Friday, March 18, 2011

The 2002 Season Finale of the Sopranos

Both Sharon and Ron testified that they went over to dinner at Laci's and Scott's on December 15, 2002, and that was the last time Sharon saw Laci alive, though she talked a few times to her on the phone after that.

DISTASO: And then before we get to that, though, when is the last time that you physically saw your daughter, not talk to her on the phone, but actually saw her in person?
ROCHA: December 15th.
DISTASO: And that was at the dinner you told us about?
In her book, For Laci, pages 74-75, Sharon writes about that dinner:

At dinner, I said that Ron and I had gone fishing earlier in the
morning. Laci's eyes widened. I rarely went fishing with him, so it was

news. And it prompted a funny description of me bundled up in a
chair beside the river. It was also a perfect opportunity for Scott—or
Laci—to mention that he'd bought a fishing boat the week before.
But the subject never came up because (a) Laci didn't know and (b)
because Scott didn't want us to know.
For some reason, Laci mentioned that Scott had told her that the
warehouse he rented for work in an industrial part of town was so full
he had to step over things to get to his office. I'd never seen the warehouse
myself. I didn't even know what it looked like until I saw photos
at the preliminary hearing. By that time I couldn't remember why she
had brought it up, but I knew it didn't have anything to do with a
Ron specifically said in his testimony that the night they went over was the season finale of The Sopranos:
GRANTSKI: Yeah. That was the plan. The way it worked was it was the last episode of Sopranos and I was complaining because it comes on on cable at 9:00 o'clock, and Scott and Laci had satellite, and Laci said Well, we get it at 6:00, why don't you come over for dinner and we'll watch the last episode. So that's what we did.
DISTASO: Okay. Coming on at, at 9:00 o'clock, were you, is that, is that a little late in your normal typical schedule?
GRANTSKI: Yeah. I get up at 3:30, 4:30 at the latest every day and, so...
DISTASO: As part of your job, do you, do you drive to a lot of different locations? You know, wherever your construction projects are going on?
GRANTSKI: Yes, I put between 35 and 50,000 miles a year on my car, so I do a lot of driving.
DISTASO: So you're up early?
DISTASO: And you get to your sites and you do your thing early?
DISTASO: And you go to bed early after that?
DISTASO: So you went over to Laci's house and the Sopranos came on at 6:00 because they have satellite, right?
However, the 2002 season finale of The Sopranos did not air on December 15, 2002 -- it aired on December 8, as shown in this chart from Wikipedia.

Ron also revealed in his testimony that it was Scott initiating the increased contact between the two families -- not Laci, and not Sharon:
GERAGOS: Okay. The, is it a fair statement that as Laci got more pregnant, or as the pregnancy proceeded, that Scott made an effort to try and include you and Sharon more with them? 
GRANTSKI: Yes, he did. 
GRANTSKI: Yes, he did. 
GERAGOS: And would that also involve having you and Sharon, as she progressively got more pregnant, or the due date approached, coming over on Sundays, for instance, for dinners? 
GERAGOS: Okay. And that he wanted to spend more time or have the families get closer together? 
GRANTSKI: About two weeks before Laci, 
GERAGOS: Disappeared? 
GRANTSKI: disappeared, I made a point of asking Sharon about that, you know, it's kind of strange, we're all starting to get together. She said that Scott, Laci said, Scott wanted us to spend more time together because of the baby.
The Sunday before Laci's disappearance was the 22nd.  Two weeks before the 22nd as the 8th.  So it's logical to conclude that Ron asked Sharon about the increased visits between the families on the night they last went to Laci's for dinner.

Scott didn't tell Sharon and Ron about the boat purchase because he hadn't yet bought the boat on December 8.  He didn't buy it until the next day.  And, despite his personal failings with fidelity, he very much was doing what he could to become closer to Laci's family.

The dinner being on the 8th makes sense of the "warehouse being so cramped" conversation.  Since Sharon was wrong about the date, there's no reason to believe that she is entirely right in her memory of how that conversation went.  It likely was some good-humored chatter between Laci and Scott about how he was going to fit a boat in the warehouse as cramped as it already was.  Sharon and Ron may not have known that Scott actually bought the boat, but I highly suspect they knew that Scott was talking about buying one.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The tidal data captured the tsunami

I am often told that the tidal data from NOAA doesn't really matter because unexpected things can happen in the Bay. Yes, that's true, the unexpected can happen.  I don't think anyone expected the 8.9 magnitude earthquake to hit Japan late last week, or that the resulting tsunami would make its way to our Western coast -- but that's exactly what happened.

