Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December 26 & 27 : The search warrants and the dog trailing

Convinced that Scott was responsible for Laci's disappearance, Grogan and Brocchini determined it was necessary to do a complete search of the residence, the vehicles, the warehouse, and the boat.

Let me back up and say that the steps the Officers and Brocchini took on the night of the 24th were good police work.  They well-documented the condition of the house and visually inspected both vehicles and the boat.   Photos were taken of both the house and the boat.  If Scott had been responsible, these actions would have prevented him from successfully destroying evidence.  And that is the sum total of the praise that I can give for this investigation, for what occurred from the 26th on was nothing short of framing Scott Peterson.  Yes, I boldly say this classifies as framing.  That's essentially what tunnel vision is.  When investigators are so absolutely certain that they know what happened, even without having collected a single piece of evidence or interviewed a single witness, then at some point in time, that certain knowledge hits a stone wall -- there just simply isn't the evidence to defend the conclusion.  That is when evidence is manipulated to force it to yield the preconceived results.  That's when exonerating evidence is intentionally pushed aside, even destroyed.  The only way the ill-conceived pre-judgment of guilt can be sustained is through evidence tampering and evidence suppression.  Those are the cold, hard facts.

An important factor peculiar to investigations also breeds severe tunnel vision with its inevitable evidence tampering and evidence suppression.  That factor is actually a necessity -- the need for the other officers and individuals to fully support the core investigative team.  Only the core team knows all about a case; other officers and investigators only know their part.  And the investigators know full well that in the next case, s/he may be the lead investigator, or on the core investigative team, and s/he will be just as dependent on loyalty and just getting the job done with no second-guessing.

The working theory at this point was that Scott murdered Laci in the home and used the truck to transport her to the warehouse and then probably transferred her to the boat at the warehouse and proceeded to where ever he dumped her body.  We know that's the working theory because that is the way they manipulated the evidence.

Let me demonstrate.  The search warrant for the residence on the 26th and 27th was intended to identify and collect any evidence of a clean-up.  They were convinced that Scott used the mop and bucket and vacuum cleaner to clean up any evidence.  In a facade of looking for intruders, the entry ways were examined for forced entry and dusted for fingerprints, but not a single one of them believed it was necessary, except to show that they were being "open-minded" and willing to follow all leads.  Luminal was used in the house to indicate possible blood and any reddish or brownish stains were scraped as evidence to be tested.  The floorboards were checked, as were all the walls and even the ceiling.  The carpeting was vacuumed with a special vacuum cleaner that can pick up trace evidence.  Even the crawl space under the house was examined and all the outer sheds were inspected.  As was the pool.  Lots of evidence was collected - you can see the entire list on SII at these links, which include information not only for this search warrant, but for others.  You can follow-through on many of the items to see what the forensic testing showed, but I can spare you the effort by simply telling you that none of the tests supported this initial theory that Scott killed Laci in the house and transported her body using the truck and boat.  However, there is lots of useful information on these SII pages, so I highly recommend you spend some time reading them.

In addition to crime scene investigators from the MPD, the DOJ, and the FBI, trailing dogs were also brought in on the night of the 26th. And this is where we see our first evidence tampering by guess who?  Yes, of course, our beloved Al Brocchini.

Cindee Valentin testified in the pre-trial hearings on the dog evidence that she knew the MPD officers she met with that night were convinced Scott was responsible, and some of her statements, which were stricken from the record, showed her own bias towards Scott's guilt.  Her testimony is at, and a synopsis of that testimony is on the Timeline, which I repeat here:
  • December 26, 2002 : 1st Trail by Valentin & Merlin--starting at 523 Covena:
    • She scented Merlin using the sunglasses & case.
    • From the southern edge of the property at 523 Covena Avenue he headed immediately north on Covena, turned west on Highland Drive, went into a house on 1326 Highland Drive (which is catty-corner and behind the property at 523 Covena Avenue), down driveway and into the backyard, circled the backyard, back through the gate, continued on west on Highland Drive to Santa Barbara Avenue, several areas past that, turned back and headed south on Santa Barbara Avenue, crossed several intersections to the intersection of San Barbara Avenue and La Loma Avenue, southeast on La Loma Avenue to the intersection of La Loma and Yosemite Boulevard, turned west and continued to Santa Rosa Avenue, turned south and headed down Santa Rosa Avenue.
    • Valentin explained Merlin's interest in the Highland Drive backyard as there likely being a scent pool because of its being catty-corner to the Peterson house.
    • All the way to and down La Loma, Merlin was going into the middle of the street and checking the bott dotts.  He was going back and forth between the yards and the middle of the street.
    • On Yosemite, Merlin worked up against the buildings. Scent along the sides of buildings can come from a person riding in a car.
    • Merlin was pulling hard on Yosemite, but LE did not shut it down to traffic so Valentin could see if Merlin would trail down the middle of the street.
    • Merlin went into a parking lot on the west side of Santa Rosa, did not go into the middle of the street, even though the street had no traffic, but in and out of parking lots.
    • Valentin stopped him inside of the Gallo property at the end of Santa Rosa Avenue because he wasn't showing all the signs of being on trail, and they hit the dead end into the Gallo property. 
    • Merlin stopped giving a strong pull on the harness at Yosemite Boulevard and Santa Rosa Avenue.
    • Valentin said other things could have been done to continue the search:
      • They could have gone into the Gallo property to check for an in-and-out trail
      • They could have gone back to Yosemite to see if there was scent that continued there
      • They could have gone back to other intersections
    • Valentin told the Detectives at command center that Merlin indicated Laci left in a vehicle, not on foot, because Merlin was pretty dedicated to always going back and checking those Bott Dots as they traveled through the neighborhood.
    • Valentin was not asked to take Merlin to the park to trail for Laci's scent.
    • From the conversations among the detectives, Valentin concluded that they suspected Scott of being responsible for Laci's disappearance.

