Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Early News Reports

It's always good to go back and review the earliest news reports on Laci's disappearance to see exactly what people heard and when. Of particular interest to me are the reports by the ModBee, whom I believe was the primary enabler for this wrongful conviction. This brief timeline shows the coverage through the arrest of the Medina burglars -- key points are listed for each article. My pontifications are in italics.

December 26, 2002

"Woman Vanishes on Walk"by Molly Dugan and Judy Sly
  • Scott made a "fishing trip to the Bay area." In fairness, it's newsworthy to mention where the husband spent the day. But let's start counting how many times it's mentioned that he went to the Bay, and specifically to the Berkeley Marina.
  • "Officers located people who said they saw [Laci] in the park about 10 a.m." People is plural, as in more than one person.
  • Karen Servas found McKenzie about 10:30 a.m., "his leash attached and muddy." Servas put McKenzie into the Peterson's backyard.

December 27, 2002

"Expectant Mom jubilant over son on way" by Ty Phillips
  • Laci "began calling her friends and relatives at 7 a.m. the day she found out [she was pregnant] -- waking many with her jubilant announcement." I distinctly remember Dave Harris ridiculing Dr. March when he stated this fact at the trial, that Laci immediately called family and friends when she found out she was pregnant, and all of the media and the surviving jurors jumping on the bandwagon. But on December 27, 2002, no one was trying to hide that critical fact from the public -- people were talking about it freely and using it as a way of connecting with Laci.
  • "Someone reported seeing Peterson walking with her dog in East La Loma Park that morning" This is the 2nd straight day that the ModBee reports someone seeing Laci walking her dog in the Park. What happened to these witnesses?
"FBI joins inquiry into woman's disappearance" by Patrick Giblin
  • "Officers arrived with the warrant at 7:45 p.m. at Laci Denise Peterson's house . . . FBI crime-scene investigators joined police inside the home."
  • "At 10 p.m., workers prepared to haul a pair of vehicles from the Peterson home."
  • "Police brought in a bloodhound that led authorities away from Dry Creek."
  • "A police officer interviewing people along the park's Mensinger Trail,and elsewhere around the park, reported that he spoke with a woman who said she heard screams about 10:15 Christmas Eve. She lives on the park's border."
  • "Over the course of an hour, police went in and out of a home near the Peterson house."
  • Scott "said he was going on a fishing trip to the Bay Area." <1>
  • "A neighbor found the dog, with leash attached, wandering at 10:30 a.m., and put the dog in the Peterson yard . . . Police Chief Roy Wasden said the leash was muddy, as if it had been dragged some distance." Where did McKenzie come from? From being on a walk with Laci, of course. It's incredible how blinding tunnel-vision is.
  • "at 5 p.m. when officers released the bloodhound in front of the Peterson home, the dog did not go to the dirt path [to the park]. Instead, the hound led police to houses around the corner, then south to Yosemite Boulevard and eventually to Santa Rosa near E&J Gallo Winery. Now this is accurate reporting. This is exactly what happened. At this time, the media can't be expected to know the significance of the Winery's location adjacent to the Airport District, as the Medina burglars have not yet been identified and the safe and loot found in the Airport District. However, they surely could remember what really happened, as many of them were trailing Valentin and Merlin as Merlin proceeded to trail Laci.
  • Contra Costa County sheriff's deputies, who supplied the bloodhound, concluded the search when the dog began nosing around some Dumpsters. Police searched with flashlights and climbed in, but it was not known what, if anything, they found."
  • "Police said earlier in the investigation that people reported seeing someone believed to be Peterson in the park about 10 a.m. Tuesday." Yes, on the 27th, they can still remember that the police reported Laci-sightings in the park.
  • "Walter Collinge, an avid bicyclist, said he often saw Peterson walking along the path." Was Collinge asked if he recalled the last time he saw Laci, and how frequently he saw her?

