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tv   Dateline NBC  NBC  April 21, 2017 9:00pm-11:01pm EDT

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♪ música ♪ the surface that is truly evil. >> reporter: tonight, a dateline investigation, the laci peterson story. >> i miss her smile and her laughter, i everything about her. >> it's more difficult to talk in public about it now. >> reporter: the news swept the nation when she vanished, laci peterson, the beaming young mom-to-be. >> please, please let her come home to us! >> reporter: tonight, almost 15 years later, exclusive new information, prosecutors break their silence in their first extensive tv interview.
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>> you put so much of your life into it, it stays with you. >> finally hear the story he told. >> grabbed some pizza from the fridge. >> reporter: then jumped in the shower -- >> reporter: his rarely seen police interrogation! >> you have no idea where laci is. >> i do not. >> we couldn't find anything wrong with this guy. >> he was that charming. >> reporter: and surprising details from the other woman, who helped uncover the truth. >> it still affects me emotionally. >> did scott peterson kill his wife? >> i don't believe he did. >> i mean, really. who else could have done it? >> i'm glad you asked that question. >> i'm lester holt and this is dateline. here's keith morrison with "the laci peterson story." lived a sweet, pregnant, woman, with a radiant smile. and outside of friends and family, hardly anyone knew her
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name. >> can i help you? >> my son-in-law called. he was playing golf. my daughter's been missing since this morning. she's eight month's pregnant. >> reporter: she would never know, of course, how famous that name of hers was about to become. >> we have no indication, no significant leads at this point. >> reporter: would never know that a curious, sympathetic, puzzled nation had cast an eye her way. laci peterson. she was 27 years old. and, on the night before christmas, she was gone. >> laci, if you're out there and can hear us and see us, we love you and we're searching, we're looking. >> reporter: it hit something. something in the air. the zeitgeist, that name, that smile, that mystery, impossible to put down. >> whoever has her, please, please, please let her go. bring her back to us. >> we love her so much. and we want her back. >> "please let us have her back." >> reporter: and then there was
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him. the husband. the inscrutable scott peterson. >> i really don't care what people think of me as long as it continues to keep laci's picture, description, tipline in the media. >> reporter: before our very eyes he would morph from a faithful husband who loved his wife. to an object of suspicion and outrage. such a circus the whole sad thing sometimes seemed to be. >> scott. hey why don't you come and talk to us and tell us the truth? >> reporter: but for all the noise, all the breathless coverage, the hours of tv, the acres of tabloid. there was, and is, a story never completely told until tonight. a story the prosecutors are telling on television for the first time. >> what do you think of scott peterson, his personality? >> he's a very unusual person, he's clearly very -- he's -- i think he's very smart, i think he thinks he's very smart.
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>> reporter: the story the detectives saw first hand. >> when somebody's in a position like him, and they didn't do it, usually they'll say, "take blood. take a polygraph. i don't care." but scott wouldn't do that. he'd only go to a point. >> he's just cool as a moose. >> he was steve mcqueen cool -- >> reporter: the story of what happened to her, too -- the other woman who's name was also thrust into a cultural moment, amber frey. >> what does a saga like that do to a person's life? >> well, i'd say -- i mean, from day one it completely changed my life. >> reporter: and the story told by a frustrated ex-journalist, convinced that the cops, the prosecutors, the public, got it all wrong. >> did scott peterson kill his wife? >> i don't believe that. i don't believe he did. >> reporter: and tonight, a video we found buried in the court archives. >> so what you're telling me, scott, is there's no -- you have
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no idea where laci is? >> i do not. >> reporter: scott peterson talking to a detective just hours after sounding the alarm. laci was missing. but before we get there, we'll begin here, with laci peterson's mother sharon rocha surrounded -- fortified really by laci's best friends. stacey boyers, lori ellsworth, and renee tomlinson. >> they seem to make you feel cheerful -- >> they do. they help a lot -- >> you can see that there's -- >> i'm glad they're here. >> but it's tough still, huh? >> it is tough. >> reporter: perhaps harder than ever to talk about it, she said to talk about her long dead daughter, whose case so captivated the country. >> there are people growing up who probably either don't remember or never knew about laci peterson, tell me about laci. >> i moved to modesto in the third grade. >> and -- i knew nobody. and she was one of the first people i met. and there was no not meeting
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her. >> reporter: you get the idea. big personality. >> it just makes you want to whistle. >> she made everybody laugh and welcome and just with a smile. she could smile and you would know that that is the girl that you're going to be probably spending the rest of the night talking to or -- >> or listening to. >> laughing at, or listening to. maybe not talking so much, but. she was hard to get a word in edgewise. >> reporter: talkative, smart, tenacious. >> "you have us?" >> "i have you." >> "is it working?" >> reporter: a person who went for what she wanted -- the way she did for scott peterson. >> how did laci meet scott? >> at -- a café where scott worked. >> reporter: or at least saw him there. and just like that gave a waiter her phone number, to pass on to scott. >> she wasn't bashful. >> reporter: and laci's mother liked scott. liked him a lot. >> very charming, very polite, perfect gentleman --
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>> bring you roses, that sorta thing? >> he'd had a dozen roses for laci and then a dozen rose -- roses for me. so, of course, i was impressed. >> reporter: the courtship was like that, old fashioned. in what seemed like a good way. >> he actually asked our permission to marry laci. and we gave him our permission. >> reporter: there was a big wedding in the summer of 97. and by the turned of the millenium scott was a fertilizer salesman in modesto. laci a substitute teacher. his job took him on the road a lot but they were happy. >> did the three of you get to know the two of 'em together much before -- >> uh-huh. i thought he was a great guy. >> we thought they were great together. >> she was always happy. it was almost a joke of, "gosh, does he have a brother?" >> reporter: though laci struggled to get pregnant, after nearly five years of marriage that came too. >> the day after my baby shower that she threw for me, she took a pregnancy test and called everybody very early.
