Facts About Laci Peterson's Case

In 2002 on Christmas Eve, Laci Peterson went missing in Modesto, CA. At the time, she was in her seventh month of pregnancy. Police quickly suspected her husband Scott Peterson. In April 2003, locals found the remains of Connor Peterson, and only a day later, a woman walking her dog discovered Laci. Authorities arrested Scott shortly thereafter. 

Scott Peterson maintained his innocence, though detectives and the jury believed the circumstantial evidence against him was insurmountable. In November 2004, a jury convicted Peterson of first-degree murder for the death of Laci and second-degree murder for the death of her fetus, and said he should get the death penalty, a sentence confirmed by a judge in March 2005.

In August 2020, the California Supreme Court overturned the sentence, and said Peterson could be retried on the death penalty, but was still guilty of murder.

  • Peterson Told His Mistress His Wife Was Dead Before She Actually Died

    Two weeks before Laci disappeared, on Christmas Eve, 2002, Scott Peterson told his mistress, Amber Frey, how his wife had passed away, and he was gearing up to spend his first Christmas without her. After learning about Laci's disappearance from a newspaper article, Frey reported the information to police. She became an informant and recorded almost 30 hours of phone calls over a month with Scott.

    Frey's attorney Gloria Allred believes her client's testimony and the recorded calls helped turn the jurors against Scott.

  • The California Supreme Court Overturned His Death Penalty Sentence

    On June 2, 2020, Scott Peterson asked the California Supreme Court to overturn his conviction and death sentence, alleging he did not receive a fair trial because of legal errors and the publicity of the case. Cliff Gardner, Peterson’s lawyer, argued that 12 potential jurors were reportedly discharged when they answered that they were opposed to capital punishment on questionnaires. 

    The prosecution agreed that if there was evidence that even one juror was improperly excused, Scott Peterson's sentence would have to be overturned. Gardner also alleged that two jurors were allowed to actually climb into the boat Peterson was said to have used to dispose of Laci. 

    On August 24, 2020, the California Supreme Court voted to overturn the death penalty sentence, but said Peterson was still guilty of murder, and could be retried only on the sentencing, not the murder conviction.

    The court said opposition to the death penalty was not a valid reason to dismiss jurors if they said they would be willing to impose it despite their opposition:

    While a court may dismiss a prospective juror as unqualified to sit on a capital case if the juror’s views on capital punishment would substantially impair his or her ability to follow the law, a juror may not be dismissed merely because he or she has expressed opposition to the death penalty as a general matter.

  • Upon Scott's Arrest, He Appeared As If He Was Going To Run

    When police arrested Scott, they found him on a golf course in La Jolla, CA. He was staying with his family in nearby San Diego. In his car, authorities discovered over $10,000 in cash, camping gear, his and his brother's ID, four cell phones, and 12 Viagra pills, leading them to believe he might have been attempting to flee. 

    Scott also purchased four fake college diplomas online. He told detectives the diplomas were a gag gift from Laci, but detectives also noted that the diplomas were charged to his credit card and shipped to Scott Peterson directly. He had also dyed his hair blond and had grown a beard - though some speculate this could have been because of the media attention. 

    La Jolla is near Mexico, and authorities believe Scott was going to leave the United States. Scott's father, Lee Peterson, claimed Scott was living out of his car to avoid media attention. He also said Scott had his brother's driver's license so he could receive a resident's discount at the golf course.

  • He Called His Mistress During His Wife's Vigil

    Scott called his mistress, Amber Frey, during Laci's candlelight vigil. He told Frey he was in Paris with friends for New Year's Eve. When he appeared on ABC News with Diane Sawyer, he claimed he voluntarily told police about the affair, when in actuality, Frey was the first to go to authorities after she saw Scott on television. Scott also told Sawyer he only had one affair during his and Laci's marriage, but jurors would later learn he had multiple affairs.

    Scott's involvement with Frey was serious enough that she sent out a Christmas card featuring a photo of the two of them. Frey later recovered the Christmas cards from those who received them.

  • Scott Bought A Boat Right Before Laci Disappeared

    Scott bought a boat in early December 2002, shortly before Laci's disappearance. Authorities discovered Scott paid for the boat on December 9 with only $100 bills. Then shortly before his arrest, Scott bought a car in San Diego, again with $100 bills.

    He used his mother's name, Jacqueline, in the purchase, telling the vehicle's previous owner that his feminine designation was akin to the situation in Johnny Cash's song, "A Boy Named Sue."

  • Scott Referred To Laci In The Past Tense Before Police Suspected She Was Dead

    Scott referred to Laci in the past tense before locals discovered her deceased and her case became a homicide investigation. Scott asked a detective if they used cadaver dogs to search for Laci, to which the detective replied, "No, I hadn't considered her dead yet."

    Additionally, in a Good Morning America interview, Scott told Diane Sawyer about how Laci was amazing.