Laci Denise Peterson (May 4, 1975 – December 24, 2002) was an American woman who was the subject of a highly publicized murder case after she disappeared while eight months pregnant with her first 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. Peterson is currently on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

390177.JPG 1BC2A714 May 21, 2003; Modesto, CA, USA; SCOTT PETERSON, accused of killing his pregnant wife and unborn son in December 2002, was declared GUILTY on two counts of murder Friday, November 12th, 2004. Pictured: LACI ROCHA PETERSON and SCOTT PETERSON shown in this undated picture. Scott was arrested in San Diego on Friday, April 18, 2003 in connection with the Christmas Eve disappearance of his pregnant wife, Laci Peterson. (Credit Image: ZUMA Press/ZUMAPRESS.com) Scott Peterson GUILTY (©) Copyright 2003 by 20030521 20030521_lac_z03_667.jpg 20030521_lac_z03_667.jpg ZUMA Press

Early life

Laci Denise Rocha was born May 4, 1975, to Sharon and Dennis Robert Rocha, who had met in high school, and owned a dairy farm west of Escalon, California. Sharon named Laci after a pretty girl she met in high school. Laci’s older brother, Brent Rocha, was born in 1971. Laci worked on the farm from a young age, and also enjoyed gardening with her mother, an activity with which she developed an appreciation for plant life that influenced her late life. Sharon and Dennis Rocha divorced when Laci and her brother Brent were young. Sharon and the children moved to Modesto, though the children visited the dairy on weekends. Sharon eventually married Ron Grantski, who helped raise Laci from the time she was two years old, as well as her old brother Brent. Dennis also remarried, gaining a stepson, Nathan Hazard, and with his second wife, had another daughter, Amy Woodward.

Laci was a cheerleader in junior high and high school. After graduating from Thomas Downey High School, she attended California Polytechnic State University, where she majored in ornamental horticulture.

While at California Polytechnic, Rocha would sometimes visit a friend who worked at a restaurant in Morro Bay called the Pacific Café. There, she met her friend’s coworker, Scott Peterson, in mid-1994. Peterson made the first move, sending him her phone number, and immediately after meeting him, Rocha told her mother that she had met the man that she would marry. Scott later called Rocha and they began dating, their first date being a deep-sea fishing trip on which Rocha got seasick. As Rocha’s relationship with Scott grew more serious, he put aside his dreams of professional golf in order to focus on a business path. The couple dated for two years and eventually moved in together.

Laci soon took a part-time job as a substitute teacher, and Scott got a job with Tradecorp U.S.A., a newly founded subsidiary of a European fertilizer company. Scott was earning a salary of $5,000 a month before taxes. Laci’s loved ones, including her mother and younger sister, related that she worked enthusiastically at being the perfect housewife, enjoying cooking and entertaining, and that she and her family welcomed the news in 2002 that she was pregnant. Laci’s initial due date was February 10, 2003, but was changed to February 16, 2003 during her second trimester. The couple had planned to name the baby boy Conner. In November 2002, when Laci was seven months pregnant, Scott was introduced by a friend to a Fresno massage therapist named Amber Frey. In later public statements, Frey said Scott told her he was single, and the two began a romantic relationship. The last time Scott’s parents saw Laci was during a three-day weekend they spent together in Carmel, California the week before Christmas 2002.

Disappearance & Discovery of the bodies

Apart from her husband Scott, the last two people known to have spoken to Laci before she disappeared were her half-sister, Amy Rocha, and her mother, Sharon.[

On December 23, 2002 at 5:45pm, Laci and Scott went to Amy’s workplace, Salon Salon, where Amy cut Scott’s hair, as she did each month. As they spoke, Rocha said Scott offered to pick up a fruit basket that she had ordered for her grandfather as the Christmas gift the next day because he would be playing golf at a course nearby. Prosecutors say Scott also told other people he would play golf on the day of Christmas Eve. Later that evening, Sharon spoke with Laci on the telephone around 8:30 pm.