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>> very early the next morning. >> reporter: soon enough the petersons learned they were having a boy. they readied the nursery and decided to name him conner. laci was nearly 8 months pregnant by christmas, the last christmas before little conner was due. >> you were supposed to have -- christmas eve dinner. is that right? >> yes. i was. she was havin' christmas day. and i was havin' christmas eve dinner. that was when he called. it was close to 6:15. he called and asked if laci was -- >> with me. when i said, "no, she's not here." "well, she's missing." >> reporter: and that was the beginning, christmas eve 2002. laci peterson with her bright smile was nowhere to be found. >> reporter: when we cool back, the missing mom to be becomes national news. >> there was a $500,000 reward. >> i was absolutely panicked.
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>> reporter: what was it about this woman, this man, this case, that so quickly gripped the nation? was it her smile? was it because it happened christmas eve? subject for some phd thesis, that. but at the beginning, it was like a thousand other such cases, a stomach- flipping phone call. she's missing. >> i've had a child for missing -- for ten minutes. and the -- the sense of, "oh, my god. something may have happened here," is so powerful, it just takes over everything, right? >> it does, it does, it does. it absolutely does. >> reporter: laci peterson's mother sharon, remembers telling her son in law scott, check with the neighbors, call laci's friends. >> and he did? you all -- >> yeah. we all got a call. >> and he asked me if i'd seen her that day. "have you seen laci at all -- today?" i said, "no, i haven't." and he's like, "well, she's -- she's missing." >> did he seem frantic, or worried, or what? >> a little bit. >> reporter: worried enough to ask for their help. >> so, did you all go over to his -- >> yeah. yep. >> to their place? >> reporter: sharon rocha's long time boyfriend ron grantski called the cops. >> can i help you? >> my son-in-law called he was
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playing golf. my daughter's been missing since this morning, she's eight month's pregnant. >> reporter: golfing on a cold christmas eve? odd but, okay. meanwhile sharon followed up on something scott told her, that he came home to find the dog out in the yard -- wearing a leash. >> i went directly to the park. >> because of that leash on the dog -- >> yes. we had walked together in the park before i was absolutely panicked, i was running around. i was looking in trash cans. i was screaming her name. >> reporter: no sign of her. anywhere. laci's friends spent the early hours of christmas morning making "missing" posters. >> the next morning, i walked in. was it christmas day? we had fliers and tape --and everything. >> we're gonna start passing these out to the um family and volunteers that have been here every day since day one. >> we hit the ground running. we just -- get up the next day and -- >> i know i didn't sleep for days. >> this is to oakdale, yeah, that's where i'm going to be. >> reporter: pretty soon the whole town of modesto seemed to
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be looking for laci peterson. >> please have prayers. anyone out there help bring her home. bring her home alive. >> reporter: of course the police were searching, too. full-out. >> how long did the search go on in here anyway? >> well, all night and then all the next day. >> reporter: al brocchini, the first detective on the case, watched as searchers scoured the area. >> they were everywhere here, right? they were just -- >> well, yeah. they did a grid search, meaning they would've -- they would've been in eye contact and walked this whole area. >> reporter: brocchini and his partner jon buehler had a feeling, from the start, laci peterson missing wasn't going to end well. >> because she didn't lead an at-risk lifestyle. she didn't hang around at the bars. and she wasn't out two-timing him or doing anything like that. i mean, she was a girl that was just ecstatic, from everything that i learned about her, of being a mother. >> reporter: so she wasn't someone who would just walk away. and yet, in the anxiety, hope.
