Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day, 2002

Not a Christmas that anyone would ever want to experience.  The MPD made a valiant effort through the night to find Laci.  Search parties scoured the park for hours and used every search means available to them.  In the next few days, officers went from door-to-door in the neighborhood to see if anyone had seen Laci or knew what had happened to her.  One branch of the MPD seemed to be doing everything right in the case of a missing person, while the other branch had already closed the case -- Scott was guilty, and it was their duty to prove it.

The morning started for Scott at the Modesto Police Department as Brocchini wanted to tape record an interview with him. Scott already knew that Brocchini had concluded he was responsible for Laci's disappearance, and so is it any wonder that he didn't trust the man enough to share personal information, especially when Scott didn't believe it had anything at all to do with Laci's disappearance.  He was certain Amber Frey didn't know about Laci, that has been her claim all along, and no one has brought forth any reason for Scott to have suspected that Amber was involved in Laci's disappearance.  Maybe he was just in denial, but until there is evidence that Amber was involved, Scott can't be faulted for not making his relationship with her known to Brocchini that night.  If Amber had any sense, she would appreciate how long Scott kept her out of the hands of the MPD and the media.

Other than not telling Brocchini about the affair, Scott told only the truth.  People quibble about his times not being exact, but forget that no one else's times were exact, either, and they were given the opportunity to consult receipts and cell phone records to be sure. Scott wasn't given that luxury.  If he thought he left home about 9:45, and it was found out it was closer to 10:08, then he was made out to be a liar.  Brocchini unrelentingly tried to catch Scott in every little tidbit of inaccuracy, and if he failed, he just made it up.  

After Brocchini dropped Scott off at home, Scott discovered his gun was missing from the glove box of the truck.  He called Brocchini, who admitted seizing it.  One more good reason not to trust the man.  Scott had consented to have his home visually inspected during 4 walk-throughs the previous night; he consented to have Brocchini visually inspect the two vehicles and the boat; he consented to have ID Tech Lovell come to the house to take photos -- and Brocchini wasn't honest enough to simply tell Scott he was taking the gun.  Brocchini had taken a GSR test at the MPD, to test for gun residue, which Scott consented to, so why not just tell Scott he took the gun?  He said he didn't tell Scott because he didn't want to lose Scott's trust, not just yet.  The truth is, he didn't want Scott's trust -- he wanted Scott to react, to do something to prove he was guilty.  It didn't work, because Scott is not guilty.

Because Scott told Brocchini he would take a polygraph, Agent Doug Mansfield, a polygrapher for the California DOJ, was called in.  In the meantime, Scott changed his mind.  But what everyone seems to forget is that he still met with Mansfield and Grogan for a 3-hour interview.  And Scott told only the truth, except for not admitting the affair.  For example, Scott told Grogan that he made the cement anchor in a paint bucket that he bought at Home Depot.  However, Grogan and the entire MPD labored for a whole year under the foolish notion that he made it in the plastic pitcher until Grogan was informed by an petrographer that the pitcher was not the mold for the anchor.  So Grogan scurried down to Home Depot and purchased a paint bucket and sure enough, it fit.

Mansfield and Grogan grilled Scott on a lot of details from both his and Laci's lives.  Scott held nothing back, except the affair.  

Earlier that day, Buehler interviewed Karen Servas, who was still reporting 10:30 as the time she found McKenzie.  Later that evening, Servas exposed her bias when she interpreted Scott's kindness in inviting her to join him and his parents for Christmas Dinner as something sinister.  

Modesto police and firefighters carried out a massive and futile search along Dry Creek. Her family offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to her safe return. Sharon Rocha was in the Covena Home on December 25th, and said she did not notice anything "unusual." Janet Kenworthy saw Scott on Christmas Day, as she was walking her dog in the park. "He reaches in his coat, pulls out a flier and says, 'My wife's missing,'" Kenworthy recalled. "He about broke down in front of me. I did see tears, retain-your-composure efforts." Kenworthy was especially touched, she said, to learn that the missing woman was pregnant. She said she gave Scott a hug. "I would have sworn at that time that he was innocent," Kenworthy said.  And she was right, he is innocent.

