Scott Peterson is a convicted murderer infamous for killing his wife Laci Peterson and their unborn son.
The Seemingly Happy Couple
Scott Peterson met his wife, Laci Rocha, while attending California Polytechnic State University. The two married on August 9, 1997 and shortly after opened a sports bar near the college campus. The Petersons ran The Shack for two years before selling it and moving to Modesto, California to be close to Laci’s family. During their time in Modesto, Peterson sold fertilizer for Tradecorp, a Spanish-based agricultural company, while his wife worked part-time as a substitute teacher. Laci became pregnant with a boy in May 2002 after the couple tried for a year to conceive, and they decided to name him Conner.
Laci Goes Missing
Laci was last seen on the morning of Christmas Eve in 2002, where she was believed to have been walking her dog toward Dry Creek. Later that morning her Golden Retriever was found running loose in the neighborhood. Laci’s parents called the police in the evening to report their daughter missing. During this time, Peterson claimed he had been fishing in the San Francisco Bay, approximately 90 miles away from the couple’s home. A massive search consisting of law enforcement from several different counties near Modesto was conducted, with family, friends, and neighbors putting up missing posters across town.
Once articles were published about Laci’s disappearance, Amber Frey, who had been Peterson’s secret mistress for a month by this time, contacted the Modesto Police Department hotline. The then 27-year-old massage therapist and single mother had told authorities that she was misinformed — Peterson had told her he was single. At the request of the police, Frey agreed to record her phone calls with Peterson, though nothing directly incriminating had been revealed. The wiretapped phone conversations did reveal, however, that Peterson lied about his marital status to sustain a relationship with Frey.
Convicted With No DNA Evidence
On April 13, 2003, four months after Laci’s disappearance, a couple walking their dog found the body of a late-term male fetus washed up along the San Francisco Bay. The next day the body of a recently-pregnant women also washed up on the shore, a mile away from where the fetus had been found. The body was missing its head and parts of its limbs. DNA tests confirmed that these were the bodies of Peterson's family, Laci and Conner. Authorities were unable to determine the cause of death because the bodies were too decomposed.
On April 18 of that same year, soon after the bodies were found, Scott Peterson was arrested in San Diego near a golf course. He had claimed that he was going to play golf with his father and brother, but police found many suspicious items in his Mercedes: survival gear, multiple cell phones, a fake driver’s license, and $15,000 in cash. Peterson had also dyed his hair blond. Police suspected he had plans to flee to Mexico.
Peterson pled not guilty. Prosecutors had multiple theories, including the hypothesis that Peterson was after the $250,000 insurance policy on his wife, or that he may have been trying to escape future fatherhood and married life.
On November 12, 2004, despite no DNA evidence actually connecting him to the crime, Peterson was found guilty of first-degree murder for his wife, as well as second-degree murder for his unborn son and he was sentenced to death. Peterson has since been on death row in San Quentin State Prison. As of March 13, 2019, he has since been given temporary reprieve because the governor of California signed an executive order that issues a moratorium on all executions.