A Short History Of 2002’s Scott Peterson Case

Scott Peterson is on death row for killing his wife and unborn son. But did he do it?

Oxygen's critically-acclaimed true-crime franchise, “Snapped,” launches its 20th season of mystery, murder and misconduct with “Snapped Notorious: Scott Peterson,” a two-part special premiering Sunday, May 7th at 6PM ET/PT.

Scott Peterson is on death row: for a crime he may or may not have committed. Born in 1972 in San Diego, California, Scott had a fairly innocuous life. After graduating from college he began working at a cafe where he met Laci Denise Rocha, who would go on to become Laci Peterson. The couple wed in 1997, and in May 2002, after two years of trying, they conceived a child. But things were about to take a gruesome turn.

In December 2002, a heavily pregnant, 27-year-old Laci went missing. Her husband Scott came home to an empty house, where he ate, bathed and cleaned the kitchen. He then called Laci’s mother, Sharon, to see if she knew where Laci was. Shortly after, Laci’s parents called the police to report her missing. Her half sister, Amy Rocha, had seen Laci the night before when she had cut Scott’s hair, and Sharon had spoken to Laci on the phone later that night. Neither women had heard from Laci since.

Police immediately launched a full scale search, as a disappearance on Christmas Eve was not only uncharacteristic for Laci, it reeked of foul play. A reward to the tune of $500,000 was offered for information on Laci’s whereabouts. The search would carry on for months, but it wouldn’t be until April 13, 2003, that a body would finally be found. A couple walking their dog found the body of a late-term male fetus--Laci and Scott’s child--washed up in the San Francisco bay. An autopsy would reveal nylon tape looped around the fetus’ neck, likely from debris that got stuck there, and a “significant” cut on the baby’s body. A day later, Laci’s body was found one mile away from her son’s. The state of the body was horrific: she was decapitated, and all her limbs were missing. There was plastic tape around her neck as well. The baby was expelled from Laci’s uterus after she died.

Both Laci’s family and Scott Peterson denied allegations that he had anything to do with the murder. That was until police uncovered an affair Scott had been having with another woman, Amber Frey. Scott had been described as a “sex addict” and had been carrying on various affairs over the years, even one that Laci knew about. On April 18, 2003, Scott was arrested. When he was picked up by police, he was carrying $15,000 in cash, four cell phones, a gun, a fake driver’s license, camping equipment and a map to Frey’s work, along with many other strange items. He had also dyed his hair and goatee.

This, however, was the only “evidence” against Scott. It was purely circumstantial, and there was no DNA or other evidence to actually tie him to the murder. Regardless, Scott was charged with Laci and her son’s murder, and sentenced to death. He remains on death row to this day, although he has recently filed an appeal.

If you’re intrigued and want to know more, Oxygen’s “Snapped Notorious: Scott Peterson,” a two-part special premiers Sunday, May 7th at 6PM ET/PT.


Related Stories
Related Show

Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content. 

You May Also Like...
Recommended by Zergnet