Friday, December 23, 2011

That fateful day so many years ago . . .

December 24, 2002

9:30 a.m., or thereabouts, Scott loaded the umbrellas into the pickup bed.  He was seen by Kristen Dempewolf, who said he smiled and said Hello.

9:48 a.m., Scott was in the house with Laci watching Martha Stewart -- long enough to know she and her guest were making cookies and talking about meringue.

Shortly after the meringue mention, Scott left for the warehouse.  Somewhere along the way, or even from the warehouse, he checked his voice mail.  He had a voice message from his employer.  At the warehouse he fiddled around with email, put together a mortiser, and then hooked the boat trailer to his pickup truck and headed for the Berkeley Marina.

Meanwhile, Laci finished her mopping and went for a walk - not in the park, but around the neighborhood.  Credible witnesses -- unknown to each other -- identify that walk-route. (

Exactly what happened to Laci is still shrouded in mystery.  The same people who swallowed hook, line, and sinker the State's theory with its massive gaping holes are quick to reject any other explanation because every single moment can't be accounted for.

But we know that Diane Jackson saw the Medina burglary in progress, at 11:40 a.m. -- she saw a van, 3 men, and the safe being removed from the house.

We know that Steve Todd and Glenn Pearce participated in that burglary, lied about when they did it, and apparently have failed to identify others that were involved.  Jackson saw 3 men by the van, and the safe being removed from the house, which requires at least 1 other person; so that's 2 persons still unaccounted for.

We know that Todd's friends, the Tenbrink brothers, were overheard talking about how Laci confronted Todd during the burglary and he threatened her.

We know that when Scott arrived home that evening, Laci was missing.

We know that Scott called Sharon at 5:17 p.m. to ask if Laci was there.  She instructed him to check with neighbors and friends.  When he called back to report no success, she instructed him to meet her in the park, and Ron Grantski was to stay at home and call 9-1-1 and also call local hospitals.  The 9-1-1 call was made at 5:48 p.m.

We know that the Modesto Police Department responded immediately.  Officer Evers responded at 5:48, Officers Letsinger and Spurlock soon followed, and Sgt. Duerfeldt was there by 5:58 p.m.  They responded to the Park because that is where Scott thought Laci was going to go for her walk.

We know that at 6:15 p.m., Duerfeldt advised Communications Center to notify all local hospitals.

We know that Officers Evers, Letsinger, and Spurlock went with Scott to the home at 523 Covena and secured the home, not allowing Scott to enter.  They did an initial walk-through, looking for any signs of what may have happened to Laci.

We know that Sgt. Duerfeldt arrived at the Covena home at 6:20 p.m. and spoke for about 5 minutes with Officers Evers, Letsinger, and Spurlock.  Based on that conversation, Duerfeldt concluded that Scott was responsible for Laci's disappearance and called Sgt. Carter to request a homicide detective.

We know that Officers Evers, Letsinger, and Spurlock went with Scott back into the home for a 2nd walk-through.

We know that Ron Grantski asked Scott, in the presence of Evers and other officers, if he had gotten in any golfing that day.  When Scot said No, he had gone fishing instead, Grantski remarked that 9:30 or 10:00 was too late in the day to go fishing, which was a very strange comment to make since he himself had been fishing that very afternoon.

We know that about 9:30 Detective Brocchini arrived, and he and the 3 officers did another walk through -- the 3rd that night.  Later, he, Evers, and Scott did a 4th walk-through.

We know that the only thing they found suspicious were some dirty white towels on the washing machine, two mops and mop bucket by the door, and a rug out of place.  Yet, Brocchini, Evers, Letsinger, Spurlock, and Duerfeldt were absolutely certain that Scot was responsible for Laci's disappearance, and that she was already dead.

We know that later that night, Brocchini visually inspected the Land Rover and the Ford Pickup Truck, seizing a gun that Scott had in the glove box of the truck. Then he asked to see the boat, and Scott took him to the warehouse where Brocchini visually inspected the boat and took some photographs.

We know that Brocchini called for ID Tech Lovell to go to 523 Covena to take photographs of the inside of the house.

Finally, we know that Brocchini took Scott to the police department to tape record an hour long interview.

And so it is that on this fateful day, so many years ago, a beautiful young woman, pregnant with her first child, innocently encountered danger across the street from which she most likely was not allowed to walk away from.  It wouldn't be till a few days before people became aware that the Medina home had been burglarized, as they were visiting children in southern California, but by then it was too late, because Evers, Letsinger, Spurlock, and Duerfeldt knew Scott was responsible within 45 minutes of the 9-1-1 call, and Brocchini was just as certain before he even arrived at the Covena home.

In the coming weeks and months, we'll revisit the investigation as it proceeded, to see just what the MPD focused on and how they were able to so completely miss the mark.


Burkey said...

Great rundown of times..... I remember that night in 2002 that the news about Laci missing came over the AP wire sometime well before the 7:04pm newscast (but not before 6), because I put it in there and we were in the control room watching images of people standing around in the dark. We felt really bad for them.

It's also worth noting Laci's concern over the people that she was encountering in the neighborhood, and that the Medinas had that special mailbox because of problems with the mail being stolen.