December 28, 2002

"Neighbors don't know what to make of disappearance" by Lisa Millegan
  • "Her husband said he last saw her at 9:30 a.m. as he left on a fishing trip to the Bay Area" <2>
  • "Krigbaum said her family has been more on edge since the disappearance. Her partner's 12-year-old son is not allowed to play outside because of concerns about his safety."
"Officers scour more locations" by Ty Phillips
  • "Investigators expanded their hunt for clues Friday to a warehouse used by the Modesto man whose pregnant wife has been missing since Christmas Eve." If this doesn't convince everyone that Scott is the only suspect, I don't know what would. Searching the home can be justified as a look for evidence of a break-in or abduction from the home, but the warehouse points only to Scott.
  • "police and FBI crime-scene analysts spent a second day working inside the La Loma neighborhood home that belongs to the missing woman, Laci Peterson, 27, and her husband, Scott, 30."
  • "Modesto and Berkeley police went to a marina on San Francisco Bay to investigate Peterson's claim he was fishing at the time his wife disappeared." <3>
  • "Ridenour said investigators were looking for evidence in two computers and two vehicles seized Thusday night from the Peterson home." More effort to remove all doubt that Scott Peterson is the only suspect.
  • "Susan Medina said she and her husband, Rudy, were gone from Christmas Eve until about 5 p.m. Thursday, and discovered then that someone had broken in and stolen a safe holding $50,000 worth of jewelry. Police have been going in and out of the house the past two days."
  • "Peterson . . . left with his aluminum fishing boat for a trip out to Berkeley." <4/1> So everyone now knows exactly where Scott Peterson went fishing, not just the San Francisco Bay, not just a marina in the Bay, but the Berkeley Marina.
  • Scott "provided detectives with a launch receipt that verified his trip . . . had turned over a receipt from a Bay Area gas station." <5>
  • "In the short time I've known him, he's probably one of the nicest guys I've ever met," said Guy Miligi, a family friend. "He's always a gentleman with women. We'll be at dinner with them, and when my wife and Laci get up to go to the restroom, he'll always stand up. And he'll stand up again when she returns. You don't see that anymore."
  • "He's the type of person that if you had broken down on the freeway, he'd be the guy who would stop and help you," said Kenni Friedman, president of the Downtown Rotary Club. "He's just a very compassionate, giving person." Do good people (such as the man described by Miligi and Freidman) sometimes do bad things (such as have an affair)? Yes, they can, but when weighed in the balance, as it appears Laci was willing to do with Scott, some of them are worth keeping around.

December 29, 2002

"Search for missing woman moves west" by Molly Dugan
  • "Police said they had found no connection between Peterson's disappearance and a burglary across the street from her Covena Avenue home. Investigators say they believe the burglary occurred between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday, the day Peterson disappeared." And they were absolutely right. We know Jackson saw the van, 3 men, and the safe being removed from the house at 11:30. Was there another van sighted at the Medinas, or another group of unidentified men, just before 4 p.m.?
  • "Investigators said they continue to investigate the burglary for a possible link with the Peterson case, and Laci Peterson's brother Brent Rocha said Saturday, "I think that's our best lead." Now watch what happens - take the focus off the Medina burglars and put it squarely on Scott Peterson!
  • "A bloodhound convinced investigators to broaden their search to the west. Officers brought in the dog Thursday and let it loose in front of Peterson's house, thinking it might go to a dirt trail less than a block away that she used to go to Dry Creek. Instead, the dog stayed on neighborhood streets, made its way to Yosemite Boulevard and headed west. Investigators took it from there, deciding to scour the Toulumne River all the way to the San Joaquin." It's just been 2 days since you reported the truth about Merlin's trail, and now you are spitting out this garbage? I know it's different reporters, but don't they read other articles in the Bee? Don't they discuss cases they are covering? Don't they compare notes? Merlin did not head west on Yosemite Blvd; he led Valentin down Santa Rosa to the Gallo Winery, and then headed East towards the Airport District, which is exactly where the Medina burglars lived. If the investigators were going to take it from there, they should have allowed Merlin to go wherever he would in the Airport District, but alas, Brocchini called off the trail. Well, DUH, Merlin obviously wasn't going in the right direction because the warehouse isn't in the Airport District. But the burglars, the safe, and stolen goods most certainly were. You can read all about Merlin's trail that Thursday night in the summary of her testimony at the pre-trial hearings, under the date of February 24, 2004, or read her full testimony. But my question is, who is telling these blatant lies to the ModBee? And my second question is, where were all those reporters who were tailing Valentin and Merlin, and who knew darn good and well where he went that night. Why don't the reporters call these people out when they feed them lies like this?
  • "Evidence collected so far includes two computers and two vehicles from the Peterson home and a boat from the Modesto warehouse that Scott Peterson used in his work as an agricultural salesman." But Scott isn't a suspect. Yea, right!
  • "Peterson told the police that he left his home at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and took his aluminum boat to a marina in Berkeley, where he set out on a fishing trip on San Francisco Bay. Investigators reported coming up empty Friday when they went to the marina. Officers said they found no one who could report seeing Peterson on Tuesday, nor did officers find any other clues." <6/2> Funny isn't it, how it only took Anne Bird about 15 minutes on her very first effort at the Berkeley Marina to locate four witnesses that saw Scott there on December 24? Anne also mentioned how many reporters were there at the Marina, and yet not one of them found any of those four witnesses. (See Blood Brother, pgs. 69-71).
  • "Officers made a return visit Saturday, but it was not known what they might have found." They found nothing, because there was nothing to be found -- not yet.

