Suspect in pregnant wife's death possessed $10,000 at arrest

Monday, April 21, 2003

MODESTO, Calif. -- Scott Peterson was carrying $10,000 when detectives arrested him about 30 miles from the Mexico border on suspicion of killing his pregnant wife, a law enforcement official said Sunday.

Hours later, authorities would announce that DNA tests showed two bodies found on the shore near San Francisco were his wife, Laci, missing since Dec. 23, and their unborn son.

Peterson had repeatedly denied any role in his wife's disappearance, and police had avoided labeling him a suspect. But authorities say he knew he was being tracked.

Modesto police chief Roy Wasden sought the arrest warrant for Peterson a day before the bodies were identified because he feared Peterson might flee to Mexico, where law forbids extradition of anyone facing the death penalty. Prosecutors in Stanislaus County plan to charge Peterson, 30, with capital murder for the deaths of his 27-year-old wife and their unborn son.

Peterson is expected to be arraigned Monday afternoon, authorities said.

Kelly Huston, a spokesman for the Stanislaus County sheriff's department, said Peterson talked to his lawyer Saturday night. The attorney, Kirk McAllister, has not commented on the case since the arrest.

Peterson was segregated from other inmates and placed in the jail's maximum security section because of the nature of the charges he faces, and because prisoners have made threats against him, Huston said. The inmates "definitely have some unfavorable opinions of him," he said.

In a briefing with reporters outside the jail, Huston described Peterson as "rather quiet" and "very courteous" since he was booked Friday night.

"Like many people who are in jail for the first time, he wants to know what's next," Huston said.

'Bungled' investigation

In an interview with Time magazine, Peterson's father, Lee, said "police have just bungled this investigation from day one."

"You have a district attorney calling this a slam-dunk before there's even an arraignment," Scott Peterson's mother, Jackie, told the magazine. "I'm feeling like I'm living in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. I'm just sick of this."

"We're grieving for the baby, as Scott is for Laci," Lee Peterson said.

When detectives arrested him Friday, Scott Peterson's dark hair had been dyed reddish-blond and he had grown a goatee. A law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Sunday that he also had $10,000 with him.

From the start, police had focused attention on Peterson, who acknowledged that he had an affair with another woman last year but said his wife, due to give birth in February, knew about it.

They spent days searching the waters near the Berkeley Marina, where Peterson said he went fishing the day his wife disappeared, and they seized the 14-foot boat and trailer he used. The bodies were later found about three miles from the marina after a storm.

Laci Peterson's family has shied from the spotlight since the bodies were discovered.

Outside the Peterson home, a memorial to Laci Peterson and the boy she had already named Connor continued to grow Sunday with additions of flowers, candles and toys.

Michelle McKinney hugged her daughter and wiped away tears as she watched her 12-year-old son add a blue and gold teddy bear.

"The baby didn't get a chance to live his life and grow up," said McKinney, 33. "She didn't get a chance to enjoy her baby."

Many in this central California city of 200,000 never met Laci Peterson, a 27-year-old with the big smile and dimples, but after the months of searching and vigils that followed her disappearance, they felt they knew her.

A makeshift wooden cross covered with aluminum foil on the Peterson lawn reads: "We prayed everyday that Laci and Baby Connor would come home. Now, Laci and Baby Connor are home with the Lord."

The city has had more than its share of yellow ribbons and tragedies.

In May 2001, Modesto resident Chandra Levy, 24, disappeared in Washington, D.C., triggering speculation about her relationship with Rep. Gary Condit. One year later, a walker found Levy's body in a Washington park, but police still have made no arrests.

Condit, a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election last year.

Modesto was also a command center after the 1999 disappearance of three women in Yosemite National Park. Five weeks later, authorities found Carole Sund, 43, her daughter, Juli, 15, and Argentina exchange student Silvina Pelosso, 16, murdered in nearby foothills. A jury convicted motel handyman Cary Stayner last year and sentenced him to death.

"Once again we're being brought together. I don't like what we're being brought together for the last three years, but we stand together," said Diana Morris, 33. "We stand together and we're behind each other."

Many in this central California city of 200,000 never met Laci Peterson, a 27-year-old with the big smile and dimples, but after the months of searching and vigils that followed her disappearance, they felt they knew her.

A makeshift wooden cross covered with aluminum foil on the Peterson lawn reads: "We prayed everyday that Laci and Baby Connor would come home. Now, Laci and Baby Connor are home with the Lord."

The city has had more than its share of yellow ribbons and tragedies.

In May 2001, Modesto resident Chandra Levy, 24, disappeared in Washington, D.C., triggering speculation about her relationship with Rep. Gary Condit. One year later, a walker found Levy's body in a Washington park, but police still have made no arrests.

Condit, a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election last year.

Modesto was also a command center after the 1999 disappearance of three women in Yosemite National Park. Five weeks later, authorities found Carole Sund, 43, her daughter, Juli, 15, and Argentina exchange student Silvina Pelosso, 16, murdered in nearby foothills. A jury convicted motel handyman Cary Stayner last year and sentenced him to death.

"Once again we're being brought together. I don't like what we're being brought together for the last three years, but we stand together," said Diana Morris, 33. "We stand together and we're behind each other."

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