In some ways this story is particular to Modesto, because otherwise calm and well-kept neighborhoods there were and are bearing the brunt of problems of crime/economic strife. The neighborhood appeared calm, but all those police reports generated December 23rd in their neighborhood (which Dalton details in his book) tell another story.

James Brown said...

Your article on Occam's Razor gets Occam's Razor absolutely wrong. Occam's Razor states that when choosing between multiple hypotheses one should choose the hypothesis that makes the fewest assumptions.

Hypothesis #1: Scott Peterson was carrying on a serious-sounding (e.g. not a fling) extramarital affair with Amber. On December 24, his wife Laci disappeared. In early December, he told Amber he'd lost his wife, weeks before Laci went missing. He purchased a boat 2 weeks before his wife went missing. He purchased a fishing licence two days before his wife went missing. On the day she went missing, he loaded large items capable of concealing a body into his truck, then drove that truck 90 miles to go fishing for a very short time on Christmas Eve. Months later, Laci's body was found in the very bay in which he'd been fishing on the day his wife went missing. ASSUMPTION NUMBER ONE: Scott Peterson killed his wife.

Hypothesis #2: ASSUMPTION #1: Laci witnessed a burglary across the street from her house. ASSUMPTION #2: The burglars know Laci witnessed that burglary. ASSUMPTION #3: They attempted to abduct Laci and succeeded, despite her proximity to her house, neighbors with ears, and the presence of her dog. ASSUMPTION #4: The burglars were also murderers. ASSUMPTION #5: The burglars learned via the news that they were the luckiest abductors in the world, because the abductee's husband just so happened to do a bunch of crazy suspicious things. ASSUMPTION #6: Despite everyone being convinced the husband did it, and the burglars being in no danger of being caught, the burglars chose to take the risk of being caught while transporting a dead body to plant in that bay. ASSUMPTION #7: And they'd kept that dead body somewhere else for months, waiting for such a time that they could be 100% certain the bay wasn't under surveillance.

Occam's Razor is so, so, so very much not on Scott's side.

Marlene Newell said...

James Brown, you are grossly misrepresenting the evidence for hypothesis #2. You are failing to include the evidence that Laci was alive that morning after Scott left to go fishing, the eyewitness to the Medina burglary that morning, the people that have come forward and said they were told that the burglars were responsible for Laci's demise, the phone conversation that was overheard by a corrections officer, the tip that Laci was being held and abused. We make those claims because that information was provided by people who had very good reason to believe it was true.

Furthermore, the Bay wasn't under surveillance the entire time -- where did you get that foolish notion? They did searches in areas of the Bay during the daytime hours, but not every day, and certainly not on holidays and the weekends. You also lack knowledge of how easy it is to access the east bay shoreline by vehicle and at night. It certainly wouldn't be any harder for the burglars to dispose of her body at the Bay and not be seen than it would be for the husband, who you believe did so in board daylight from a boat that he'd taken out for the first time. If it was me, I'd certainly rather dispose of a body at night from a vehicle along the shoreline than in broad daylight from a boat out in the open water.

As for where she was held -- there were extensive searches going on in Stanislaus County, but that's not where she was held.

As far as the close proximity to the neighbors -- none of those neighbors noticed the Medina home being burglarized. So why couldn't an abduction happen without the neighbors seeing it? Of course it could. And of course it did.

As for your assumption #5 -- well, the MPD did suspect the husband, only the husband, no one else other than the husband. Yea, they were very lucky because if it hadn't been for that tunnel vision, they would be sitting on death row, not Scott Peterson. Pretty darn lucky in my opinion.

James Brown said...

> As for your assumption #5 -- well, the MPD did suspect the husband, only the husband, no one else other than the husband.

You're no dummy. You can see that the police had a second suspect for most of this investigation.

Marlene Newell said...

Really? You mean Amber Frey? And just how was she a suspect? How did they investigate her? No one even knew that Jacobson suspected her until the trial, and he was the only one that did. So not much of a "suspect" in my books. None of the searches at the house on Covena or the warehouse were because they suspected Amber. None of the county-wide searches were because they suspected Amber. None of the searches in any of the area lakes were because they suspected Amber. None of the Bay searches were because they suspected Amber. None of the subpoenas into Scott's and Tradecorp's financial dealings were because they suspected Amber. They never put Amber under surveillance. They never searched Amber's home or vehicle or business. They didn't even investigate her alibi. Again I say, not much of a suspect.

Now if you know about another suspect, then I am really dumb, because I know of no other.

Unknown said...

I'm curious if the police found the van that the burglars used that day during the robbery and searched it with dogs who could pick up Laci's scent?

Marlene Newell said...

There was no testimony during the trial that indicated the police found the van, so the answer to your question is No.

Enlightened Mommy said...

I remember being completely consumed by this case from Dec 2002, til around 2011. I remember there being a home video made by Scott and laci of their neighborhood something about they were documenting the homeless problem or something? I think it was the same video that has some visual of jewelry Laci was selling. Somewhere I have a ton of old files on this case. But I never saved that video. Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

Marlene Newell said...

Yes, that was the home video they made. I think the project they were working on was opening up Encina to through traffic. There is a link to download it on SII, but it's a huge file and I don't know if it still works.