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an idea formed in the minds of those who loved laci, that somehow this might turn out all right. >> we know we're going to find laci. we know we're going to bring her home alive and safe. >> we were gonna find her. like, i thought somebody kidnapped her. i -- that's what i thought, just for the baby or something. here's lori, renee and stacey along with another friend in january of 2003. >> there's a $500,000 reward for her and you know, the baby's safe return. just take that, you know? take the money and give us laci back. >> reporter: so, in those first days an exhausted sharon rocha -- her ex- husband, laci's father dennis beside her, went on t.v. and pleaded with a kidnapper. >> we would just like to send a message out there that whoever has her, please, please, please let her go. bring her back to us. >> we love her so much. >> reporter: early on, there were clues the cops uncovered that made kidnapping seem plausible remember the couple's dog with the leash attached
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scott found it in the backyard? a neighbor said she saw the peterson's dog wandering the street earlier that day. so, maybe laci was kidnapped while walking the dog. and just about the time laci disappeared, there was a burglary right across the street. so, did she witness a crime? did burglars take her? the police wanted to know. >> a reward for information for the identity of the uh -- the persons responsible for the burglary. >> reporter: then two men were caught, didn't take long. and soon enough one of them, showed up in a t.v. interview. >> i went and picked up the safe and took it to my house and that's all that i had to do with it. i didn't have nothin' to do with a that lady's disappearance. >> reporter: and police agreed. no connection to laci. so they kept digging. >> we were also looking at and
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researching up all the sex registrants and the parolees, people with histories of violent crime, abductions, kidnappings, sexual assaults and things -- >> a lot of them -- >> hung out at the park, in that area -- >> we had some, and so we were clearing those guys. we were interviewing them and we were verifying their alibis. >> reporter: what the police were not saying was that homicide detectives had other suspicions. of course they talked to laci's husband, scott. >> we're certainly gonna look at scott first. he's the closest to laci. and that's where you start when you're working a case like this -- >> of course. >> reporter: that was behind the scenes, in front of the camera, the official police statements were more circumspect. >> let's focus on the fact that we would still like to find laci alive, but we have to understand what the other possibilities are. the other possibilities are, that she could be, you know, a victim of foul play. >> reporter: those closest to laci, who at first were having trouble grappling with the whole idea of foul play, certainly couldn't fathom that scott had anything to do with laci's disappearance. back then, early 2003, even sharon rocha told us,
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impossible. >> the people who know scott and laci have no doubt whatsoever that he has nothing to do with her disappearance. >> reporter: it's a powerful thing, true belief. but when it comes crashing down, my, my, my. >> reporter: coming up, scott peterson, down at the station -- >> when did you realize you were going to go fishing? >> that was a morning decision. >> reporter: was there something fishy about his story. >> fishing for, he didn't know what bait he was using.
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>> reporter: didn't take long for the laci peterson story to nationwide. >> the more leads we get, the more -- she's out there. somewhere. >> reporter: friends and family desperate to get the story out talked to anyone, everyone. but they noticed one person seemed to stay in the background.
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scott. grieving in private, his parents told us back in 2003. >> he's brave but he's just devastated. >> he just would not be a good spokesperson. >> reporter: but there was one camera scott couldn't shy away from -- -- at the police station. here is scott with detective brocchini just hours after he reported laci missing. in this rarely seen video, you can watch scott. hear his words. does he seem like a worried frantic husband? you'll see. >> just tell me about the morning? >> um, ok. i don't know what time we got up. probably, uh laci got up and went -- and, um, i assume -- had -- she had some cereal for breakfast. >> was he okay with talking to you? was there any hesitation at all? >> no. he agreed. he was okay with it. >> didn't ask for an attorney or anything like that? >> no, didn't -- didn't ask for an attorney. >> and then she was going to the
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store to buy for christmas morning breakfast tomorrow. and that was gonna be, uh, an involved prep. so that was her afternoon -- was prepping the breakfast. and she was gonna make gingerbread cookies for tonight. >> reporter: as brocchini sat there he was struck by how impassive scott was, even as he revealed he didn't go golfing. >> when did you realize you were gonna go fishing? >> well, that was the morning decision. it's either -- >> that was a morning decision? >> go play golf at the club, or -- or go fishing. >> ok. >> it seemed too cold to go play golf at the club. >> reporter: he said he drove to his warehouse office a few miles away . >> um, and you want over to your shop? >> right. >> and what'd you do over there? >> uh, i assembled my, uh, mortiser. know what a mortiser is? >> no. >> it's a woodworking tool, to make tables. >> yeah. >> i just got that, so i assembled it.
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um, checked my email. sent one email. then hooked the boat up, and went. >> reporter: then, said scott, he drove to the berkeley marina about 90 miles away. parked his car, and put his boat in the water. >> when you got in your boat and you took off, did you go very far, or --? >> well, i mean, probably a couple miles. i went north, um, found a -- like, a little island kinda deal there. um, the island, uh, had a bunch of trash on it. i remember a big sign that said, "no landing." it looked like some broken piers around it. and i just assumed it would be a decent, you know, shallow area. >> did you troll? >> little bit. i mean a lot of -- lot of the reason i went was just to get that boat in the water. >> reporter: details that sounded plausible enough. except to detective brocchini.