I went to the NOAA's San Francisco and Richmond stations to see just what effect that tsunami had on the water levels.  The tsunami hit the Golden Gate Bridge with 2 foot waves about 8 a.m. on the 11th.  "Water is coming in, going out, coming back in again, " [National Weather Service forecaster Diana] Henderson said.  Source

And that is exactly the way San Francisco's station data looks -- water coming in, going out, coming back in again.  As you can see from the plot, the water level had been a little below predicted.  About 8 a.m. on the 11th, the water level became very erratic, in the initial hours going up and down by as much as 3 feet.

The Richmond station didn't show such dramatic water level ups and downs, as it is 9 miles further north, but still a very noticeable effect.  

I hope this finally convinces the skeptics that the water level data from the NOAA does accurately reflect what's going on in real-time in the Bay.

Luckily for the Bay, the tsunami's arrival had the best timing -- during a LL tide and a period of lower than average H and HH tides.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The whipping cream

Sharon Rocha and others tried very hard to make the case that Laci was very tired and worn out in the days preceding December 24, and therefore not likely to have taken McKenzie for a walk that morning.

Yet, Sharon thought nothing of asking her daughter to stop by the store to pick up some whipping cream on her way over for dinner.

ROCHA: No, I thought about calling her. I went to see a movie later or early afternoon with a friend of mine. And many times Laci would come with us. I would ask her to join us, but I didn't call her that day because I knew she had been having problems. She wasn't comfortable. She wasn't comfortable sitting for long periods of time. She was in the later stage of her pregnancy and she just wasn't comfortable so I decided not to call her. 
DISTASO: And you were expecting her at your home for dinner? 
ROCHA: At 6:00 o'clock that evening, yes. 
DISTASO: And what time did you get home on the 24th where you were home and kind of getting the dinner ready and that kind of thing? 
ROCHA: I don't remember exactly what time it was. I'm thinking the movie was around 1:00 or so, so it was probably 3:00, 3:30 when I got home. I remember at one point when I was getting things, putting things together, I realized I didn't have whipping cream so I asked Ron to call Laci and to stop on her way over and pick that up. 
DISTASO: And to your knowledge did Ron do that?  
ROCHA: Yes, he did. And there was no answer, so he left a message for her to do that, 
ROCHA: asking her to pick up the whipping cream.
The first oddity is that she had Ron call Laci, instead of calling herself.  The second oddity is that she didn't just ask Ron to go down and pick some up at Save Mart.  As you can see on this map, Save Mart was just a few blocks away for Ron.  He'd only worked half a day and spent a few hours relaxing while fishing -- surely he could make a quick trip to the store to buy some whipping cream.

Laci wasn't expected until 6 p.m.  I checked to see if Save Mart closed early on Christmas Eve.  Every locality I've ever lived, grocery stores close early on Christmas Eve.  I checked online, and it seems that Save Mart has a habit of closing at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve.  Did Sharon not know this?  Because it would have meant that Laci couldn't just pick it up on the way to dinner -- either she or Scott would have to go somewhere earlier than that to get it.  This is only important in the context of Sharon claiming that Laci was so tired that she couldn't possibly have walked McKenzie that morning, and here she is asking Laci to pick up whipping cream for her when the store was just a few blocks from where she and Ron lived.

The other oddity about the story is that Sharon doesn't seem concerned that Laci didn't call back to confirm that she would be bringing the whipping cream to the dinner.  It seems that if it didn't cause her to worry about her daughter whom she claims was so tired and worn out, she would have at least wanted to know for sure if she would have the whipping cream to top her "great chocolate pie."

I think the real truth is that Sharon knew very well that Laci wasn't so tired that she couldn't walk the dog that morning, but there was no way to get out of the whipping cream message because it was on Laci's telephone recordings that night for Brocchini to hear.

Regardless of the truth about Laci's true physical condition, I think it's tacky for Ron to call Laci to get whipping cream instead of going down to the store himself to get it.  No wonder Scott made him look bad for not doing enough, if he wasn't willing to run such an easy errand for Sharon, especially since his family were the other guests coming over that night.