December 30, 2002

"Search presses on, but no trace, breaks" by Michael G. Mooney (posted online at 5:16 a.m. PST)
  • "Although police have received about 340 calls on a special tip line, none has resulted in a 'concrete lead' at this point." Not when you won't look at anyone else other than Scott! But the Medina burglary tips most certainly were "concrete." Did any reporters ever ask, what about the Medina burglary? Apparently not, as all they seemed interested in was Scott's fishing trip.
  • "Ridenour said investigators traveled to the Berkeley marina where Scott Peterson said he went on Dec. 24 but did not turn up any conclusive evidence." <7/3>
December 31, 2002

"New Wrinkle in Search" by Patrick Giblin (Front page, continued on A-10; posted online at 6:46 a.m. PST)
  • Scott said he left "on a fishing day trip to the Berkeley Marina."' <8/4>
"Search: Video from sporting goods store being reviewed" (A-10, continued from Front Page)
  • "When Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department deputies brought in a specially trained bloodhound on Thursday to help in the search, it didn't head into the park. Instead, it headed to Yosemite Boulevard. Later, the dog led its handler from the Peterson house all the way to Maze Boulevard." Repeating it doesn't make it true, but it does make it stick in people's minds. The truth is, no bloodhound trailed Laci from the house all the way to Maze Boulevard. It simply didn't happen. And these reporters have to know it didn't happen that way -- they were out there following the blood hound and its handler. It's one thing to be lied to; it's quite another to knowingly pass a lie along.
  • "'The divers were [at the Old Fisherman's Club on Hwy 132] because the bloodhound made a beeline down Maze', said deputy Mark Cardoza, a member of the dive team. 'We are looking at all the areas where people could pull off the side of the road and not be seen.' he said Monday." If people's noses grew when they told lies, Scott's would certainly be the shortest one in the group.
  • "Scott Peterson gave investigators a receipt last week from the Berkeley Marina where he said he went fishing." <9/5>
  • "Police were still investigating a burglary at a home across from the Peterson home that happened about the same time she disappeared." Yep, at exactly the same time she disappeared. Coincidence? Not hardly.
  • We really feel a compelling need right now to get the burglary solved to see if that moves us any closer to finding Laci," Police Chief Roy Wasden said. He said the police today expected to release a description of three people and a vehicle seen in the area of the burglary . . . offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the burglar or burglars. It's about time, don't you think? You've had the description since the 27th. It's now the 31st.
  • "Police have received more than 500 tips. Only a few turned out to be credible." You had all you needed to know what happened to Laci -- take the blinders off and it's just as plain as day.
"News crews back for latest human drama" by Ty Phillips [Front page, continued on A-10]

Nothing specific about the investigation, just a false tip that Laci's body had been found, which led the mass media to gather at 3:00 a.m. at the police department awaiting a special news conference which never happened.

"MEDIA: Networks do interviews with Modesto's police chief" [A-10, continued from Front Page]
  • "Wasden has done two interviews apiece with 'Good Morning America', 'Today', and 'The Early Show'."
  • "CNN cut away from programming Monday afternoon to show the Police Department's news conference live."