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>> he drew a short straw when he got a fisherman to talk to. >> me and the -- and the officers. they were fishermen too. his fishing pole is like one you'd use in a stream. and his lures are jigs that you would use in the delta he didn't even know what he was fishing for. he didn't know what bait he was using. and he didn't have any gear that was really meant to be fishing in the bay. >> reporter: brocchini also wondered, why had scott bought a fishing license days before if he didn't know he was going to fish that day. >> there's a receipt dated december 20th. that's when he bought his fishing license. but then he said, "it was a last-minute decision." he said, "it was just that day." that, the -- the last-minute decision. so -- >> so that didn't quite jibe. >> that doesn't, that doesn't jibe. >> reporter: the detective was, to say the least, skeptical of scott's fishing story. >> why would you go 90 mile -- all, if all you're doing is you want to try out your new boat, right, and you live in modesto, i could tell you 20 places within 25 miles of here you could put that boat in the water
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and te -- try it out. >> reporter: but scott said he had proof, a parking receipt from the marina. >> yeah, here -- here -- "here's my receipt," guess just to prove i was there, you know. so i mean, i've -- i've fished that berkeley marina lots of times. i've probably got four or five of them on my dashboard right now. but i don't know what made him decide to, "okay, i'm done fishin'. i'll take it off my dashboard and then i'll put it in my pocket in case i need it for later." i don't know. but that just, he was ready. prepared. >> reporter: scott said the fish weren't biting that christmas eve afternoon, so he headed back to modesto, and got home around 4:30 -- where he found the dog with the leash attached. an unlocked back door, but no laci. >> uh, grabbed some pizza from the fridge. >> took the box out? >> yeah, put it on the counter like it was. uh, glass of milk --. then jumped in the shower. >> reporter: he was calm as he spoke to brocchini.
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calm, matter-of-fact, helpful. >> were you calling for laci or--? >> oh, yeah, of course. >> but she wasn't home? >> no. i assumed she was at her mom's. >> ok. so then you called over her mom's? >> that's right. >> had they heard from her? >> no. not all day. >> he answers your questions, but he doesn't do any more than that, right? is that fair to say? >> yeah, he has an answer. and -- he doesn't elaborate, doesn't get emotional. >> reporter: which the investigators thought at the time, wasn't necessarily a good thing. >> he told me, "oh, that's concerning. i get home and her car is there and the dog's running around on a leash. and you know, the door's unlocked. and her purse is here. and her f -- and that's -- that's really concerning me." but let me take all my clothes off and wash them and let me, you know, let me eat some pizza and take a shower before i even try to figure out what's goin' on here. that's concerning. that was concerning to me. >> reporter: and then the
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detective asked the question that soon everyone would be asking. >> what you're telling me, scott, is there's no -- you have no idea where laci is? >> i do not. >> most people if -- in that situation, they're gonna have a lot of questions for you. >> "well, are you guys doing this? i've heard of this. why don't you do this?" we got that from sharon. we got that from ron. we got that from laci's friends. everybody had an interest in -- in trying to get us to go faster. >> reporter: everybody, that is, but scott. now why, they wondered, would that be? >> reporter: coming up -- >> hey, beautiful, i just left a message at home. >> when i heard that, i thought he was leaving this recording for us to hear. >> reporter: scott under scrutiny. >> i hate to say it, but could he be involved with her disappearance? (vo) more "doing chores for mom"
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everyone coming together and praying just helps, helps you feel like you're doing
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something. candles and prayers and tears and though much of modesto was here, in body or spirit, not a single person understood. not yet, not for a while, why this gathering would become a defining moment. especially, perhaps, scott peterson. because, though it looked as if he might have shed a tear or two, he seemed to be avoiding laci's family and friends. what about the vigil? >> he wasn't -- >> he wasn't on the stage. >> no, he wasn't on the stage. >> no, he was on the phone. >> reporter: sharon wouldn't know for a long time the truth about scott's phone call that night, but it was that night after the vigil that privately sharon first allowed her mind to go to that very dark place. >> remember it was new year's eve when i started going back and forth, but just to myself. i wouldn't say it out loud. i was afraid to say it out loud. but i started just kind of thinking, "could he be involved with her disappearance?" >> reporter: sharon was a
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frantic mess and she'd look at him and he just seemed so detached somehow. >> never once did he say, "oh, my god. where is laci?" >> no. >> where could she be? i hope she's okay. i hope, you know, she's not harmed. never, ever -- >> reporter: you were feeling -- >> ever. >> reporter: that panic. even as you talk about it, you can see a little bit of it left. he did not seem to have that sense? >> he did not have it. and i actually made out a list of, "did he and -- or didn't he?" i had a list. and there was a lot more on the did than didn't. and that's what really scared me. >> reporter: it scared her. she didn't want to believe it. didn't want to go there. so she didn't put that thought out of her mind. but the detectives were trained to go there. they turned over everything scott said and did and didn't do and wondered why. there was a slickness, somehow, a fake-feeling from the very beginning. like the voicemail he left laci while he drove home from the berkeley marina. >> hey, beautiful.
