In the 1990s, when Laci Peterson was still young, she fell in love with a man she saw at a café. Friends say that outgoing Laci made “everybody laugh.” She was brave enough to ask a waiter at the café to give her number to Scott Peterson, who would become her husband.
Rocha says that she was also impressed by Scott because he once brought flowers to the house for both Laci and her.
Scott was “very charming, very polite, and the perfect gentleman,” she said.
They got married and started their lives together. Scott sold fertiliser, and Laci worked as a substitute teacher to keep herself busy. They lived together in a small house in Modesto, California, and had a dog. By the winter of 2002, they were expecting their first child, a son they were going to name Conner.
But on Christmas Eve 2002, Laci, who was eight months pregnant at the time, went missing. This made the couple’s story sad.
Scott told the police that he had planned to go golfing that day but changed his mind at the last minute because it was too cold for golf. Instead, he went fishing.
Scott said he drove to his warehouse office, which was a few miles from the couple’s house, put together a “table-making tool” called a mortiser, checked his email, and then took his new boat to the Berkeley Marina, which was about 90 miles away.
“I mean, a lot of the reason I went was just to get that boat in the water,” he told detectives in an interrogation room just hours after his wife went missing.
Scott said that when he got home at 4:30 p.m., the couple’s dog was still on a leash in the backyard, and there was no sign of Laci. He thought this was a strange thing to find, but he decided to get some pizza from the fridge and take a shower before looking for his wife.
He told the police he thought Laci was at her mother’s house, where they were going to have dinner later that night. But when he called Rocha at 6:15 p.m., she told him she hadn’t heard from her daughter all day.
“I was completely freaked out,” Rocha said.
Soon after, Rocha’s longtime boyfriend called 911, which led to a huge search for the 27-year-old pregnant woman by friends, neighbours, and police.
As the days passed, Laci was still nowhere to be found.
Al Brocchini, a police detective in Modesto, was troubled by Scott’s story about the day his wife went missing. Brocchini was a seasoned fisherman himself.
Brocchini didn’t understand why Scott would have driven 90 miles to the Berkeley Marina if his only goal for the day was to put his new boat in the water.
Brocchini told “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered” that the man’s fishing pole was like one you’d use in a stream and his lures were like jigs you’d use in a delta. “He didn’t even know what he was fishing for, and he didn’t know what bait he was using. He didn’t have any fishing gear that was made for the bay.
Scott said that the trip was a last-minute idea, but he bought the two-day fishing licence on December 20—days before he left with the boat.
Rocha at first stood by her son-in-law, telling “Dateline” in 2003, “People who know Scott and Laci know for sure that he has nothing to do with her disappearance.”
But at a vigil for her daughter, Rocha said it bothered her that Scott was on the phone and didn’t seem to care about his missing wife and unborn child.
“I started to wonder if he might have something to do with it,” she told “Dateline” reporter Keith Morrison.
When investigators found out that Scott had been keeping a secret, their doubts about him grew. Since late November, Scott had been seeing a massage therapist named Amber Frey.
Frey thought that Scott was single and started dating him after a friend set them up.
The single mom later told “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered” that their first date was “really, really good.” “I’d say they were both interested in each other.”
Frey was impressed by how romantic Scott was. She remembered how he used to buy groceries so she could cook him a romantic meal, buy gifts for her and her young daughter, and give her lots of love.
Early in December, when they had been dating for a few weeks, Frey said that an emotional Scott called her and told her that he had been married before, but that his wife had died earlier that year and that this would be his first holiday season without her.
Frey said, “He was crying and just, you know, very emotional.”
Scott told her that he and some friends would be going to Europe at the end of the month, but he promised to call her often.
Frey said that she started to feel that “something just wasn’t right” about her new relationship, so she asked a friend to check up on Scott. She was shocked when the friend came back soon after with news that Scott’s pregnant wife had gone missing.
“All I can remember is that I cried for a long time. “I was shaking, and it wasn’t because of adrenaline; I was just shocked,” she said.
Frey told the police right away, and they agreed to secretly record her calls with Scott.
Scott called her on New Year’s Eve and said he was in Paris near the Eiffel Tower, but he was really at a vigil for his missing wife.
During the call, he said, “The crowd is huge” to cover up the noise in the background.
Scott finally decided to tell Frey the truth about his elaborate plan during a phone call on January 6. He admitted that he had been lying to Frey and that the girl he had been married to had “disappeared just before Christmas.”
“You told me that you had lost your wife when you came to see me in December?” Frey asks in the recording. “Why did they do that?”
“She’s still alive, honey,” he said.
“Then how did you lose her before it was too late? “Tell me what you mean,” Frey asks later in the call.
Scott told Amber, “There are different kinds of loss.”
Frey finally told people about the relationship at a press conference that the police set up. Even after it was out in the open, Scott kept calling her, but Frey finally told him they had to go their separate ways.
Detectives kept a close eye on Scott even as people who knew him well started to tell them strange things. For example, they said that Scott had once said he wished he couldn’t have children and seemed uncomfortable around babies. They also found cement dust in the warehouse of his office, which suggests that he made more than one concrete anchor there. However, only one anchor was found.
On April 18, 2003, investigators caught Scott after chasing him for hours. This was just a few days after the bodies of a baby and an adult woman washed up on the beach north of Berkeley. When they finally stopped the car, they found camping gear, four cell phones, his sister’s credit card, his brother’s driver’s licence, and a large amount of cash.
On the way back to Modesto, the police told Scott that his wife and his unborn son Conner’s bodies had been positively identified. Even when he was angry, it didn’t make him lose his appetite. Later on that drive, Scott ate a double hamburger, fries, and a shake.
In 2004, after a very public trial, Scott was found guilty of killing his wife and their unborn child. He was sentenced to death.
Rocha said of the convictions, “I remember I just burst into tears.”
But in June 2020, the California Supreme Court overturned Scott’s death sentence and told a lower court to look into his case again because of a claim that a juror did something wrong.
In late 2021, he was given a new sentence of life in prison without the chance of parole. No one knows for sure if Scott could get a new trial.
Scott and his family keep saying that he is not guilty.