Saturday, September 23, 2017

Laci's Walk - The A&E Docuseries

Among the many revelations in the recent A&E Docuseries, “The Murder of Laci Peterson,” was the appearance of several people who saw Laci walking in the neighborhood with her dog McKenzie on December 24 during the time period after Scott left home.  This map identifies the people who appeared or were mentioned in the series and the locations of their sightings.  It shows the 2+mile well-defined route from the time Laci left home until she returned around an hour later.

Sometime after Karen Servas returned McKenzi to the Peterson’s yard between 10:10 and 10:18 on December 24 and before Russell Graybill delivered the mail between 10:35 and 10:50, Laci opened the gate and took McKenzi for a walk.  She did not head to La Loma park, but rather south on Covena.  When Laci reached 211 Covena Avenue just north of Miller, she and McKenzi were seen by Homer Maldonado shortly after he and his wife left a gas station at Miller and Camellia.  A few blocks later, in the area of the triangular park on La Loma Avenue at Santa Barbara, she and McKenzi were seen by Tony Freitas who was on his regular delivery route.  Continuing northwest on La Loma Avenue, she and McKenzi were seen by Frank Aguilar and his wife, Martha, who were driving toward downtown Modesto.  One block further at the intersection of La Loma Avenue and Buena Vista, she and McKenzi were seen by Gene Pedrioli as they were getting ready to cross the street to Kewin Park.  She apparently did not enter the park at that time but continued on to Del Rio Avenue where she turned south and then east on La Sombra Avenue.  Just as she turned back north on Buena Vista Avenue toward the park, she and McKenzi were seen by Vivian Mitchell whose husband Bill came to the window just in time to see the dog who was trying to go in the opposite direction.

When Laci and McKenzie got back to La Loma Avenue, they apparently entered Kewin Park by the steps leading down from entrance at the corner.  It would have been unusual for Laci to go into this area of the park because of the high concentration of homeless people who congregated in the adjacent Moose Park; but just at the intersection of the trail leading to the path east, there was a public bathroom which may explain her decision.  Apparently, she then continued on the path going east through Dry Creek park but after just a few minutes ran into a couple of homeless men who started harassing her and yelling at McKenzi; so she turned back toward the entrance of Kewin Park.  It was at this time she was seen by Diana Campos who was taking a smoking break shortly before she was to start her work shift at the hospital.  When Laci got back near the entrance, she must have taken the stairs leading up to Buena Vista Avenue.

Continuing on Buena Vista to Encina and then up to Edgebrook Drive, she would have been on her way home.  When they reached Covena,  McKenzi may have pulled her toward the park entrance where Mike Chiavetta noticed him near the fence on the path that leads down into the park.  Chiavetta was concentrating on the dog, as his dog was off leash at the time, but he also noticed someone with the dog who fit Laci’s description.  Shortly after the Chiavetta sighting, Laci returned home.  Apparently she put McKenzi back in the yard and closed the gate and went inside the house where she changed clothes from black pants to tan.  She may then have gone out through the front gate to get the mail when she noticed something suspicious going on at Medina’s.  According to the Aponte tip and statement, Laci confronted Steve Todd and others as they were starting the burglary.  Exactly what happened to Laci after that is not known.  She was never seen again until her body and the body of her son, Conner, were found in April on the shores of the San Francisco Bay.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Can't see the forest for the trees

The title statement simply means that sometimes people are too close to a situation (the trees) to see the bigger picture (the forest).  But when you stand a ways back, and aren't so emotionally invested in the guilty verdict, the evidence starts to make sense, and it says quite plainly, Scott is Innocent.

Here's an article from Daily Mail in the UK that is well worth the read.  It highlights the Diane Jackson sighting of the van and 3 men in front of the Medina home on the morning of 12-24-02, and Ted Rowlands adamant assertion that the Medina burglary did not happen on the morning of the 26th, as claimed by Todd and Pearce and believed by the MPD, because he did the early show for his TV station and he was there, right in front of the Peterson house that morning starting at 5 am, keeping a very intense lookout for anyone he might be able to interview live for his show.