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i just left you a message at home. >> when i listened to that, i thought, "nah, this doesn't sound right." been married five years, she's pregnant. and he's talking to her like they're on their third date. >> i'm leaving berkeley. i'll see you in a bit, sweetie. love you. bye. >> the tone to it that he was leaving this recording for us to hear so that he would appear to us as this devoted husband, and not somebody that was involved in foul play. >> reporter: of course it could also be that he was just a romantic guy. >> we couldn't rule that out at all. >> reporter: and there was this -- under the circumstances, the very day laci disappeared, why was he almost obsessively fastidious when they searched his pickup truck? >> he was worried about the wrong things. i'm searching his truck. and i open the door, and it bangs into the land rover. he was right up there he goes, "al," and he has a glove, i'll hold this or i'll move my truck. but you know, i wrote it in my police report, because i'm like, "that's weird." >> reporter: these weren't hard
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facts of evidence of course. just a rising damp of suspicion. things like when did scott get a boat? >> the detective said that -- he said that he had taken his boat out. and i said, "what boat?" >> "what boat?" >> "scott doesn't have a boat." until -- >> reporter: turned out. >> he did have a boat. yes. >> reporter: scott had told brocchini that laci knew about the boat. how could it be that sharon had no idea that scott had recently bought a used 14-foot gamefisher? >> the light didn't just go on in my head and say, "oh, he killed her." no it didn't. i treated him like a husband and the husband of a missing person, but i had suspicions. and i asked him to take me to the boat. show me the boat. >> reporter: very late that first night, the detective and scott went to scott's warehouse, where he worked and kept his boat. you came here that night, right? >> yeah. >> reporter: what did he tell you when you came here and you wanted to look inside and you had your flashlight out, and stuff? >> he said, "there's no electricity."
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>> reporter: no lights, which was a lie. >> so i just said, "open the door and i'll put my headlights in there." >> reporter: to the detectives it all smelled bad. so they did the things detectives do. they got a wire tap on scott's phone, hid a g-p-s under his car, and they watched him constantly. sometimes, they noticed he watched them, too. >> i was surveilling him and i'm in an unmarked car. i'm parked three blocks away in a high school parking lot full of cars, and i'm watching this place with binoculars. and all of a sudden, i look in my side view mirror, and scott. so i got out of the car. and he -- he says, hey al. >> reporter: it was just odd. as was this 16 days after laci disappeared when searchers in the bay found something. >> sonar detected an object underwater that could be a body. >> reporter: sharon froze. terrified. she was still hoping laci was alive.
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listen to this recording from the wiretap on scott's phone. you can hear sharon's relief when she called to tell him it wasn't laci. >> hi, scott. this is mom. just want you to know it was a boat anchor. of course we knew it wasn't laci. but i just wanted you to know, um. >> reporter: that's scott whistling in the background he seems relieved too. >> like, "i just dodged that one." now you can interpret that both ways, that, "oh, my. good, i'm glad it wasn't laci." but for us, with all the things that led up to that point, it was more like he felt lucky that that really wasn't her, suggesting to us that we were looking in the right spot. >> reporter: and yet he seemed such a boyscout he had no secret criminal past no history of being abusive. >> have you guys -- you guys -- have you had any problems -- uh, marriage problems? >> no. >> everything is good? >> mm-hmm. >> reporter: so they stewed in their suspicion, aware they really that nothing on him. >> we couldn't find anything wrong with this guy. i don't think there was a wart on his body. i don't think he ever had a
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traffic ticket. i mean, he really was the guy you want to marry your sister. we were waiting for that one thing that showed that he wasn't this perfect guy. >> reporter: in one remarkable moment, they'd get that and more because of her. >> reporter: coming up -- >> he was single and looking for the one. >> reporter: enter amber. >> hey, sweetheart. >> reporter: did you start to think about, i could actually make a life with this man? >> i did. even more tempting than ever,
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>> reporter: october 2002. months before laci peterson disappeared and a hundred miles away in fresno, california, something happened that would make all the difference in the case. a young woman named amber frey got a phone call from a friend about a guy. >> i was doing really well in getting my career started in massage therapy and a single mother.
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and was told about this great guy that -- that my friend wanted me to meet. >> reporter: he sounded perfect. >> she said he had a good sense of humor. good looking. had -- had a career. he -- he was single and looking for the one. like, soul mate. >> reporter: he was serious about this. >> yeah. >> reporter: his name -- scott peterson. it was late november when they met in person. and it was electric. >> i mean, we just had a really great first date. like, really good. >> reporter: sometimes you meet somebody, it's very easy to talk to them. you feel as if there's no wall between the two of you. >> right. >> reporter: it was like that? >> yeah. >> reporter: he wooed her, fast, with strawberries and champagne. it was early, bright, and exciting. >> absolutely. >> reporter: he was eager to bond with amber's little girl. >> he was really sweet with her. she was excited. we had planned a picnic and a little hike.
