her graduation. For the first two years or so of their marriage, they delayed trying to have children, but she began to express an interest in starting a family. In December 2000, they decided to try for a pregnancy. Becoming pregnant took longer than expected, and on the verge of scheduling fertility tests, they conceived naturally in May 2002.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

Disappearance and discovery of the bodies

Apart from Scott, the last two people known to have spoken to Laci before she disappeared were her half-sister, Amy Rocha, and her mother, Sharon Rocha. On the evening of December 23, 2002, Amy had cut Scott's hair, with Laci present. Later that evening, Sharon spoke with Laci on the telephone around 8:30 pm. Shortly after 10:15 am the following morning, a neighbor found the family dog, a golden retriever named McKenzie, running loose in the neighborhood, wearing a collar and a muddy leash. The neighbor then returned her to the yard. Laci's 1996 Land Rover Discovery SE sport utility vehicle was in the driveway, and her purse, containing her keys and cell phone, was on the table inside the house.[10]

When Scott returned home from fishing that evening, he reportedly discovered Laci was not there. Some reports state he washed his clothes, ate some cold pizza, cleaned up the kitchen, and took a shower.[11] Then, at roughly 5:20 pm, he called Sharon Rocha to ask if Laci was with her. When Sharon replied that she was not there, he said, "Laci's missing." Sharon later said that she knew in her heart something horrible had happened to her. He stated that when he left that morning, Laci was planning to buy groceries for their Christmas get-together and walk McKenzie in nearby East La Loma Park.[10]

Laci's parents called the police at 6 pm. A search of the park and surrounding areas immediately ensued. Police, family members, friends, and neighbors searched widely on foot, in all-terrain vehicles, patrol cars, and sport utility vehicles, helicopters equipped with search lights and heat sensors, water rescue units, search dogs, and horseback teams.[10] Law enforcement agencies from several counties became involved. Police suspected foul play, doubting that she would vanish on Christmas Eve without contacting anyone. At a press conference, detective Al Brocchini said, "That is completely out of character for her."[12]

A $25,000 reward was offered, later increased to $250,000, and finally to $500,000 for any information leading to her safe return. Posters,

  • The Modesto Bee - The Peterson case
  • Celebrating the Life of Laci Rocha Peterson
  • Scott Peterson Family Website

External links

  • Rocha, Sharon (2006). For Laci. Crown Publishing Group.


  1. ^ a b CT-LPet Laci Peterson Case – Key Players" (bio) Court TV, 2003,
  2. ^ "Ancestry of Conner Peterson". Retrieved 2011-06-21. 
  3. ^ "The Laci Peterson Case". Retrieved 2011-06-21. 
  4. ^ "Up to Date Trial Information". Retrieved 2011-06-21. 
  5. ^ Jonathan Smith (2008-10-11). "". Archived from the original on July 10, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-21. 
  6. ^ Laci Peterson Case Information Archived February 19, 2004 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "The UPI's April 27 report". 2003-04-27. Retrieved 2011-06-21. 
  8. ^ CNN: Larry King Live Panel Discusses Laci Peterson Case
  9. ^ January 12, 2003 article Detectives Search near Bay for Missing Pregnant Woman
  10. ^ a b c d "What's Happening". The Family of Laci Peterson. Retrieved 2012-01-23. 
  11. ^ David Wright; Don Gentile; Charlie Montgomery (6 January 2004). "SCOTT'S ALIBI DESTROYED - In Taped Interview with Police". National Inquirer. Retrieved 21 February 2014. SCOTT: Um hum. But I took some pizza in there with me, started the shower. 
  12. ^ a b Gregg L. DesElms. "What's happening". Retrieved 2011-06-21. 
  13. ^ "Police: Laci Peterson is victim of violence". CNN. 6 March 2003. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  14. ^ "Race Bias in Media Coverage of Missing Women?". 2006-03-17. Retrieved 2011-06-21. 
  15. ^ "Eerily similar case languishes in obscurity; Torso of missing pregnant mom was found in S.F. Bay last year". 2003-04-21. Retrieved 2011-06-21. 
  16. ^ Rocha, Sharon (December 31, 2005). For Laci: A Mother's Story of Love, Loss, and Justice (First ed.). Crown.  
  17. ^ Monte Morin; Dan Morain (19 April 2003). "Scott Peterson Arrested in Wife's Slaying". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 February 2014. Four months after Laci disappeared from their Modesto home and days after her skeletal remains washed ashore in San Francisco Bay, federal and local authorities Friday arrested Scott near a La Jolla golf course. 
  18. ^ "Laci Peterson's Autopsy to Stay Sealed". Los Angeles Times. 8 June 2003. Retrieved 5 December 2013. A judge ruled Friday that autopsy results for Laci Peterson and her unborn son would remain sealed 
  19. ^ "Autopsy: Laci Peterson's Head Was Missing". ABC News. 30 May 2003. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  20. ^ "Body Identified as Laci Peterson; Scott Peterson Arrested in San Diego". FOX News. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  21. ^ Modesto Police Department News Release (24 January 2003). "RELATIONSHIP VERIFIED IN PETERSON CASE". City of Modesto. Retrieved 20 February 2014. "Today, police officially verified a prior relationship between Scott Peterson and Amber Frey...Amber Frey contacted the Modesto Police Department on Monday December 30, 2002 
  22. ^ "New twist in Peterson case". Chicago Tribune. 7 November 2003. Retrieved 20 February 2014. Two weeks before Laci Peterson was murdered, her husband Scott Peterson told his mistress that his wife was already dead and that he was about to spend his first Christmas without her 
  23. ^ "Items Found in Scott Peterson's Car". Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  24. ^ "Authorities Feared Scott Peterson Planned Escape to Mexico". Associated Press (Modesto CA). 18 April 2003. Retrieved 20 February 2014. Modesto police say they feared Scott Peterson was preparing to flee to Mexico when they arrested him on Friday 
  25. ^ "Judge sentences Scott Peterson to death for killing his wife and unborn son – – Trials". Archived from the original on February 28, 2009. Retrieved 2010-11-20. 
  26. ^ "White House webpage". 2004-04-01. Retrieved 2011-06-21. 
  27. ^ "Court TV report dated December 19, 2005". Archived from the original on April 3, 2009. Retrieved 2011-06-21. 
  28. ^ Principal Life Ins. Co. v. Peterson (Rocha), 156 Cal. App. 4th 676 (2007).
  29. ^