The Daily Mail is a British tabloid, like the Enquirer is a US tabloid.  But unlike so many of the Enquirer articles during the investigation and trial that only cited "sources close to the investigation," or "sources close to the family, " or something similar, never giving a name or face to the source, this articles does give names and faces to its sources.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Coming to grips with the truth

I understand that many people are very convinced that Scott Peterson is stone-cold guilty.  Or as radaronline put it, "the nation's most cold-hearted killer since OJ." In an article published just today,  Radaronline reported excerpts from the Enquirer-produced documentary on Investigation Discovery channel.

I also understand that investigators and DA's have confidence in their cases -- I don't think it would be too healthy if they were always second-guessing themselves.  However, I think a great deal of objectivity and humility is essential in a job that has the authority to affect people's lives in a very profound way for a very long time.

Mark Smith is a private investigator out of Tracy, CA.  His website. Mark Smith Investigations, gives this summary of his investigative experience on the About Us page, emphasis added.

Hello, my name is Mark Smith and I'm the owner of Mark Smith Investigations.  I recently retired from a 28 year law enforcement career. I spent the first 10 years of my career as a municipal police officer and detective in the San Francisco Bay Area. I spent the last almost 18 years as a Criminal Investigator and Lieutenant of Investigators for the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office. While working with the District Attorney I worked assignments in Homicide, Major Narcotics, Public Corruption, and Mortgage Fraud. I was most recently assigned to the FBI's San Joaquin Valley Mortgage Fraud Task Force and was cross-designated as a Special Deputy United States Marshal. I worked real estate and mortgage fraud cases enforcing both State and Federal law and helped to prosecute cases in both State and Federal Courts.

While with the District Attorney I spent seven years as a Lieutenant supervising a staff of Criminal Investigators and civilian employees. I supervised the District Attorney Investigations staff that was assigned to the Scott Peterson murder trial and I coordinated much of the logistics for the trial. Also while with the District Attorney I conducted numerous internal employee investigations for misconduct as well as numerous pre-employment background investigations. I also worked many criminal investigations involving government employees, including cases involving police officers and elected officials.
Mark Smith has been commenting on the A&E Murder of Laci Peterson Facebook page.  To do so is his right.  He is no longer with the DA's office and the gag order was lifted by Judge Delucchi in March 2005 after the sentencing.

He frequently comments on the "lies" in the series, often attributing those lies to the Peterson family or the SPA group.  He expects people to take his word for everything he says because he "was there."  And he actually was there.  However, he does not have a good command of the facts and corrects the alleged lies in the series with his own lies -- or should I more politely say, his own misinformation.

One particular "lie" that he accused the SPA team of in last night's episode involved public knowledge of Scott's fishing route from the Berkeley Marina to Brooks Island.  He argues that the MPD did put out information early on that Scott went to the Marina, but it was a long time before the media was aware of Scott's claim to have been by Brooks Island.  Here is a major portion of his comment.

As a member of the SPA Team, I have collected a lot of information over the years, especially media coverage.  I don't know exactly what Smith means by "a long time," as time is relevant, but there was media coverage of the MPD search of the Brooks Island on January 4, 2003.  That was only 2 days after the MPD released photos of Scott's truck and boat and asked if anyone recalled seeing the truck or boat to call the MPD.

How do I know there was media coverage of the search of Brooks Island on January 4?  Because the Modesto Bee newspaper carried the story the next day, complete with pictures and an interview with Sgt. Ron Cloward, who was overseeing the search.  It's most likely that, given the intense coverage of this case, the TV networks showed footage of the search and identified where the search was taking place as it was happening on the 4th, and the newspapers followed up with details in the next morning's edition on the 5th.  The Modesto Bee certainly did.

The Modesto Bee article not only specifically stated that Scott launched his boat at the Marina but that he also "went northwest and fished around Brooks Island."  The Modesto Bee newspaper even included a map insert showing Brooks Island. 

Now you can determine for yourself whether 2 days is "a long time."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Mailman's Timeline

This information updates and corrects information previously included in the article "The Mailman's Timeline" published on March 1, 2008.


Russell Graybill was scheduled to deliver mail to 500 homes (testimony) during the course of his day. He had the kind of route that is called a park and loop. He would park at a certain spot and then get out of his truck and deliver mail on foot to all the houses that area.  There were scan points on a few mailboxes along his route to determine where he was at certain times.