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she held both of our hands as we walked and was comfortable with him. >> reporter: that must've been very sweet at the time. >> it was. >> reporter: and it's not always you find a man who is comfortable with the idea that you have a child or children. >> right. >> reporter: he bought them both gifts. he brought groceries to their house, he made dinner. he was considerate, caring. even in voicemail. >> hey, sweetheart. scott here. i'm on my way -- driving to the gym here to do my weekly five-minute workout. see how you're doing. um, i'll try to give you a call tomorrow. bye. >> it was going really good. i was really excited. he was always complimenting. you know, like, "you leave the best messages." and, you know, "looking forward to seeing you." >> reporter: all so perfect. what scott never mentioned, of course, was that he was married. his wife was laci, and he and laci were readying a nursery for their first born, who was on his way. no, amber knew nothing of that, and yet something wasn't sitting right with her, she thought.
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why, when he called her, was there so often the sound of running water in the background, as if he was masking the sound of their conversation? >> it was just odd. like, why are you talking to me in the shower? you know, he kind of blew it off. like it wasn't a big deal. >> reporter: but then early december -- >> he had called me one day saying he really needed to talk to me and i could hear in his voice he was worried or concerned or something was going on. >> reporter: scott was contrite. said he had a confession to make. >> he apologized because he wasn't honest with me that i'd asked if he had ever been married and -- and -- that, in fact, he had lost his wife and this would be the first holidays without her. >> reporter: and that's the expression he used? "i lost my wife." >> yes. and he was crying and just, you know, like, very emotional. >> reporter: it was a tender moment, said amber. and she felt compassion for him. >> i thought, "well, maybe she
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died of, you know, cancer or in an accident," or, i mean, because obvious -- his -- his words were obviously, you know, something recent or more recent. >> reporter: yeah. sure. did you ask? >> i didn't ask. i didn't wanna pry because he was so emotional. >> reporter: with that secret off his chest, scott gave her a new cell phone number where she could reach him, when he took a long planned trip to europe over christmas. that is -- >> if you still wanna talk to me after," you know, because -- >> reporter: after i've told you this. >> right. and so i was like, "yes. of course." >> reporter: did you start to think about, "wait a minute. i could actually make a life with this man"? >> you know, i -- i did. >> reporter: and yet? even here, december 14, as they got ready for a christmas party with amber's friends, the little beast of doubt was worming its way into her mind. >> i was starting to feel that woman's intuition. something just wasn't right. >> reporter: really? >> yes.
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>> reporter: while he was in europe, he told her, she should write to him at a post office box in modesto. but he had told her he lived in sacramento -- so why modesto? why these odd questions she couldn't answer? she had a cop friend. she called him. could he check up on scott peterson from sacramento? a few days later, her friend called back. >> he said that he found an article and that he was gonna print it and bring it to me. i said, "okay." >> reporter: that was dec 29th. scott had left for europe two days earlier. or so he said. and then amber read the article. >> i was in disbelief of what i'm reading because i -- it sounds like him. fertilizer salesman. modesto. i don't think there was a full picture of him, but there was -- his truck was in this article. >> reporter: so were these words -- "pregnant and "missing." >> i need this confirmed.
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i don't wanna believe what i just read. >> reporter: kind of turning your world upside down. >> oh, yeah. absolutely. >> reporter: and that's when amber called the modesto police. >> i reach a dispatcher, and i said, "i've been dating this person. i just wanna know if this is the same person." >> reporter: sure. >> and she just kept saying, "okay. okay." okay, it is? or okay, what? i gave his birth date. i gave his full name and -- and then -- she says, "okay." i said, "okay, yes?" she goes, "yes." >> reporter: yes, amber's scott peterson and the scott peterson with the missing wife were one and the same. >> and i just remember crying. like, i don't know for how long. i was shaking. like, the adrenaline and just -- i was in shock. >> reporter: amber frey, who thought maybe she'd met "the one," was in the middle of something terrible. >> reporter: coming up -- >> we wanted to start recording
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calls. >> reporter: hushed conversations, hidden recordings. amber goes under cover. >> i lied to you. >> i was shaking uncontrollably, just so nervous and scared. to severe plaque psoriasis. proven to help the majority of people find clear or almost clear skin. 8 out of 10 people saw 75% skin clearance at 3 months. while the majority saw 90% clearance. do not use if you are allergic to cosentyx. before starting, you should be tested for tuberculosis. an increased risk of infections and lowered ability to fight them may occur... ...tell your doctor if you have an infection or symptoms... ...such as fever, sweats, chills, muscle aches or cough. or if you have received a vaccine or plan to. if you have inflammatory bowel disease, tell your doctor if symptoms develop or worsen. serious allergic reactions may occur.
