Mops & Bucket
From the end of January 2003, a number of false rumors and news reports began circulating. It was continually stated that the Covena home reeked of bleach when responding police officers first entered on the evening of the 24th December. Most stories said that Scott mopped the floor after he got home from his fishing trip in a hurried attempt to remove trace evidence, but told MPD that Laci had been preparing to mop the floors just before he left the home that morning.
These rumors continued even up until the trial. :
April 8, 2003, The Globe: just a few days before the bodies were discovered, the Globe ran an article claiming Scott murdered Laci in her kitchen:
"But the discovery of thin vomit on the mop police believe Scott used to clean the kitchen floor Dec.24 was a shock", says a source close to the family. "There were blood specks in the vomit. There seems to be no reason for a woman so far on in her pregnancy to throw up stomach fluids. And you can bet that if something that alarming had happened naturally, the first thing she would have done was call her mother in panic. They're very close and her mom would have been there in a heartbeat" (Wright).
January 28, 2003 National Enquirer: Entitled "Dark Twists and Turns" the tabloid claimed that Law Enforcement found spots of blood on the kitchen floor at the Peterson's Covena home.
February 8, 2003, National Enquirer: Again, the Enquirer claimed that "police believe Scott mopped the kitchen floor after he returned home from his fishing trip and BEFORE he reported Laci missing."
April 26, 2003, FoxNews reported that "Several pieces of evidence point to possible attempts by Peterson to cover up foul play, sources said. They point out that various chemicals were found on the mop he possibly used to clean the kitchen floor on Dec. 24, even though a cleaning maid had visited the house Dec. 23. Peterson told investigators the maid only finished cleaning half of the floor, but the maid has denied that to police."
October 31, 2003, Larry King Live - Preliminary Hearing: In one of the most blatant displays of incompetent reporting, the guest panel discussed the issue of a clean up at the house. Laura Ingle, stated that reportedly, MPD smelt bleach on arrival at the Covena home, this despite the fact that she had not even been in the courtroom for the responding Officer, Jon Evers' testimony. Judge Jeanine Pirro, even had the audacity to say that Officer Evers HAD testified to there being a distinct smell bleach at the house when in fact Court was adjourned before Defense reached the subject of the bucket and mop. Officer Evers eventually testified on Tuesday 4 November to there being no moisture on the floors and no smell of bleach or any other cleaning fluid when he entered on the evening of Laci's disappearance.
Pirro also maintained that Laci had told her mother that Scott would be golfing 24 December. Again, a statement which was completely erroneous.
GRACE: Laura, we waited through two days of mitochondrial DNA evidence to hear from the lay witnesses. We've been waiting to find out the significance of the housekeeper. Explain.
INGLE: Well, she cleans Scott and Laci's home on December 23. Now, December 23 is the last day that Laci Peterson was ever heard from. The last person to ever talk to her was her mother, at 8:30 at night. And Laci's sister, Amy, saw Scott and Laci a few hours before that, when she cut Scott's hair at the salon where she works here in Modesto.
Now, the housekeeper had been at the house previously during the day and testified that she had gone through the house and done the vacuuming and done the dusting. But where it got interesting was hearing how she cleaned the house. Police reportedly got in the house and reportedly smelled some bleach. Now, she said that she cleaned the floors with water and touch of Pinesol in the front area of the house. She did use some bleach in the back of the house, in the bathrooms. But really, apparently, the stench of bleach was in the front part of the house when police detectives arrived, so I think that's where that was laid to foundation today.
GRACE: Well, what about the detective, Laura Ingle? Did the detective describe the house or the smell of bleach?
INGLE: He did not get to that, at least not when I was in the courtroom. I had to leave during his testimony.
Judge Jeanine Ferris Pirro, the DA of Westchester County, New York: You know, Laci has -- tells her mother about things and she would have told her mother that Scott told her he was having an affair with Amber Frey. That's not the case. Laci says that Scott is going golfing the next day. She tells that to her mother and, of course, that's not the case. The mother is someone who obviously is sending an emotional charge in the courtroom. And I think the most disturbing part of today's testimony is the testimony of the police officer who says that there are two mops in the bucket outside, which goes to the issue of that cleaning and the smell of bleach that wouldn't hold over from the day the housekeeper was there. So if the police are there on December 24 and the cleaning with bleach was in a backroom on the 23rd, then why do we smell so much of it? Why is the bucket is outside, still wet? Why are there two mops instead of one?
