Tuesday, January 2, 2018

How Detective Stough Solved the Medina Burglary

Fifteen years ago today, on January 2, 2003, the Modesto Police Department had a real opportunity to find Laci Peterson alive.  Instead, by their actions, they guaranteed her demise.
You may not recognize the name George Stough.  He was the detective put in charge of the Medina burglary investigation after MPD received information from Diane Jackson that she had seen a white van and 3-dark skinned men in front of the Medina house on December 24, 2002 at 11:40 a.m. as she drove by.  At that time, she saw a safe being removed from the house.  

This is how George Stough solved the case:

1.      He influenced Diane Jackson to change her initial description of the vehicle involved in the burglary, increasing the likelihood that the van would never be found.

When Stough first spoke to Diane Jackson at 6:30 p.m. on December 27, he did not accept her original description of the van as being white.  He “asked the witness to attempt to remember back as she was driving by and see if she could visualize the van in her mind.  At this point she said she thought darker, either a tan or a brown-colored van.”  In the reward poster made public on January 1, 2003 the van was described as being tan or light brown.

2.       He offered the burglars a deal.

On January 1, 2003, in a Modesto Bee article, George Stough offered the burglars a deal even though he didn’t know who they were, and he did know that they may have been involved in Laci’s disappearance.

He is quoted in the Modesto Bee:  "If we got a call from the suspects saying that they saw something happening over there but they are afraid to come in, we might be able to work out a deal.”

3.       He accepted the burglars’ version of events even though their stories were obviously false.

On January 2, Detective Stough spoke to an informant who had come forward to claim the $1000 reward for information on the burglary.  Sometime after 6:00 p.m. Steve Todd and Donald Pearce were arrested.  They claimed the burglary had occurred on December 27 until Stough clarified that they meant to say December 26.

On January 3 at 5:00 p.m., an MPD Press release stated:  Todd and Pearce have both cooperated fully in the burglary investigation and police do not have any reason to believe they are connected to the disappearance of Laci Peterson. "We have been able to verify the truthfulness of their statements," said Detective George Stough.

No matter that Todd and Pearce didn’t fit the description of the men seen by Diane Jackson.  Never mind that Diane Jackson saw the safe being removed from the house at 11:40 a.m. on December 24th.  Stough was convinced that the burglars carried a large safe out the front door and onto the front lawn at Medina’s around 7 a.m. on December 26 even though news reporters and trucks were present in the neighborhood. (Ted Rowlands was right in front of the Medina’s house at that time.)
In less than a week George Stough wrapped up the case.  Simple.

However, Just to make sure that Diane Jackson would be unable to testify to the pesky details of what she saw on December 24th, Detective Stough arranged for her to be hypnotized on January 17 by an unqualified hypnotist.
End of story as far as the MPD was concerned.  But definitely not the end of the story for those who believe Scott Peterson is innocent.