January 1, 2003

"Hope unites crowd at vigil for Peterson" by John Cote [posted at 6:48 A.M.]
  • Scott "attended the vigil but did not sit with other family on the stage. He did not address the audience. He tearfully greeted friends and family after the ceremony but declined an interview with The Bee." He also spent a good deal of time helping set up for the vigil.
"Police say foul play likely, Tip that missing woman at store on Dec. 24 ruled out; Spouse's Marina stamp valid" by Patrick Giblin (Front page all editions)
  • "At a news conference Tuesday, police said they had confirmed the validity of a timestamped parking receipt, presented by Peterson, from a vending machine at Berkeley Marina, which is where he said he launched his aluminum boat in the hours after he last saw his wife." <10/6>
  • "Police said Saturday that their investigation had led them to doubt whether Peterson ever made it to the park. They believe she disappeared between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m." At this stage of the investigation, they are assuming a 1-hour time frame for Laci's other-than-the-husband abduction. Why are they then ignoring sightings that occurred between 9:30 and 10:30?
  • "Detectives said it seemed less likely that a burglary across the street from Peterson's home had anything to do with her disappearance. The timing does not seem to fit, detectives said. The burglary occurred some time between 10:30 a.m. Dec 24 and 4 p.m. Dec. 26. Witnesses reported that they saw three suspicious-looking people in front of the home at about 11:40 a.m. Dec. 24, Detective George Stough said. That sighting was more than an hour after a neighbor found Peterson's dog -- with leash attached -- wandering in the neighborhood. Still, police said they could not discount a connection, and they again announced a $1,000 reward for information leading to suspects in the burglary." It's not rocket science, Detective Stough, but I'll go through this real slow for your sake. 1) Leash attached -- they went for a walk. 2) McKenzie alone -- he got away from Laci. 3) Van with 3 men and the safe being removed from the house across the street at 11:40 a.m. -- burglary in progress. 4) Laci never heard of again -- she interrupted the burglary and paid with her life.

January 2, 2003

"Moment to rest, reflect" by Patrick Giblin [Posted at 4:40 A.M.]
  • Scott "told police he was leaving on a fishing trip to the Berkeley Marina." <11/7> This is more repetition than Dora the Explorer.
  • "The handler for a bloodhound used to track the woman told the police that she left her house in a car instead of by foot that day. Her car was parked in her driveway and her purse and cell phone were in the house when she was reported missing that evening." Yes, she certainly did leave in a vehicle -- the van parked in front of the Medina's house during the burglary. Valentin released Merlin in the street at the Southeast corner of the property, which is right in front of the Medina house. Merlin headed straight up the street and around the corner onto Highland, exactly the route the burglars had to take to leave the area. Merlin didn't trail Laci to the warehouse, which is what should have happened if Scott had killed Laci. Instead, he trailed her to the Gallo Winery and headed east towards the Airport District. That no one in the MPD or the media could see this obvious evidence that Laci was abducted by the burglars is beyond my ability to understand. Truly, tunnel vision is a horribly powerful and paralyzing phenomenon.
  • "Tuesday, police said it's becoming evident that the case involves foul play." Such liars, the police. Truth is, they had concluded the night of the 24th that Laci's disappearance resulted from foul play. Two of them told Greg Reed so. They were not wrong about that -- it did result from foul play. What they were so very wrong about was who the foul players were. Instead of seeing the obvious evidence pointing to the Medina burglars, the officers and detectives in the MPD were already heavily under the influence of tunnel vision.