In fact, both Officer Evers and Brocchini testified under oath at the Preliminary hearing, that there was NO smell of bleach in the house that night. In addition, both individually stated that none of the floors were wet or moist, indicating that the floors had not been cleaned after Scott returned from the Marina and Brocchini said he had specifically looked for evidence of the floors having been mopped recently.
Furthermore, Pin Kyo, Criminalist for the California Department of Justice at the Ripon lab, provided the analysis of both mops and the mop bucket. The items were received for testing on December 30, 2002. She reported that all smelt of common household detergents used to clean floors -- not bleach or chlorine. She did not find any blood, tissue or other incriminating trace evidence, proving that none of the items were used to clean-up a crime scene, neither inside the house or outside in the pool area.
During an interview with Detective Buehler on 27 December, Stacy Boyers, a friend of Laci's, said that Scott Peterson had been vacuuming the floors in the Covena home on Christmas Day at approximately 5pm. Grogan already seemed to suspect a clean up as he testified that he told Skultety on the 26th to have a special vacuum cleaner specifically designed to collect evidence, used to vacuum that area.
Crime Scene Officer, Doug Lovell was instructed to make the collection. Not only did he vacuum in front of the washer and dryer where Boyers said she had seen Scott cleaning, but he covered the whole living room including the furniture.
The debris was again sent for testing by Pin Kyo at the California Department of Justice lab in Ripon. Kyo testified that all she had found was hairs, fibers, piece of grass, dried leaves, red confetti-like material, one live flea, and dirt debris - nothing incriminating and nothing suggesting Peterson had been attempting to clean up a crime scene.
One of the first items which drew suspicion upon Scott Peterson was the positioning of a rug in the house. It was a rug in the living room and was rolled up against the door which led out onto the patio, and is the closest door to the driveway where the vehicles are parked. During the walk-through on 24 December, Officer Letsinger described it as "scrunched accordion style, like it had been slid together. And it was slid all the way up to the doorjamb and the door was closed."
The rug was never taken for testing. The theory at this stage of the investigation was that Scott Peterson had wrapped Laci's body up in a tarp and dragged it through the living room (converted garage) and out through the door. Being wrapped in the tarp, it left no trace evidence.
What Grogan hadn't taken into account was that had the rug been dragged along with Laci's body, it would not have stopped at the door; it would have been dragged out of the house. The only way the rug could be slid all the way to the doorjamb, and not any further, is if the door was closed at the time.
Even though Scott straightened the rug out when asked about it, in police photos taken later that same evening, the rug is once again "scrunched up". Since the rug was placed on a tiled floor, the most likely way the rug came to be in the rolled up position at the door was by the couple's animals running over the top of it.
The Cleaning Rags/Towels
These are the other items which drew attention during the first walk-through on 24 December. 11 rags (sometimes referred to as towels). They were sitting dirty and wet on top of the washer. Doug Lovell, ID tech, later took the rags for testing.
Margarita Nava, Scott and Laci's cleaner, testified that these rags were the ones which she had used on 23 December to clean the outside of the windows and around the fireplace screen. She then put them into the mop bucket which was then, in turn, placed on top of the washer. Scott told Brocchini that the rags were in the washing machine when he returned from fishing and that he removed them in order to wash his clothes.
Kyo, tested the rags. During her appearance on the witness stand, she was not even questioned about them by Prosecution, but Detective Grogan confirmed that they had no evidentiary value and had not been used in a clean up.
Despite all the tests that Kyo conducted on the mop and buckets, rags and vacuum cleaner contents, not one incriminating piece of evidence was found, proving that Scott Peterson had not participated in any attempted clean up in either the inside or outside of the Covena home. ALL the tests proved negative.
This article appears on SII at http://www.pwc-sii.com/Research/cleanup.htm