See also

In 2006, Sharon wrote For Laci: A Mother's Story of Love, Loss, and Justice, a biography and memoir about the life and death of Laci. All proceeds are used to fund the Laci and Conner Search and Rescue Fund, which she had founded. On January 29, 2006 it was listed at #1 on the The New York Times Non-Fiction Best Seller list.[29]

Late in 2005, a Stanislaus County, California judge ruled that Scott was not entitled to collect on Laci's $250,000 life insurance policy, having been convicted of her murder. Under California state law, criminals may not profit from insurance policies. On December 19, 2005, the money was given to Sharon as the executor of her estate.[27] The California Court of Appeal (Fifth District) later affirmed the trial court's decision on October 31, 2007.[28]

The law recognizes unborn children as legal victims if injured or killed upon a listed crime of violence. [26] The death of Laci and her


After a trial that ran from June 2004 through March 2005, on March 16, 2005, Judge Alfred A. Delucchi sentenced Scott to death, calling the murder of Laci "cruel, uncaring, heartless, and callous".[25]

Scott was arrested on April 18, 2003, in La Jolla, California. He was arrested in the parking lot of a golf course, where he claimed to be meeting his father and brother for a game of golf. At the time of his arrest, he was carrying $15,000 in cash, had four cell phones, camping equipment, a gun, a map to Frey's work place that had been printed the day before, the driver's license for John Edward Peterson (his brother), 12 tablets of Viagra, and many other "odd" items.[23] His hair and goatee had been bleached blonde. The police took this as an indication that he had planned to flee, possibly to Mexico.[24]

It was later revealed that Scott had numerous extramarital affairs, one of which Laci knew about. The most recent was with a massage therapist named Amber Frey, a single mother from nearby Fresno. The affair began after he met a woman, Shawn Sibley, on October 24, 2002 at a trade convention where he represented his company, TradeCorp. He told her he was single and "looking". He joked that he should put "Horny Bastard" on his name tag to help him meet women. Though Sibley was attached, she thought he would be a good match for Amber Frey, a friend of hers. Sibley gave Frey's contact information to him, who later called her on November 19 and met her the next day. After a month-long, whirlwind romance, she informed police of their relationship shortly after discovering he was a person of interest in Laci's disappearance on the local news,[21] and agreed to phone him while police recorded their conversation. She informed police he told her on December 9, two weeks before Laci's disappearance, he was a widower and it would be the first Christmas without his wife.[22]

From the start, Scott was reluctant to talk to the press. At one point, he stormed out of a family press conference when reporters asked if the police considered him a suspect. Laci's brother, Brent Rocha, initially defended him, claiming that he was too distraught to make public statements about her, and added that did not mean he was involved in her disappearance. "No way," Rocha said. "Absolutely not." Although later, Rocha would recall Scott's use of the word "missing" seemed very frequent. Rocha says, looking back, he felt uneasy that Scott started using that word so soon.[10] Laci's family maintained Scott's innocence,[12] and volunteers said that he joined their efforts at the command center every day. Police delivered a major blow to the family when they uncovered pictures showing Scott with another woman. They also found that he was with her during a time that Laci thought he was on a business trip. (The dates on the pictures revealed this.) After this information came out, Laci's family called for him to be more forthright with them.

Investigation and trial

On April 13, 2003, a couple walking their dog discovered the uterus.[20] It is thought that the 1 1/2 loops of nylon tape became tangled around the fetus neck after he came out of Laci's decomposing body.


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