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Crime News Snapped

Scott Peterson: Then & Now

Scott Peterson has been on death row for 14 years, but his prison life has been described as "cushy." He has access to a roof deck with a basketball court, eats smoked scallops, and gets five hours social time every day while some prisoners spend 23 hours a day in their cell. 

By Kat George

Scott Peterson has been on death row for 14 years. He was convicted of the 2002 Christmas Eve murder of his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn child, Conner, in Modesto, California. Scott was convicted without any forensic evidence, but rather on a series of circumstances that made him look very suspicious: Having an extra-marital affair, lying to his wife and her family, and being caught by police in San Diego having dyed his hair and goatee, with a car full of money, clothes, and other personal effects. He’s been languishing in prison ever since.

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However, many reports from inside Scott’s cell paint quite a nice picture: a luxurious life behind bars, if you will. Scott is currently launching an appeal on his case, and with the airing of the two-part special Snapped Notorious: Scott Peterson, which can be watched online, we’re taking a look at what Scott’s life was like before and after being sent to prison.



Scott seemingly had an idyllic family life before Laci’s murder. He had a beautiful wife and their first baby was on the way. People who knew the family told detectives they were happy, that Scott treated Laci like a “queen” and they never fought. Indeed, when Scott was the first suspect on the police’s list, Laci’s family even stood up for him, saying there was no way he could have done it. However, the tables turned when Amber Frey came forward and told the story: that she’d been having an affair with Scott, who told her he wasn’t married. Laci’s family immediately turned against him – so Scott lost his wife, child, and the family he married into.

Meanwhile, Scott’s own family supported him throughout the trial. They still are adamant that he is innocent. Scott sees his parents at court hearings, and during brief prison visits. Scott’s father, Lee Peterson, told InTouch, “Scott is doing wonderfully. He’s found a life behind bars... We talk all the time and he’s always in good spirits.” Lee told the magazine that Scott wants to have family someday and “a normal life.”



Before prison, Scott was a fertilizer salesman. He landed the job when he and Laci decided to move to Modesto, working for a Spanish-based agricultural company called Tradecorp, and his mission was to establish a U.S. clientele for the company was their West Coast representative. In the role Scott had to sell irrigation systems, fertilizer, chemical nutrients and the hardware needed to disperse them on farms. Scott had clients in California, Arizona and New Mexico, and was paid a salary plus commission.

It’s unclear whether or not Scott “works” in prison, but he does seem to have quite a bit of leisure time (coming up below).



Scott may have had some money problems before Laci’s murder. The prosecution brought to light that in 2002, Scott was paying almost 70 percent of his monthly average pay – a modest $3,694 – to cover debt. Witness Gary Nienhuis, Modesto’s internal auditor, said "the payments ... were high in relation to the cash flow." He also said that a year earlier, Scott’s pay was higher and his debts lower, so based on that evidence, Scott was in a bit of a financial downturn. Meanwhile, Nienhuis testified that Tradecorp set a $422,000 sales goal for Scott for 2002, and that by November Scott had only made it 23 percent of the way. Scott’s lawyer, however, painted a different picture in court, suggesting that Tradecorp was a million dollar company totally capable of withstanding a shortfall. He also pointed out that Scott had good credit, and that Laci was about to receive a $160,000 from her grandmother's estate, and another $100,000 worth of jewelry, so the Petersons were in a good position to clear some of their debt, like their $210,000 mortgage. 

In prison, money woes aren’t really a problem for Scott, it seems. InTouch obtained Scott’s commissary log, which shows that while other inmates eat unhealthy, fatty foods, Scott shells out extra cash for unheard of prison luxuries like fat-free milk, smoked scallops and oysters, granola, multivitamins, sugar-free honey and body-building natural fiber whey protein tablets. His log also shows he also paid $17 for an extension cord – so overall, Scott is spending money for creature comforts many prisoners aren’t able to afford.



In Modesto, Scott had a golf membership at the local country club and was part of the local Rotary Club. Laci and Scott apparently loved to cook and would often host social dinner parties. Around Laci’s murder, Scott also purchased a boat, which Laci didn’t know about, and which he went fishing in on the day she disappeared.

Scott’s social life allegedly hasn’t been affected by being locked up. Journalist Nancy Mullane was given access to the maximum security prison, San Quentin State Prison, where Scott is being held. She said he’s living in an “Exclusive” part of the prison, where he has his own cell and can socialize with other prisoners, as opposed to some prisoners who have to spend 23 hours a day in their cells. He also allegedly has access to a roof deck with a basketball court, and Mullane said, “When I saw Scott, he was playing basketball. He didn’t look depressed. He looked like someone you’d see on the street playing basketball.” Scott is apparently classed as a “Grade A” prisoner, who get 5 hours a day social time, access to exercise and chess and three showers a week. These prisoners are also able to attend religious services, receive mail, phone calls and visitors, as well as having a private TV in their cells (although they must pay for it themselves). 

[All Photos: Getty Images]


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