But some people besides the police were looking for evidence against Scott.  Fair-weather friends always turn their backs on someone when the going gets tough, and there aren't many situations tougher than having a best friend and loved one missing on Christmas Day.  After passing out flyers, Stacey Boyers went to the Covena home probably after 5:00 p.m. to bring a picture to Renee Tomlinson.  Boyers observed Scott vacuuming the area in front of the washer and dryer.  She said he was vacuuming that area the whole time she was there. When she reported this to the police, it raised their suspicion that Scott was still doing some clean-up.  Of course he was cleaning up.  Dozens of people had been in and out of that home all day.  Laci was a good housekeeper; he expected her to come home.  And what evidence was found from the vacuum cleaner and the vacuum bag?  Nothing.  No evidence of a clean-up.  It was all a figment of their imagination.  

And memories began to fade over time to Scott's detriment.  Witnesses had different accounts of where Scott was on Christmas morning.  Brent Rocha gave three different accounts in his interviews.  In the first, he said Scott was unaccounted for from 9:00-12:00 Noon, in the second that he saw Scott around 11 am, and in the third report that he joined with Scott at 10:30 to go hang flyers in the neighborhood.  In his trial testimony, he said the latter is the most accurate.  He didn't seem aware that his mother saw Scott during that time -- she met Scott coming out of the park with McKenzie and Scott accompanied her to her friend Jane's house around the corner from Laci's, and he was at the house later that morning when Sharon was there.  That was one of the problems - Brent didn't see where Scott was every minute, so assumed he must have been up to something very sinister.  No one seemed to be able to give Scott the space to be himself and to deal with this traumatic event in his own way.  He was the outsider, and they were too quick to become suspicious over the least little thing.  Laci's maternal aunt Susan Aquino, who didn't even know Scott, thought it was suspicious because Scott said a sighting wouldn't be Laci because she didn't cross the footbridge in her walks.  Everything looks yellow to the jaundiced eye.  

At 7:20 p.m., Scott called Brocchini to ask him if they were using cadaver dogs to look for Laci in Dry Creek Park. Brocchini told Scott he hadn't considered her being dead yet, so they hadn't used cadaver dogs. What a lie -- he did already consider that Laci was dead.  It's Scott that hadn't considered that she was dead, and that's why he wanted to know if they were using cadaver dogs, as he had heard they were.  Brocchini's hubris wouldn't allow him to be wrong about Scott, so he twisted whatever Scott did or said in whatever way he needed to prove Scott had murdered Laci.  

Meanwhile, Todd and Pearce had already started to give away some of the Medina jewelry as Christmas gifts to their women-folk, and to sell off some of the jewelry, guns, and other items.  Somehow or other, Deanna Renfro ended up with Laci's croton watch.  It was probably the nicest piece of jewelry she ever owned.  

The only bad thing that happened to Amber on Christmas day is that Scott didn't call her as he had promised.  I'm sure that was better than spending the day in hours of grueling interviews with detectives trying to prove she didn't have anything to do with Laci's disappearance, which is surely what would have happened if Scott had revealed he had an affair with her.  


Burkey said...

Great rundown, I esp. agree with the 2nd graph last sentence.

andet said...

I'm just shocked at this and have been since the beginning. Why has noone ever explained how she ended up with the watch?

LA Curry said...

It is a fact that many many, if not most, men will lie when confronted about having an affair, even when presented with substantial proof. I have not figured out exactly why that is. Does anyone out there know why that is?

Knowing that most men try to lie under such circumstances, I did not ever feel surprised that Scott lied about the fling in the beginning. In hindsight, what really would have changed for him had he told the truth? I believe it would have made everything worse for him, for Amber, and last but not least, for Laci (had she been alive), who we now know obviously did not want the less than perfect details of the negative aspects of her marriage brandied about the entire city or within the circle of her family and friends.