January 3, 2003

"Police seeking to verify trip story; Public being asked to report if husband's boat, truck were seen" by Ty Phillips (Front Page)
  • "Police released photos of Scott Peterson's truck, boat, and boat trailer, asking anyone who saw Laci Peterson's husband the two days before Christmas to call the Police Department."
  • "Investigators need more information to confirm or corroborate Mr. Peterson's story," said Detective Doug Ridenour. "We want to eliminate him from this investigation. If we have an independent witness who saw him that morning, that would help." What a crock. They already had an authentic parking receipt from the Marina to prove he was there, and they had a gas purchase at Livermore on the way home. The truth is, the MPD is trying to find someone that saw Scott Peterson in his truck somewhere that he had not told them he was. Did that someone come forward? No, because it didn't happen, Scott didn't go anywhere in his truck or in any other vehicle except where he told them he had.
  • "Scott Peterson has told police he went fishing at the Berkeley Marina on Christmas Eve morning." <12/8>
  • "Ridenour said forensic evidence has been taken from both Scott Peterson's boat and truck. The evidence was sent to a Department of Justice lab, Ridenour said, and it could take detectives as long as 60 days to receive the results." Ah yes, the alleged forensic evidence that Pin Kyo repeatedly said had no relevance to Laci's disappearance. But in the meantime, the public is assured that Scott Peterson's boat and truck were used in a crime against Laci -- after all, isn't that what "forensic evidence" means? The only evidence against Scott from either the truck or the boat is the hair in the pliers, and that was still sitting in an evidence drawer waiting to be discovered by Detective Brocchini, who, like the knight in shining armor, always comes to the rescue of an investigation in danger of failing to get its man. More importantly, the burglars are assured that all they have to do is let the MPD convict the man they already know is guilty of the crime the burglars committed. How can criminals be so lucky as to have a police department framing someone else for their crime?
"Missing: Investigators refuse to say if husband was asked to take lie test" (continued from Front page)
  • "Polygraph would be a tool that we would incorporate in this case," Police Chief Roy Wasden said. "In many crimes, you want to evaluate statements by the use of polygraphs. It's a helpful investigative tool." But not allowed in any Court in California because they are so unreliable. But what can absolutely be counted on is the public interpreting this bit of information, in context as it is with requests for the witnesses to confirm Scott's story about going to the Berkeley Marina, as "Scott won't take a lie detector test, which means he's guilty" or "Scott took one and failed, which means he's guilty."
  • "Last week, Ridenour said investigators would pursue a lie-detector test. During the past few days, however, he has refused to say whether detectives had asked Scott Peterson to take a polygraph."
  • "While police said they hope to find Laci Peterson safe, they now believe her disappearance was the result of foul play." Her disappearance was the result of foul play; her death the result of a foul investigation.
"Local tragedy in national eye" by Judy Sly [Page B-1]

Judy Sly rightly criticizes the media circus Laci's disappearance has become. She didn't seem to notice that the MPD was playing the media to pre-convict Scott Peterson. She also didn't seem to notice that the Modesto Bee, her own newspaper, was the "enabler in chief" of this media fiasco and subsequent wrongful conviction. Perhaps she was just too close to the situation.

January 4, 2003

"Burglary suspects didn't take woman; 2 in county jail, neighbors' home broken into 2 days after incident, police say" by Ty Phillips (Front Page)
  • "Based on interviews with the suspects, police said the burglary on Covena Avenue in the La Loma neighborhood took place between 4 and 7 a.m. Dec. 26. Scott Peterson reported his pregnant wife missing about 6 p.m. Dec. 24." Interviews in which Todd first said he burglarized the Medina home on the morning of the 27th. Interviews in which Todd said he was visiting his kids at a home that no longer existed. See Todd's Lies. Interviews in which Todd said he knew no one was home because he noticed mail in the mailbox. See The Medina Mailbox.
"Missing: Cops say burglary was on Dec. 26" (Page A-14, continued from Front Page)
  • "We're confident in our minds that we have resolved one crime," Ridenour said Friday, "and now we can get back to focusing on Laci's disappearance." You already solved the crime of Laci's disappearance, you nitwits. Take the blinders off and see the truth that was staring you in the face. Truly this is evidence of how blinding and hubristic tunnel vision is.
  • "Detective George Stough said Steven Wayne Todd, 36, and Donald Glen Pearce, 44, were far more cooperative than suspects usually are with the police." And why shouldn't they be? They were smart enough to not look a gift horse in the mouth. They knew the game -- tell us what we want to hear and all will be well. They weren't about to rock the boat.
  • "It was bad luck on their part," Stough said. [Steven Todd] said he was scared that he was going to be associated with Laci's disappearance." And it was extremely good luck that the MPD was already fixed to frame someone else for their crime.
  • "they gave numerous statements and facts that checked out, convincing police that the two men were telling the truth." Of all the various persons involved in this case, in my opinion Stough carries the heaviest responsibility for Scott's wrongful conviction. To have accepted the obvious lies Todd spewed as truth is either gross incompetence or a deliberate cover-up.
  • "Todd said he saw several TV news trucks in the area, so he picked a different entry into the home. Police said the burglars carried a large safe out the front door and onto the front lawn." Do you people read what you write? Todd chose a different entry, but carried the safe out the front door and onto the front lawn, with all the TV news trucks in the area? Come on, folks. Are you intelligent, thinking, reasoning reporters, or do you just type what you are told?
  • "None of the reporters or crews in those trucks reported seeing or hearing anything suspicious, Stough said." DUH, because there was nothing to report. The burglary didn't happen the morning of the 26th. It happened on the morning of the 24th, when Diane Jackson saw 3 men, the van, and the safe being removed from the house. And why couldn't those TV reporters and crews figure out that there was something really screwy going on with this investigation?
"Officials search Marina for missing woman" (posted 2:34 p.m.)
  • "Police dogs carrying cadaver dogs are scouring the Berkeley Marina this weekend, searching for Laci Peterson." <13/9>
  • "Sgt. Ron Cloward said 14 officers and 16 members of the California Rescue Dog Association are conducting a search, along with eight water-searching dogs, six land dogs, and six boats. Cloward said 75 percent of all water certified dogs in the state are dedicated in the search for Peterson."
  • "Meanwhile, investigators have cleared two burglary suspects, who were in Peterson's neighborhood around the time she disappeared." Correction, AT THE TIME she disappeared.