Now, if dog trailing is a good science and if Laci went for a walk into the park, Merlin would have gone into the park and then followed her to wherever she ended up.  Merlin did not go into the park.

If Scott murdered Laci and transported her in his truck to the warehouse, then Merlin would follow the trail to the warehouse.  Maps.Google identifies 3 primary ways to get from Scott's house to the warehouse.  Merlin didn't follow any one of the routes to the warehouse.  You can click on these maps to enlarge.

They already know about the Medina burglary, because the Medinas have already arrived home and reported it.  They do not yet know who did the burglary, but the fact that Merlin did not go to the Park and did not go to the warehouse surely registered in someone's head that, aha, the burglars took her.  We'll return to this first trail by Merlin in a few days when we talk more about Todd and Pearce.

But Brocchini was undaunted in his efforts to find some evidence that Scott murdered Laci.  Merlin, having failed to trail Laci to the warehouse, was brought to near the warehouse to see if he could be helped a bit, you know, nudged in the right direction. The three routes from Scot's house to the warehouse all have one thing in common, they all arrive at the intersection of Kansas and North Emerald.  

  • December 26, 2002 : Trails to and from the Warehouse
    • Brocchini asked Valentin to see if Merlin would do a trail to Scott's warehouse.
      • Valentin told Brocchini to take her and Merlin somewhere near the warehouse and she would see if Merlin picked up a trail that led to a warehouse.  She did not want to know where the warehouse was located.
      • Valentin and Merlin were taken to the intersection of Kansas and North Emerald.
      • Merlin picked up the trail and headed southbound on North Emerald Ave, in the opposite direction of the warehouse.
    • Detective Brocchini asked Valentin to stop the trail and to start from the warehouse
      • Valentin started Merlin at the B1 door of the warehouse,
      • Merlin went out of the warehouse to the street, North Emerald Ave,
      • turned south onto North Emerald Ave,
      • continued on North Emerald across Kansas Ave to Maize Blvd,
      • turned onto Maize Blvd and headed west
    • Detective Brocchini stopped Valentin after they had gone about a quarter mile down Maize Blvd, even though Merlin was pulling hard.  Valentin made no objection to the search being called off.
    • Valentin told detectives this was a vehicle trail because Merlin was constantly checking the Bott Dots in the middle of the street.
Brocchini, with Valentin's help, rationalized that Merlin didn't go from the intersection of Kansas and North Emerald to the warehouse because trailing dogs are trained to pick up the newest scent.  I'll remind you of that rationalization in a few days when we discuss another dog trail.  

It took a bit of work, but Brocchini finally had his evidence that Scott murdered Laci in their home, transported her to the warehouse in his truck, and from the warehouse headed West out of town.  As a detective of Brocchini's ilk, Mark Furhman, is quoted as saying, "not everything in a murder case is going to add up.  You have to look at the totality of the evidence" (Source). In other words, if it doesn't fit, ignore it or lie about it.  Merlin's failure to trail Laci from her home to the warehouse didn't fit with the working theory, so it was first ignored, then blatantly lied about.  We still hear people give as one of their evidences that Scott is guilty that the dogs trailed Laci from the house to the warehouse to the Berkeley Marina.  


Burkey said...

There's also fascinating reading about Cindee Valentin and her treatment of Scott Peterson.

Great entry and it reminds me, I had actually made some notes about Valentin's testimony which I never posted.
On my list.

LA Curry said...

This was very interesting...thank you for all the info.

It is really sad that these other areas where the dog signaled or hit were never explored further.