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The Murder Of Laci Peterson

Laci Peterson, by all accounts, grew up like any typical girl in California. Born into the Rocha family on May 4, 1975, with her mother Sharon, her father Dennis, and her brother Brent, Laci had a happy childhood working on the family’s dairy farm, according to a report by The Modesto Bee. It was here where she indulged in her love of gardening (spurred on by her mother’s green thumbs), as well as a fondness for the local flora.

Sharon and Dennis Rocha divorced sometime during Laci’s and Brent’s early childhoods, but a strong bond appeared to remain between the family. Sharon eventually married Ron Grantski, who had helped Laci’s mother raise her two children after they moved away from the family farm.

Growing up, Laci was a member of the cheerleading squad in both high school and junior high and she gained commendable grades. After high school, she then went on to earn a degree in Ornamental Horticulture at California Polytechnic State University.


 

Meeting Scott Peterson

During her tenure at California Polytechnic, Laci often visited the workplace of her friend, the Pacific Cafe located in Morro Bay. Scott Peterson, a man who also worked at the Pacific Cafe, soon became friends with Laci in the middle of 1994.

The two started dating, with Laci reportedly telling her mother just after her and Scott’s first meeting that he was the man she would marry. Things slowly became more serious between the two, with Scott apparently shelving his goal of a professional golf career for a more stable career in business. After two years, the couple was living together, as reported by SFGate. It's now known that as Laci graduated and started a job out of university, Scott started an affair as he continued his senior year. Scott is known to have participated in at least two affairs during this period of their relationship.

After they had both graduated and gotten married, Scott established a successful sports bar named The Shack. The couple sold Scott’s business in order to move to Modesto and begin a family in 2000.

Laci quickly found a job as a part-time substitute teacher, and Scott gained a well-paying job in the horticultural business sector for a large fertilizer manufacturer. Laci’s family reported that at this time she relished in being the ideal version of a housewife and she thoroughly enjoyed preparing meals and entertaining family and guests. Laci also became pregnant in 2002, and her eventual due date was set for February 16, 2003. They settled on the name Connor.

Things were looking positive for the newlyweds. However, things would soon take a dark and life-changing turn.

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The Disappearance of Laci Peterson

Two days before Christmas, 2002, Laci and Scott traveled to Laci’s half-sister Amy’s place of work, a hairdresser named Salon Salon, as reported by CNN. Amy cut Scott’s hair, a regular occurrence. This was the last time Amy saw her sister.

Laci also spoke to her mother on the same day, at roughly 8:30 p.m. This was the last time her mother would ever hear from Laci.

In accounts told to police, Scott stated that he last saw Laci on the 24th of December before heading to a nearby golf course. Laci was reportedly seen around 9:30 am.., where she was doing a variety of household chores and was preparing to walk their golden retriever McKenzie. Laci was more than eight months pregnant at the time. Later on, at 10:30 a.m., a neighbor named Karen Servas stated that she had found McKenzie outside of the Petersons’ house before helping the dog into the couple’s backyard.

Another neighbor had a similar experience at around 10:45 a.m., when they found McKenzie with a muddy leash, walking around the neighborhood alone. This neighbor again returned McKenzie to the backyard, where they stated that nothing unusual seemed to have taken place.

Scott said that once he returned from fishing, Laci was nowhere to be found, despite her car being in the driveway. Scott also said that he took a shower and put on a new set of clothes after getting dirty and wet while fishing. There are conflicting reports whether it was him or Laci’s stepfather Ron Grantski who first reported her missing.

The Missing Wife

A mass search effort went underway for Laci, made up of firefighters, police on horseback, helicopters, water rescue rafts, and canine units. 30 police officers were involved in the search, with an estimate of 900 civilians assisting in the search during the first two days of her disappearance. Media circulation of Laci’s disappearance soon snowballed, and the story quickly went from a regional story to a national event.

At the Petersons’ home, police found multiple items that belonged to Laci, including her keys and wallet. The home was spotless, with the dining table set and tidy from the previous night. One investigator reported that they had found an open phone book in the kitchen, noticeably opened on a page displaying an advertisement for a defense lawyer.

During the police search, Scott was unusually calm. Speaking of Scott, detective Buehler said “I was a little bit thrown off by his calm, cool demeanor and his lack of questioning ... he wasn't, 'Will you call me back? Can I have one of your cards? What are you guys doing now?'"

A Horrifying Discovery

A few months after Laci vanished, with a $500,000 reward on offer for any information in regards to her disappearance, the remains of a late-term male fetus were found on April 13, 2003, as reported by Fox News. The body was discovered by dog walkers in a marsh in the San Francisco Bay. 

The umbilical cord was still attached, and it had been noticeably torn off from the mother, rather than surgically snipped. The Associated Press released autopsy materials stating that one and a half loops of tape were wrapped around the fetus’ neck and that there was a cut visible on the body.

On April 14, just one day later, another body was discovered one mile away. The body was of a woman in late-term pregnancy. It was also heavily mutilated and had undergone a significant amount of decay. The corpse was missing all of its organs in the upper torso, apart from the uterus. The woman had been decapitated, was missing several limbs and also had two cracked ribs.

Autopsy reports confirmed what everyone had been dreading: the two bodies were, in fact, Connor and Laci Peterson.

The Culprit 

It took only 4 days for Scott to be arrested on suspicion of his wife’s murder. He was found close to a La Jolla golf course. According to a CNN report, his hair was dyed blonde -- a stark contrast to his naturally dark brown color -- and he had grown a beard. His car was full of items such as Viagra tablets, survival equipment, camping gear and just under $15,000 in cash. Scott also had his and his brother’s driver's license, which prompted the police to believe Scott was planning to flee the country. 

During the investigation, it was uncovered that Scott had been involved in a number of affairs. The most recent affair was with a woman named Amber Fray that began around November 20, 2002. In a bone-chilling account, Amber stated that Scott had told her that he was actually a widower and that his wife had died, as reported by CNN. In fact, Scott reportedly said that Christmas 2002 would be his first Christmas without his wife, a fact that would become true.

Barely a week after the bodies of Laci and her son Connor were discovered, Scott was charged on two counts of murder. He pleaded not guilty to the charges. It took over another year for the trial to take place, and Scott Peterson was convicted of first-degree and second-degree murder on November 12, 2004.

A Life Behind Bars

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Scott Peterson, while originally sentenced to death, is currently serving out his sentence after the death penalty was overturned in August 2020. His conviction still stands.

Scott’s motives behind the killing of his wife and son are considered to be a mix of mounting financial problems and his tendencies for adultery. Laci had reportedly inherited more than $100,000 worth of jewelry, and there is belief that Scott wished to profit from the sale of the expensive jewelry, as reported by Fox Reno.

Similarly, it seems that Scott desired to be single again and rather than sever ties with his wife through legal means, took to murder in a twisted display of violence.

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