Friday, January 21, 2011

The "might be a body" ruse

January 7, 2003, the Modesto Bee reported:
Searchers Monday [Jan 6] concluded their work in and around the Berkeley Marina, said Modesto police Sgt. Ron Cloward, who is supervising the search effort.

"They're confident they have searched it thoroughly," Cloward said.  "They're confident they're done there unless something comes up that sends us back there."  ("Search goes on for their teacher" by Ty Phillips)
 Was Cloward out of the loop or flat-out lying, because on January 9, 2003, the Modesto Bee reported in the  front page article "Marina checked anew" by Ty Phillips:
Searchers returned to the Berkeley Marina on Wednesday [Jan 8] and used underwater camera equipment to hunt for clues relating to the discovery of Laci Peterson of Modesto.

 Police called the search routine and said it was not based on any tip that they had received.  Officials reported no significant developments.
The continuing story on page A-12 included a large picture of a law enforcement official collecting a water sample at the Marina.

January 9, 2003 was a fairly busy day for the MPD and other agencies assisting in the search for Laci Peterson. Jacobson was busy writing an affidavit for a wire tap on Scott's phones and various MPD personnel were out at the Berkeley Marina using side-scan sonar to search for Laci.  At 6:30 that evening, the MPD announced "that a sonar device had detected some type of object that might be another body in the area of the Berkeley Marina" (Modesto Bee, "Object spied in Bay" by Patrick Giblin and John Cote).

Another body? 
 The Bee reported incorrectly Friday that a body - not Laci Peterson's - had been pulled from the bay.  Police told of the body's recovery on Thursday, then later in the day alerted The Bee that the report was incorrect, and that no body had been found.  The Bee received the corrected information before press time, but the incorrect report still appeared in Friday's editions.

"Clearly, in the media frenzy that is associated with this case,  there have been a number of rumors that have made it difficult to separate fact from fiction," Police Chief Roy Wasden said.  "That led to a miscommunication between The Bee and the police department."  (January 11, 2003 "Divers set to renew search in SF Bay" by Ty Phillips and Patrick Giblin)
Translation:  We found a body and notified the media, then changed our minds and didn't want anyone to know, so we called you to tell you it was an incorrect story but you printed it anyway.  Of course, there are other scenarios that might explain the tall tale told by Wasden, but I leave those to your imagination.

After getting over the excitement of finding the body that wasn't found, the side scan sonar spied an object that "might be" a body.   Cloward told The Bee,

The guy from San Mateo [the side scan sonar was on loan from San Mateo] said there's a 50-50 chance that it is a body.  The divers tried to get to it today, and they said the current was bad and the weather was bad."  ("Object") doesn't have weather data for Berkeley for January 9, 2003, but reports light rain and light winds in the afternoon for Oakland.  Assuming it was raining at the Marina, does rain affect diving?  Aren't you in the water anyway?  Don't you have on a wet suit?  Don't the guys on the boats have raincoats?

Cloward also told The Bee that the side scan sonar "can identify tires up to 300 feet underwater."

The media are so gullible, and here's why.  On the 11th, The Bee had a graphic showing the search location.

 According to the info on the left, the water depth is about 12 feet at MLLW.  The Richmond station reports the following verified water levels from a low of 2.75 at 11:18 to a high of 4.49 feet at 4:48 p.m., back to a low of  1.94 feet at 10:48 p.m.  If you add 2.75 feet to 12 feet, you get 14.75 feet, and add 4.49 feet to 12 feet to get 16.49 feet, rounded up to 16.5.  So the water was between 14.75 - 16.5 feet deep where they were searching and found what "might be" a body, 50/50 chance it's a body.

So the tale the media gulped down, is that the side scan sonar they were using on the 9th could identify a tire 300 feet underwater, but could not identify an anchor 16.5 feet underwater!  Incredible!  And the divers weren't able to get to it, but they were able to pull up the body that wasn't found.  In the same area.

This was nothing but a ruse.  They knew on the 9th it was an anchor, but they wanted Scott Peterson to think they had found a body at the Berkeley Marina, to force him into doing something incriminating.  They announced they would be retrieving the object which might be a body on the 11th, so Jacobson could get the wiretap up and running, which was accomplished on the 10th.  Rather than have ground surveillance, which might discourage Scott from doing whatever incriminating thing he might do, as he had a knack for knowing when he was being followed, they used the wiretaps and the cooperation of AT&T to use his cell phones to track his whereabouts.

And what incriminating thing did they catch him doing?  Why, the most outrageous behavior of all -- he lied to his own mother about where he was.  Really?  Yes, really, and that was presented as circumstantial evidence that Scott killed Laci and Conner.  It's just inconceivable to minds so laden with suspicion that Scott might want to protect his privacy and not have some renegade media who tapped his phones know where he was.

Unfortunately for Scott, the renegade media weren't his worse problem; it was the renegade police.  


Burkey said...

So the water was between 14.75 - 16.5 feet deep where they were searching and found what "might be" a body, 50/50 chance it's a body.


The Tracy search took place right around this time. With the heat-seeking helicopter. The night of the 10th, I think.

Jane said...

Yes, the Tracy search was the night of Jan 10; but there was no media coverage of this event. As far as I know, the media was not aware of the Tracy tip until the trial.

Bruce Dombrowski said...

renegade media tapping his phone????? this stuff is

Burkey said...

Yes, the Tracy tip seems to have been kept a secret. No leaks there.

Burkey said...

I wonder exactly what proportion of police work entails elaborate psych ops tricks?

Bruce Dombrowski said...

tricking the criminals is part of the job...i remember cops put out a letter to a bunch of people with outstanding warrants telling them they won superbowl tickets, only to get arrested when they showed up...the body ruse was a sinple one, not elaborate at all...

Burkey said...

D'oh! ;) OK. I understand this to an extent, but....Spending taxpayer money so freely to trick a subject with no criminal history while other viable suspects (who did have criminal histories) were not tricked, that's problematic for me.

Bruce Dombrowski said...

they found the anchor anyway and still had to check it out, putting out a "possible" is no extra cost to anyone....