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>> reporter: in all fairness to the modesto police department, scrambling to manage that flood of tips about laci peterson, amber's phone call was a barely discernible ripple. >> did they call you back right away? >> no. >> reporter: so the next day she called again and, looking over the dispatcher's shoulder at just the right moment, was detective brocchini. >> i just happened to be standing behind -- um one of them. and bev was typing. and i could see the name amber frey. and then -- she's -- "and scott peterson's my boyfriend." >> so you're seeing all this. >> i'm seeing this, so i said, "bev, are you talking to her?" and "yeah." i said, "okay, let me talk to her." >> reporter: and before long, the two detectives were in fresno listening, in person, to amber's story of scott's amorous courtship. >> it was almost like a scriptwriter was writing this. very talented with the romance he was. >> i basically just told them
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our whole relationship that we had been having and what our conversation was currently at the moment. >> and that he was over in europe somewhere. >> right. and -- and they -- you know, i think they too were just a little, like, in disbelief shaking their head. "no, he's definitely in modesto." >> reporter: scott had been lying the whole time. elaborately. he'd even called amber from a payphone at the airport to say goodbye when he supposedly left for europe -- so she'd see the caller i.d. but if amber hadn't known where scott really was, she sure knew a lot. >> and she had a mental recall that was punctuated with wine corks and all sorts of memorabilia -- >> that she had saved? >> that she'd saved from their romance. >> reporter: so then the detectives asked, could she help them in their investigation? >> well, we wanted to start recording calls. >> reporter: amber agreed. so, they went right out and bought a portable recorder, and what do you know -- >> as soon as i plug in her
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little recorder and i'm showin' her push the red button and the black button, the phone rings. >> he called. >> oh, boy. >> amber? hey. are you there? >> i'm here. >> i can barely hear you. >> and their expression. they -- they were just like, "well, i can't believe he's calling you right now." >> hey, i'll be in paris tomorrow. i'm flying to normandy right now, and hopefully the phone works better. >> i was shaking uncontrollably. my fingers were, like, just sweaty, palmy mess. and i was fumbling because i was so just nervous and scared. >> reporter: and so it began. for the next 8 days, scott peterson pretended he was traveling in europe. amber frey, pretending she was still his girlfriend. the cops, they kept looking bringing scent dogs to berkeley, divers to the bay. laci's friends held that vigil
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and prayed. all the while amber secretly recorded her conversations with scott, inwardly trembling. >> i was shaking and trying to catch my breath and calm down. there was just too much nerves there. and i would pace back and forth. >> reporter: one of those calls, of course she didn't know it at the time, was going to be notorious. >> new year's eve. that was the big one? yeah. >> amber, if you can hear me, it's new year's. >> i know. i can hear you. >> amber? >> i wish you could hear me. >> i'm, uh, near the eiffel tower. the new year's celebration is unreal. the crowd is huge. >> reporter: in fact the crowd was huge. it just wasn't in paris, it was in modesto. and they weren't celebrating. scott called amber from the vigil for laci. the one where he made himself scarce while sharon and laci's friends pleaded for help.
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and scott kept calling amber, inventing fine details of his trip. like jogging on the cobblestones of europe. >> i think i should just run on the street, because these cobblestones are slippery. >> reporter: he worked out the time difference for phone calls. >> if you go to bed at 9:00, that's six o'clock my time. >> reporter: and he kept on wooing her., unaware of who was listening. >> can i tell you how wonderful you are? that's pretty easy to do. how thoughtful you are, and amazing. you know, i always call you and i tell you you're special. and that's just not a big enough word for it. >> reporter: all very interesting, but -- >> what were you hoping for from those recorded conversations that you didn't get? >> well, of course ideally i was hoping that he would say, "no, i murdered my wife. i dumped her in the bay. and let's run off to europe." but that wasn't going to happen. >> reporter: so detectives went right at him. they asked scott to come down to the police deparment again.
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and, without telling him where they got it, they showed him a fax of a photo of himself with amber frey at the christmas party. >> and -- of course he lies when he's confronted. >> reporter: prosecutor birgit fladager. >> he sees the picture of himself with amber and he says, "that's not me." >> was it clearly him? >> it was. >> reporter: if scott suspected the detectives had somehow found out about amber, he didn't let on. and he kept calling her, and she kept recording. but he started testing her with questions. >> did you see that, uh, news on paris? >> no, i didn't actually. >> there was a bomb that exploded. >> and i was like -- what bombings? there was another time he had asked -- if i had seen the article on the -- the monarch butterflies that are in pismo, and i said, "no." i gathered right away he was asking because these were in fact something that was in the
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paper possibly. >> right. >> if i was looking at the news >> reporter: to find out, in other words, if she knew about laci. and then on january 6th, thirteen days after laci disappeared, scott told amber himself. >> you haven't been watching the news, obviously. >> no. >> um. i have not been traveling during the last couple weeks. my -- i've -- i've lied to you -- that i've been traveling. >> ok. >> the girl i'm--i'm married to-- her name is laci. >> mm-hmm. >> she disappeared just before christmas. >> mm-hmm. >> for the past two weeks, i've been in modesto with her family, and mine, searching for her. >> ok. >> she just disappeared. and no one knows.
