Friday, January 13, 2012

Activity on December 28th the MPD didn't want anyone to know about

I stated in my previous article that Brocchini had all the evidence he needed to establish the Berkeley Marina as a crime scene -- the point at which Scott entered the Bay waters to dispose of Laci.  It didn't matter how "inconclusive" the evidence was -- with one trailing dog not even picking up Laci's scent, and the other trailing dog being nudged by a biased handler and most likely scented with a contaminated article -- it was enough for Brocchini.

The absurdity of Brocchini's conclusion is even more obvious when we discover the other search and rescue dog activity at the Bay on December 28.  This was kept a secret, and even now we know only bits and pieces.  The big secret is that water cadaver dogs were also brought to the Bay. 3 boats, 2 having a water cadaver dog on board, headed off from the Berkeley Marina to Brooks Island.  Yes, the exact same route Scott traveled on his fishing trip, and which the State foisted on the Court, the jurors, and the American public as the exact place where Scott dumped Laci.  The cadaver dogs didn't alert at the Berkeley Marina nor at any place along that route.  Think of that.  Cadaver dogs are able to pick up human decomposition scent, and water cadaver dogs are able to pick up that scent in water.

To be sure everyone gets the point, I'm going to repeat it:  3 boats, 2 with a water cadaver dog on board, headed off from the Berkeley Marina to Brooks Island, the exact same route Scott traveled on his fishing trip, and which the State foisted on the Court, the jurors, and the American public as the exact place where Scott dumped Laci, and not a single one of those 2 water cadaver dogs alerted at the Berkeley Marina, or at any point along the route from the Marina to Brooks Island.

Pat Harris tried to bring this to the attention of the jurors during the testimony of Chris Boyer, but he was not allowed to get into that area of Boyer's activities on December 28, 2002 at the SF Bay because it was "beyond the scope" of the direct examination.  That's how the State prevents the Defense from getting critical information out of a witness -- it simply avoids those subjects in the direct examination and then the  Defense has to call the witness back.  Judge Delucchi allowed a lot of wiggle room in this area because he did not want to have a long trial, so he allowed questioning beyond the scope so the Defense would not have to call the same witness back, but in this instance, he blocked it.

This is all Harris was able to get out of Chris Boyer regarding the water cadaver dogs used on the 28th:
P. HARRIS: What's the first thing you did when you arrived?
BOYER: Went looking for the dive team and the marine patrol were launching the boats, so I went over to speak to them, made sure we had enough boats to support the water efforts and then I went looking to water dog handlers to make sure they were comfortable with the weather conditions and working on the bay with their dogs.
P. HARRIS: Well, you had kind of a dual mission that day, you were handling the boats, water dogs and the trailing dogs, correct?
BOYER: I defaulted into multiple missions that day, yes, sir.
P. HARRIS: When you say defaulted, how did you default in that position?
BOYER: There were two Modesto detectives that were brought onto the boats, and so there wasn't another detective to handle the trailing dog issues so I dealt with that myself.
P. HARRIS: So you weren't originally, it wasn't your original plan to go out there and do, you were originally out there to do the water dogs?
BOYER: Yes, sir.
P. HARRIS: Is that fair?
BOYER: (Nods)
P. HARRIS: When did you first, when do you recall first seeing Mr. Seitz?
BOYER: When we began briefing the water dogs on what their mission would be.
P. HARRIS: So Mr. Seitz came up at that point, how did you first get to see him?
BOYER: He came up at that point his partner is also a dog handler and he had come with her. And she was one of the water dog handlers so he was standing there at the water dog briefing.
P. HARRIS: At this point had he either scented, had he scented the dog at that point on an item?
BOYER: No, not at point.
P. HARRIS: Was he with his dog at that point?
BOYER: No, normally dog handlers, well, I don't recall him having his dog on lead in his hand at that point. Normally dog handlers leave their dogs in their vehicles until they're ready to go on the mission. They discussed it and briefed it. None of the water dog handlers had their dogs with them at that point so I don't believe he had him with him either.
Amazing how much incomplete information can be given in a trial which can send a man to death row.  2 detectives, no names; water dog handlers, no names; water dog mission, no details.