On December 24, 2002 he arrived at his first scan at 10:19 a.m. and at his last scan at 3:41 p.m. for a total of 5 hours and 22 minutes delivery time.

Graybill’s Route Scan Schedule

This is the schedule that Graybill printed out showing his scan times for December 24, 2002. It includes a notation about the time he delivered mail to the Peterson house. This was entered as Prosecution Exhibit 34.

Graybill’s Testimony

Prosecution Exhibit 33, which was used during Graybill’s testimony, does not show the houses on Rowlands, south of Encina, where he delivered mail in the first part of his route.

Excerpts from Graybill’s testimony:
My first stop would be 1402 Encina. I would walk down 1424, go across the street, deliver all these houses here, come back across Encina, go down Rowland, to the 400 block, which is off the map, come back up, come back to my vehicle. That's the first relay. Then I would get in my vehicle and I would drive to 1520 Encina, and I would shut the vehicle off, get out, drop the mail at that house. Drive around here, shut the vehicle off, drop the mail, drive around, shut the vehicle off. Same thing at 1515. Then I would park the vehicle……………
HARRIS:  And specifically looking at Covena, do you see the boxes starting to the right side of Covena above where it says Pierre Park 508, 516, 525 (sic), 526?    
GRAYBILL:  Yes, sir.
HARRIS:  And do those represent the houses on the -- that would be the east side of the Covena Street?
GRAYBILL:  The street addresses, yes, sir.
HARRIS:  And then starting from the bottom and working on the west side of the street, 511, 517, 523. 523 Covena?
GRAYBILL:  Yes, sir.

Interpretation of the route based on testimony:

·       Graybill’s first scan was at 1424 Encina). He parked at 1402 Encina Avenue and delivered mail to that house and to the scan point  (*yellow) at 1424 (2 houses).  Then he crossed Encina to the north side of the street and delivered mail to some of the houses on that block (5 houses). After that, he crossed back over Encina and delivered mail up and down Rowlands in the 400 block (16 houses).
·       Then he got back in his truck and drove to 1520 Encina where he parked and delivered to that house (1 house.)
·        He turned north on the access road that runs along the vineyard and drove up to the short block of Encina where he parked and delivered to 1519 Encina (1 house); and then parked and delivered at 1515 Encina (1 house).
·        Graybill then parked at the corner of ”little Encina“ and Covena and got out of his truck to deliver to 8 houses on the 500 block of Covena.  He started up the east side of the street for the houses at 508, 516, 520, 526, then crossed over to the west side for the houses at 529, 523, 517, and 511.
·         (The only people home at the time were Fleischman-508, Krigbaum/Venable-520 , and possibly Servas-517.)  Detail:
o    508 -  Fleischman – home
o    516 -  Medina – away, left home at 10:32 for a trip to Los Angeles
o    520 -  Krigbaum/Venable – sleeping until 10:38, did not get up right away
o    526 -  Wilmes - away
o    529 -  Reed – vacant (B2443)
o    523 -  Peterson – gate open, McKenzie not there
o    517 -  Servas – found dog no later than 10:18 and then left for errands
o    511 -  Ikerd – away
·         Then he got back into his truck and drove south on Covena across Encina to deliver to the 400 block of Covena.

Missing Information From Graybill Included in the Habeas document

From the habeas document:

On December 27, 2002, Graybill was interviewed Officer M. Callahan and Detective Skultety of the Modesto Police Department.  According to Callahan’s handwritten police report, Graybill stated the following in response to the officer’s question “what he remembered from December 24, 2002 when he delivered mail in this area”:

……………“[Graybill] said he entered the area around 1030 to 1045 in the morning. He said he couldn’t remember anything unusual from 516 Covena, but remembered the gate was open at 523 Covena. He said usually the dog barks at him from behind the gate. On 12-24-02 the gate was open and he did not see or hear the dog at 523 Covena.” (See Exh. 3 at HCP-00008.)

More text from the habeas document:

Graybill was the Petersons’ postman, and he delivered mail to the Peterson home between 10:35 and 10:50 a.m. on December 24, 2002.  (Exhibit 2 [Declaration of Russell Graybill] at HCP-000005-06; Exhibit 19 [Russell Graybill’s Delivery Record].)  Graybill knew the Petersons’ dog, McKenzi, and explained to police (and has recently declared) that McKenzi would bark at him no matter where on the property the dog happened to be. (Exhibit 3 [Statement of Russell Graybill] at HCP-000008.)  Whether the dog was in the front or back yards, or even inside the house, McKenzi would bark at Graybill.  (Exh. 2 at HCP-000005.)