January 5, 2004

"Dogs and divers go to work in SF Bay; Peterson search extends from Berkeley to island" by Patrick Giblin (Front page, continued on page A-16)
  • "Peterson told police that he launched his aluminum boat at the marina, then went northwest and fished around Brooks Island, said police Sgt. Ron Cloward, who is directing the search." <14/10/1>
"SEARCH: Request by State emergency services agency helps get use of dogs for effort" (A-16, Continued from Front Page)
  • "Dogs searched on [Brooks] Island but did not finish Saturday, and will return this morning, Cloward said." Can anyone seriously doubt that Scott Peterson is the one and only suspect? The Bee graciously included a map that inadvertently at least shows the way to get to the Berkeley Marina, in case any interested parties didn't know. And the map outlined the fishing route.
  • "They pulled a tarp out of the water and found no one in it. It was nothing significant. It was just a tarp."
  • "We currently have 75 percent of the water dogs in the state concentrated on this search," Cloward said. The combined resources spent on these Bay searches is staggering.
  • "[Cloward] attributed the bay search to pleasant weather, not to new leads in the case. He said he has worked on cases where dogs successfully tracked people a year after they disappeared, so time was not of the essence in searching the bay." If there is no rush, why not just wait till the body surfaced, as in the Evelyn Hernandez case? What justifies such an extravagant expenditure of resources, since they obviously are not looking for a live Laci in the Bay.

To recap this lengthy review of the initial coverage by the Modesto Bee:
  1. 14 mentions of Scott going to the Bay, 10 specifically of the Berkeley Marina, and the last one identifying his exact fishing route and including a map on how to get there.
  2. Reports on evidence that was taken from the Covena home and the warehouse, including computers, the 2 vehicles, and the boat.
  3. Reports on "forensic evidence" collected from Scott's boat and truck.
  4. Pictures of Scott's boat and truck with requests for the public to report any sightings of him on December 23-24.
  5. Reports of searches at the Berkeley Marina including cadaver and water dogs.
  6. Insinuations that Scott either refused to take a polygraph, or took one and failed.
  7. Lies about the results of dog trailing, suggesting the dogs trailed Laci from the home to the warehouse to the Berkeley Marina.
  8. Report the burglars were cleared because they committed the burglary on the morning of Dec 26 and brought the safe out the front door and across the front lawn, even though there were TV crews and reporters present on the street who saw nothing.
I said in the opening paragraph that the Modesto Bee was the chief enabler of this wrongful conviction. I believe so because there simply were so many red flags in what they were given by the MPD that should have raised a lot of suspicion about the integrity of this investigation. Since the Modesto Bee was the hometown media, I believe it was their responsibility to do more investigative reporting, rather than just typing out what they were told by the MPD.

As the days and weeks passed, more and more lies and half-truths were fed to the Modesto Bee by the MPD -- and none of its reporters seemed the least interested in checking the accuracy of any of those reports.