Mark Geragos got some corroborating information from Seitz during the Defense Case in Chief:
SEITZ: I have been a mission ready dog handler since 2001. Began training a dog in 1999. Prior to that with CARDA, I was a Tech
Support Person starting in 1996. And I have been with the Alameda County Sheriff's Office in a volunteer position since September of 1976. 28 years.
GERAGOS: Okay. When you were called out, who called you out to the Berkeley Marina?
SEITZ: I responded as CARDA as a mutual aid request for Berkeley Marina to the assist the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office. I responded with two other dog handlers that were dispatched there to do boat searching. I was there in support of them.
GERAGOS: Okay. The, specifically the, I guess when you got there, you talked to somebody, is that correct?
SEITZ: I met with, there was a briefing in the morning with the other two dog handlers that were present there for the water searching, which I was there with. We met with the two officers from Modesto Police Department and Chris Boyer, who was there from the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.
GERAGOS: When you met with them, were you told various things, or various scenarios?
SEITZ: There were some. The issue was at first focused on boat searching for two handlers that went out. And I just attended the briefing. There was some discussion about some probable scenarios, and they were going to dispatch the two water search dogs out on boats that morning to try to search some of the area around the marina.
HARRIS: Okay. So you finished working. Did you leave?
HARRIS: You're not working but you stay around?
SEITZ: I put my dog in. My wife was out on the other boat as a dog canine handler, and I waited for her to arrive back to base after they finished their boat searching.
Ron Cloward admitted he didn't even know about this search on the 28th, but it's through Geragos' questioning that we find out the area of interest on the 28th was Brooks Island:
GERAGOS: Could you pull this out for just one second. If I could borrow it. Now, the information that's on here prior to the 8th, did you put that in, for instance, looks like on December 28th, Contra Costa met with two MPD detectives to launch the Berkeley Marina search, Brooks Island. Looks like the U.S. Coast Guard was there.
CLOWARD: I didn't create this document, so I haven't seen it until the other day.
GERAGOS: Do you know who created this document?
CLOWARD: No, I don't.
GERAGOS: Were you aware that the Contra Costa was out with the Modesto PD at the Berkeley Marina on the 28th?
CLOWARD: No, I was not.
Catherine Crier in her book, A Deadly Game, identifies Brooks Island as the focus point of the water dog activity.
At 10:00 P.M., Detective Brocchini contacted Captain Boyer and asked to have the Brooks Island area of the San Francisco Bay search by cadaver dogs and the marina parking lot searched by tracking dogs.  Boyer asked for Laci’s sunglasses and pink slipper to be delivered as scent objects, then scheduled three patrol boats, two cadaver dogs, one dive team, and a helicopter for nine o’clock the next morning.  The police also made available a team of specialized cadaver dogs with the ability to smell bodies in the water
Members of the Contra Costa County Search and Rescue team initiated the search an hour early on December 28.  It was a nippy 53 degrees, and the air was thick with moisture as the three orange crafts were launched.  
Crier goes into some detail on the results of the trailing dog activity, but gives no details on the results of the water cadaver dog activity.  That's because there were no results to report -- zip, nada, nothing.

Brocchini couldn't have been very happy with those results.  How could Anderson's Trimble pick up Laci's scent at the Berkeley Marina, and yet the cadaver dogs not give a single alert at the Berkeley Marina nor at any point along the route from the Marina to Brooks Island -- and they had two opportunities, on the way to Brooks Island and on the way back to the Berkeley Marina?  It certainly wouldn't occur to him that Anderson was manipulating Trimble, or that the scent article was contaminated (not when he is the one that had possession of the scent articles from the night of the 26th till the morning of the 28th; why, that would be like accusing himself).  And it most certainly wouldn't occur to him that Scott wasn't guilty. No, there had to be another explanation.

Of course, Scott disposed of Laci on the way to the Marina, and enough scent remained in the boat for Trimble to pick up.  That would become the next place to look, along Hwy 132.  That search began in earnest on December 30, and will be the subject of our next article.  Unlike the Bay search on the 28th, which was kept a deep, dark secret, the Hwy 132 search was well-publicized.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Brocchini hastened to get the Berkeley Marina identified as a crime scene

When we put things in time lines, we can get a better perspective of what happened.

So let's look very closely at other events on December 26th-28th, 2002.

December 26
-----, Ron Grantski told Greta Van Susteren: "I -- I talked to Scott two days after Laci was missing, and I -- I asked him then. I said, you know, if you -- if you had an affair, was seeing somebody, I think this is time to say something because I know the police are going to bug you about your fishing story, and he said, no, no problem. And so I let it drop."  Ron testified that it was the afternoon of the 26th when he quizzed Scott. Ron also testified that it was a day or two after the 24th when he first learned Scott had a boat, because someone asked if he knew about the boat.  Now isn't that curious?  Why didn't Ron tell the police that it was no big deal that Scott went fishing that afternoon because he himself went fishing that same afternoon.  Moreover, as we shall see, Brocchini did believe Scott went to the Berkeley Marina, albeit not to fish, but to dump Laci's body.  Of course, Brocchini knew he would need a motive -- and an affair would be perfect.  Didn't he and Buehler tell Amber Frey when they first met her that they were praying for someone like her to come along?  