Russell Graybill told MPD officers on 12-27-02 that the gate was open and McKenzie was not on the property at the time he delivered mail to the Peterson house between 10:35 and 10:50 on December 24.  In spite of this information, MPD claimed that Laci had gone missing before Karen Servas found McKenzi in the street at 10:18, put him back in the yard, and closed the gate.  The  Graybill information shows that Laci was not missing when Servas found McKenzi.  She was very much alive, and took McKenzi for a walk sometime after Servas found him and before Graybill arrived to deliver the mail.  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Dr. Cheng - Tidal Evidence

Anyone familiar with the Scott Peterson trial knows that tidal evidence, as presented by Dr. Ralph Cheng, played a significant role in Scott's conviction.  It's not that he was needed to prove that Laci was in the Bay, but to prove no one else put her in the Bay, only Scott could have put Laci in the Bay.

The Prosecutors knew there was a likelihood that Scott's defense lawyer, Mark Geragos, would argue that someone else killed Laci and put her where it was widely publicized that he had been on the 24th -- fishing along a route from the Berkeley Marina to Brooks Island.  So the killer(s) simply put her body there. 

The Prosecution also likely knew that the killer(s) wouldn't need a boat to put her in the area that would naturally incriminate Scott.  Indeed, there are numerous places along the shoreline from the Berkeley Marina to Richmond that a car could have pulled up alongside the shoreline and simply dumped a body in.  And there are places along that shoreline with very large riprap and other debris on which a body could get caught and be concealed from public view.  Especially at the Albany Bulb. 

Where ever she washed ashore, whenever she washed ashore, the police, the media, and the public would conclude that Scott was guilty. 

How do I know they likely knew these things?  Because I assume they had the intelligence to anticipate arguments from the defense and be sure they could counter them.  So they would investigate the area themselves to see if there was another way Geragos could argue the bodies could have gotten into the Bay.

Dr. Cheng's role was to show that the bodies came from Scott's fishing route, not somewhere along the shoreline.  He first had to explain why it took so long for the bodies to wash ashore.  He said it was a combination of strong winds on April 12, 2003 concurrent with a negative low tide that caused the bodies to dislodge and begin moving towards shore.

In his words,  "wow, quite a wind event during that day. I really recall in my own mind, you can see now the scientific records showed us now during that particular period of time, in the morning, or starting from the midnight of the midnight April 11th, or early morning of April 12th, you can see wind exceeded 40 knots. 40 knots, wind exceeded. Also a sustained wind for long period of time, subsided slightly, but still continued on for another good twelve, eighteen hours with wind average around twenty knots per hour. So that is quite a magnitude of wind. And during that period of time, there was occurrence of a very low tide right after noon of April 12th."  

Let's look at the 3 elements of his argument for this "wind event" on April 11-12:

  • Wind exceeded 40 knots
  • Sustained winds of average 20 knots for 12-18 hours
  • Concurrent with the very low tide right after noon of April 12
I fact-checked Dr. Cheng's claims by surveying 11 area weather stations that measured wind and had their data online.  I also copied a graph of the tide on April 12 from the NOAA Richmond station to compare with the wind data. I started with the wind stations closest to where the bodies washed ashore and spread out from there.  I surveyed: 
  1. the NOAA Richmond Station,
  2. the UC Richmond Station,
  3. the East Bay Municipal Utility District station on Point Isabel, 
  4. the Oakland North RAWS (Remote Automated Weather Station),
  5. the wind station at the Berkeley Marina,
  6. the wind station on Angel Island,
  7. the wind station on Treasure Island,
  8. the Oakland South RAWS (Remote Automated Weather Station),
  9. the NOAA Alameda station,
  10. the wind station on Crown Beach in Alameda,
  11. the Oakland Airport weather station
Not a single one of these 11 stations verified Cheng's claims.  Why was it necessary to exaggerate and misrepresent that "wind event" on April 12?  Because the truth didn't cut the mustard.