Scott later told police that he last saw his wife about 9:30 a.m. on December 24, when he left to go fishing at the Berkeley Marina. He said Laci was watching a cooking television show but was preparing to mop the floor, bake cookies and walk the family dog to a nearby park. The next morning Karen Servas, a neighbor of the Petersons, stated that around 10:30am, she found the Petersons’ dog, a golden retriever named McKenzie, and returned him to the Petersons’ back yard. Shortly after 10:45am, another neighbor named Mike Chiavetta said he found McKenzie wandering the neighborhood with a muddy leash, and returned him to the Petersons’ yard. Scott said he returned home that afternoon to find it empty. Scott told Sharon Rocha that he found McKenzie in their back yard, though she related in her book that he later denied this. Laci’s 1996 Land Rover Discovery SE was in the driveway. He showered and washed his clothes because he said he got wet from fishing.

According to ABC News, Scott reported Laci missing from their Modesto home. However, the New York Post reported that when Laci still had not returned home by 5:15 p.m., Peterson called his mother-in-law, and that a half-hour later, Laci’s stepfather, Ron Grantski, called the police.The Modesto Bee also attributes the first call to police to Grantski. Laci was seven-and-a-half months pregnant The story attracted nationwide media interest. After police arrived at the Peterson home, Laci’s keys, wallet and sunglasses were found in her purse in a closet at the home the evening of December 24. The dining room table was meticulously set for a family dinner the following night. One detective found a phone book on a kitchen counter, opened to a full-page ad for a defense lawyer. Scott was reported to be completely calm. Modesto police detective Jon Buehler and Allen Brocchini, the lead investigators on the case, questioned Scott Peterson that evening. Although Scott initially said he had spent the day golfing, he later told the police that he had gone to fish for sturgeon at the Berkeley Marina. At 2:15 p.m., he left a message for Laci, stating, “Hey, Beautiful. It’s 2:15. I’m leaving Berkeley.” Scott stated that he went fishing about 90 miles from the couple’s Modesto home. Detectives immediately launched a search, but were surprised by Scott Peterson’s behavior. Buehler told ABC News in 2017, “I suspected Scott when I first met him. Didn’t mean he did it, but 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?”

Modesto police and firefighters carried out a massive search along Dry Creek the day after Laci’s disappearance. The search came to include helicopters equipped with searchlights, police mounted on horseback and bicycles, canine units, and water-rescue units on rafts. A total of 30 officers were employed in the search, as well as Laci’s loved ones and volunteers, who posted fliers to raise awareness of her disappearance. At a press conference, detective Al Brocchini said that police did not believe that Laci decided to leave without contacting her family, commenting, “That is completely out of character for her.” The initial search and later vigil were organized by the immediate family and friends. In the first two days, up to 900 people were involved in looking for Laci.

A $25,000 reward was offered, later increased to $250,000, and finally to $500,000 for any information leading to Laci’s safe return. Posters, blue and yellow ribbons, and fliers were circulated, and the original, basic version of LaciPeterson.com website was launched by the husband of one of her friends. Friends, family, and volunteers set up a command center at a nearby Red Lion Hotel to record developments and circulate information. Over 1,500 volunteers signed up to distribute information and to help search for her.

According to ABC News, Scott reported Laci missing from their Modesto home. However, the New York Post reported that when Laci still had not returned home by 5:15 p.m., Peterson called his mother-in-law, and that a half-hour later, Laci’s stepfather, Ron Grantski, called the police.The Modesto Bee also attributes the first call to police to Grantski. Laci was seven-and-a-half months pregnant The story attracted nationwide media interest. After police arrived at the Peterson home, Laci’s keys, wallet and sunglasses were found in her purse in a closet at the home the evening of December 24. The dining room table was meticulously set for a family dinner the following night. One detective found a phone book on a kitchen counter, opened to a full-page ad for a defense lawyer. Scott was reported to be completely calm. Modesto police detective Jon Buehler and Allen Brocchini, the lead investigators on the case, questioned Scott Peterson that evening. Although Scott initially said he had spent the day golfing, he later told the police that he had gone to fish for sturgeon at the Berkeley Marina. At 2:15 p.m., he left a message for Laci, stating, “Hey, Beautiful. It’s 2:15. I’m leaving Berkeley.” Scott stated that he went fishing about 90 miles from the couple’s Modesto home. Detectives immediately launched a search, but were surprised by Scott Peterson’s behavior. Buehler told ABC News in 2017, “I suspected Scott when I first met him. Didn’t mean he did it, but 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?