4:12 p.m., Susan Medina places a call to her son in Los Angeles.  Susan and Rudy were returning to Modesto from Los Angeles and as they drove past the MPD on G street, they noticed the TV cameras; Susan called her son to find out why Modesto was again on the news.  When they reached Edgebrook and Covena, the entrance onto Covena was blocked by a police barricade, and they had to show identification to prove they lived on the street.  As they drove into their driveway, they noticed the hand truck (dolly) on the front lawn, and when Rudy went into the backyard, he noticed the french doors were wide open, having been kicked open.  Susan went out to the street and got the attention of police officers to report they had been burglarized.

4:45-4:50 p.m., Office Wend, on the scene for the Peterson search warrant execution, responded to the Medinas to investigate the burglary.  Wend said the dolly was approximately 25 feet from the street, and  described the burglary as "a pretty typical door-kick, grab what you can and take off with it. I mean, it wasn't, there was only one room that was really ransacked, and that was the master bedroom. And it wasn't ransacked a lot. Some things were taken off the top shelf in the bedroom, in the bathroom. In the master bedroom a drawer had been opened and a jewelry box had been laid, laid out."  The safe was approximately three feet tall by two and a half feet wide by two and a half feet deep. The point of entry was through a gate on the south side of the Medina property. The clue that it was a forced entry was the boot print by the lock, and the door standing open. The boot print was like moist dirt transferred to the door, but Wend couldn't tell from its composition how long it had been on the door.  Mr. Medina had placed a chair up against the doorknob, as an extra precaution, and the burglars moved the chair out of their way.  A lot of valuables in the house were not touched, such as TVs, VCRs, a vase containing $800 cash and jewelry out on a counter.  The keys to the Mercedes parked in the drive were hanging in the kitchen, but the car was undisturbed.  Wend left the forms for the Medinas to fill out, documenting everything that had been taken, and then had nothing more to do with the investigation of this burglary. 

Wend's description "a pretty typical door-kick, grab what you can and take off with it" doesn't pass the giggle test - one doesn't just grab a 3'x2.5'x2.5' safe and take off with it.  But the fact that valuables out in the open, much easier to grab and take off with, were not taken, suggests to me a robbery interrupted.

So, as the search warrant on the Peterson home was being executed, the MPD knew about the burglary right across the street.  It's unfathomable that both Brocchini and Grogan, who were at the Peterson home at the time Wend responded to the Medina burglary right across the street, could not have known about the burglary.  But they didn't seem to be a bit interested in it.  Not a bit.  Which isn't strange at all when we remember that Brocchini made up his mind what happened to Laci on the night of the 24th; and Grogan concurred on Christmas Day.  So it was just a matter of proving it, and not letting irrelevant stuff like a burglary across the street distract them from their noble cause.

~7:30 p.m..  We don't know exactly what time Cindee Valentin began the dog trailing effort with Merlin, but she did before Skultety arrived at 7:30 to begin the search warrant, which for that night only included a search for forensic evidence and signs of a struggle.  A few stains were probably blood and collected, but certainly nothing to compel any reasonable person to believe Laci had been murdered in that house.  Unless you already were certain she had been.  

~9:30 p.m. The dog trailing that Brocchini manipulated to prove Scott transported Laci's dead body from the house to the warehouse and then headed out of town had already terminated by 9:30 p.m., when Chris Boyer gave the scent items to Brocchini.  Brocchini kept these in his possession to be used for later dog trailing.  

To get the most traction out of the dog trailing on the 26th, Brocchini ensured that the media received only his interpretation, and thus we read in the ModBee:
When Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department deputies brought in a specially trained bloodhound on Thursday [Dec 26] to help in the search, it didn't head into the park.  Instead, it headed to Yosemite Boulevard.  Later, the dog led its handler from the Peterson house all the way to Maze Blvd.  
Which, of course, was a blatant lie.  Merlin led Valentin to the Gallo Winery.

December 27
------.  Rick Armanderiz was sent to the Berkeley Marina to meet with Berkeley police officers to confirm or refute Scott's alibi.  Remember, Scott said he went to the Berkeley Marina and produced a parking receipt.  Mark Geragos was not allowed to ask Armanderiz about his interviews at the Marina, or the media presence there, because Distaso objected on the grounds it was beyond the scope of his direct.  Delucchi ruled in Distaso's favor. However, we found out from a couple of the Marina people he did interview that there indeed was a media presence at the Berkeley Marina, and they were there because of the Laci Peterson investigation.  They hemmed and hawed their way out of saying it was the 27th, but that only confirmed that it was.  This is pretty important information to know -- that on the 27th, the MPD's very first field trip to the Berkeley Marina, there was already a media presence at the Berkeley Marina.  Folks, it was no secret that Scott Peterson went to the Berkeley Marina on December 24th.  