Modesto police and firefighters carried out a massive search along Dry Creek the day after Laci’s disappearance. The search came to include helicopters equipped with searchlights, police mounted on horseback and bicycles, canine units,[ and water-rescue units on rafts. A total of 30 officers were employed in the search, as well as Laci’s loved ones and volunteers, who posted fliers to raise awareness of her disappearance. At a press conference, detective Al Brocchini said that police did not believe that Laci decided to leave without contacting her family, commenting, “That is completely out of character for her.”

A $25,000 reward was offered, later increased to $250,000, and finally to $500,000 for any information leading to Laci’s safe return. Posters, blue and yellow ribbons, and fliers were circulated, and the original, basic version of LaciPeterson.com website was launched by the husband of one of her friends. Friends, family, and volunteers set up a command center at a nearby Red Lion Hotel to record developments and circulate information. Over 1,500 volunteers signed up to distribute information and to help search for her.

On April 13, 2003, a couple walking their dog found the decomposing, but well-preserved body of a late-term male fetus in a marshy area of the San Francisco Bay shore in Richmond’sPoint Isabel Regional Shoreline park, north of Berkeley. Its umbilical cord was still attached. Although a judge sealed autopsy results, an anonymous Associated Press source revealed that 1.5 loops of nylon tape were found around the fetus’ neck and a significant cut was on the fetus’ body. One day later, a passerby found the body of a recently pregnant woman, wearing beige pants and a maternity bra, washed up on the eastern rocky shoreline of the bay, one mile away from where the baby’s body was found.

The corpse was decomposed to the point of being almost unrecognizable as a human body. The woman had been decapitated, parts of her limbs were missing, including most of her legs, On April 18, 2003, the results of DNA tests verified that they were the bodies of Peterson and her son, Conner. The autopsy on both bodies was performed by forensic pathologist Dr. Brian Peterson (no relation to the Petersons). According to the autopsy, Conner’s skin was not decomposed at all, though the right side of his body was mutilated, and the placenta and umbilical cord were not found with the body. Laci’s cervix was intact. The cause of death was never undetermined. The exact date and cause of Laci’s death were never determined. She had suffered two cracked ribs, though Dr. Peterson could not determine if this occurred before or after her death. Laci’s upper torso had been emptied of internal organs except for the uterus, which protected the fetus, explaining the lower level of decomposition it experienced. Dr. Peterson determined that the fetus had been expelled from Laci’s decaying body, though he could not determine whether the fetus had been born alive or dead.

Investigation & Trial

It was later publicized that Scott had numerous extramarital affairs, one of which Peterson 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 Scott, and he 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 Peterson’s disappearance on the local news, and agreed to phone him while police recorded their conversation. She informed police he told her on December 9, two weeks before Peterson’s disappearance, he was a widower, and it would be the first Christmas without his wife.

Scott was arrested on April 18, 2003, near a La Jolla golf course. He claimed to be meeting his father and brother for a game of golf. His naturally dark brown hair had been dyed blond, and his Mercedes was “overstuffed” with miscellaneous items, including nearly $15,000 in cash, 12 Viagra tablets, survival gear, camping equipment, several changes of clothes, four cell phones, and two driver’s licenses, his and his brother’s. Scott’s father, Lee Peterson, explained that Scott had used his brother’s license the day before to get a San Diego resident discount at the golf course, and that Scott had been living out of his car because of the media attention. Police and prosecutors, however, saw these items as an indication that Peterson had planned to flee to Mexico.

On April 21, 2003, Scott was arraigned in Stanislaus County Superior Court before Judge Nancy Ashley. He was charged with two felony counts of murder with premeditation and special circumstances. He pled not guilty. Judge Al Girolami of Stanislaus County Superior Court moved his trial to San Mateo County because so many people in Stanislaus had made up their minds about Peterson’s guilt. His trial began on June 1, 2004. On November 12, 2004, Scott Peterson was convicted of first degree murder for his wife’s death and second degree murder for Conner’s death.[ Judge Alfred A. Delucchisentenced Scott to death, calling the murder of Laci “cruel, uncaring, heartless, and callous”

Posted by Carrie Dean

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