4:10 p.m., Diane Jackson informed Sgt. Ed Steele that she "witnessed the 459 [the California burlgary statute] on Covena on 12-24-02 at 1140 hours. She saw the van and the safe being removed from the house."  Some reports are that Jackson, who lived around the corner from the Petersons, saw the police there that morning for the conclusion of the search warrant, and walked over and told some of the officers about what she saw.  She obviously told the same thing to Sgt. Steele, perhaps at the Volunteer Center as he was the police liaison there.  Surely this should have caught someone's attention and caused someone to re-consider whether they were following the wrong lead in the investigation.  If it did raise any concerns or curiosity, that would soon be quashed.  

6:30 p.m. , Detective Stough was told about Jackson seeing the Medina burglary and he called her for an interview.  For me, I think I'd have gone to her house and had her give me much more information, like the exact location of the van she saw, exactly where she saw the 3 men.  Instead, Stough was content to get a description of the 3 men:  "three short of stature, dark skinned but not African American guys. . . . When asked to further describe the individuals she stated that that's all she could remember as she wasn't thinking about that and hadn't thought about that until she called the police."  The MPD wasn't in much of a hurry to solve this burglary -- it didn't release a description of the 3 men and the van or inform the public about the $1000 reward until the 31st. How did the reporters keep from laughing when Chief Roy Wasden said, on the 31st, "We really feel a compelling need to get the burglary solved to see if that moves us any closer to finding Laci."  Compelling need?  Really!

What do you do when the media, the public, and even some police officers get distracted in a murder investigaton?  You redirect them.  

December 28  
So it is that Brocchini asked Chris Boyer to take trailing dogs to the Berkeley Marina, and he chose Anderson and her dog Trimble and Seitz and his dog TJ.  Brocchini wanted to prove that Laci Peterson was brought to the Berkeley Marina by Scott Peterson.  Brocchini sent the scent items with two detectives to give to Boyer -- scent items he'd had in his possession since the night of the 26th.   

Boyer gave the glasses/case to Anderson, and the pink slipper to Seitz. Anderson's Trimble allegedly followed Laci's scent to the end of the pier and stood gazing out on the water.  Seitz' TJ didn't have any such luck -- he could not pick up Laci's scent at all.

Why the difference?  Perhaps because Seitz wasn't already convinced that Scott was guilty, as Anderson was, and thus wasn't leading TJ to smell something that wasn't there.  Perhaps because the glasses/case Anderson used was contaminated with Scott's scent.  Probably a combination of the two.

What evidence is there of such contamination?  The scent items were compromised from the very beginning. Valentin was the person who collected the scent items at 523 Covena Avenue in the late afternoon on December 26. She collected the items in this order:  pink slipper, brown slipper, sunglass case with sunglasses inside, and a hairbrush.  She did not recall changing gloves between the collection of the items.  For this reason, the scent items were compromised from the very beginning. The only exceptions were the pink slipper which was collected first, and the sunglasses inside the case which had not been opened.  However, he case itself had been inside Laci’s purse; and a number of people had put their hands inside the purse before the scent items were collected:  Boyer, Brocchini, Spurlock and Scott himself when he retrieved Laci’s keys.

All of the scent items were in Brocchini's possession from the night of the 26th to when he gave them to Detectives Stough and Schmierer to take to Boyer at the Berkeley Marina for the dog trailing that was to be done that day.  He sent the pink slipper and the sunglasses/case and the brown slipper.  The brown slipper is important, because it was Scott's brown slipper, with Scott's scent.  Ron Seitz used the pink slipper and found no evidence of Laci’s scent at the Marina.  Anderson used the glasses, and allegedly trailed Laci to the end of the pier and out onto the water.  Moreover, Anderson didn't take much precaution to prevent Trimble from picking up Scott's scent from the glasses case; she just opened the case and had Trimble smell the glasses.  

Noble cause: doing what needs to be done to get the guilty person.  So what if you have to nudge the evidence a little, to make it say what you want it to say. 

At the trial, the State addressed the issue of contamination by saying that if it had been Scott's scent that Trimble picked up, then Trimble would have followed Scott out of the Berkeley Marina back to Modesto, because trailing dogs are trained to pick up the freshest scent.  I'll remind you of this explanation when we get to the trailing that was done on January 4.  But there are other things to discuss in the meantime.

The net result is that by the end of the day on the 28th, Brocchini had his evidence that Scott murdered Laci, transported her to the Berkeley Marina, and brought her out into the Bay in his boat.  Now all that needed to be done was to get the rest of the investigative team and the media on the same page. The burglars were home free.