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>> reporter: scott had no idea, of course, that amber happened to be in the police station when he offered that big admission. or that amber's responding question was a huge deal to both her and the cops. >> you came to me earlier in december and told me that you lost your wife. what was that about? >> she, she's alive. >> what? >> she's alive. >> where? she's alive? where? >> in modesto. >> and you came and told me this elaborate lie about her missing, and this tragedy and that. >> no. >> and that, that this will be the first holidays without her? >> sweetie, i never said, amber, i -- >> yes. >> i -- i --, god, i don't want to fight with you. um, you know that i -- i never said tragedy or missing. >> oh, yes, you said you've lost your wife. >> no. that -- that -- yes.
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>> you said -- obviously without me saying much, but we were -- >> i said that i lost my wife. >> yes, you did. >> i did. and yes. >> how did you lose her then -- before she was lost? explain that. there are different kinds of loss, amber. >> reporter: different kinds of loss. now what did that mean? >> reporter: coming up -- >> we did have a romantic relationship. >> reporter: revealing the truth to the world. al amber frye's fire storm. >> almost like exploding your >> almost like exploding your own bomb.e coca-cola tastes, like, so good. >> i had a panic attack, i couldn't breathe. >> reporter: when "dateline" "te tastes so good." couldn't breathe. continues. yeah, right now. i'll wait. ♪ got it? it's crazy right? when's the last time anyone on the internet agreed on anything? that was a rhetorical question. the answer is never.
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>> reporter: continuing now -- laci peterson was missing. speak out in their first full interview. >> there is something underneath the surface that's truly evil. >> reporter: it was a world of pain, that january of 2003. sharon rocha was still gripping onto a slipping remnant of hope
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that her laci was still alive. was barely hanging on, the day, soon after that new years eve vigil when scott walked into the house. >> and i asked him, "how are you doing?" and he said, "you know, i'm doing okay." and i just remember it was almost like, i was just pulling back from him thinking, "you're doing okay?" what do you mean you're doing okay? >> reporter: sharon definitely wasn't doing ok. while the cops, moving forward incrementally, needed more. >> january 3, 2003 friday. police looking for laci peterson in modesto, california want to verify her husband's alibi. >> reporter: modesto p.d. put out a bulletin: had anyone seen this truck, this boat on christmas eve? they expanded their ground search: to the foothills, the reservoirs, even mineshafts. and by mid-january, police decided they needed to tell sharon about scott's affair. >> we said, "hey, we -- we've got some information we gotta let you know about on this. and the best thing we can do is
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just give it to you." >> reporter: they showed her the photo at the amber's christmas party, the one scott said wasn't him. >> i literally thought i was going to throw up. i did i stood up real fast. because i wanted to get outta there, i wanted to get away from them. i didn't wanna hear what they were saying. >> reporter: what mother would? >> i just remember my stomach just turning. and i -- just saying -- just crying, "he didn't have to kill her." >> and that changed everything you'd ever thought about him? >> it did. >> reporter: detective buehler had told sharon about amber because, rumors were in the air. the media was sniffing about, and getting close. >> i get to the office, a reporter was right there. >> oh, boy. >> yeah. >> reporter: january 24th, local news showed up at amber's workplace. the national tabloids were not far behind. >> did you talk to them? >> no. i refused to talk to anybody. >> reporter: trapped in her office, she called detective buehler. that's when the modesto p.d. decided, that if amber's story was going to break anyway,
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they'd break it on their terms. >> we believed at the time it was probably best to get her up there, almost like exploding your own bomb. >> reporter: buehler sent two colleagues to fetch her with a statement all prepared. >> we were s -- speeding back, in a sense, getting there. and you know, having this statement written out, you know, trying to read it a few times, so it's not too foreign. >> reporter: as they drove to modesto, headquarters gathered the media. big news a-coming. >> we are waiting for modesto police to come out any moment and speak on developments in the laci peterson investigation. >> reporter: and this is the moment when amber frey burst, like a deer in headlights, onto the public stage. >> okay first of all, i met scott peterson, november 20th 2002. i was introduced to him. i was told he was unmarried. scott told me he was not married. we did have a romantic relationship. >> i had a panic attack.
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i couldn't breathe. i literally could not catch my breath. >> when i discovered he was involved in the disappear -- the laci peterson disappearance case, i immediately contacted the modesto police department. >> reporter: she spoke for just over a minute. >> i am very sorry for laci's family and the pain that this has caused them, and i pray for her safe return as well. >> reporter: and now everyone knew. and scott knew everyone knew. so, did he stop calling amber frey? no. listen to this: >> i meant to say how brave you are. i'm really glad that you -- you did that. >> it wasn't a matter of choice. >> what's that? >> it really wasn't a matter of choice. i was, uh -- they were staked out at my work all day. >> i know, but still, it -- it was incredibly brave. it just shows what amazing character you have. >> reporter: scott called to
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congratulate her, to thank her. very strange. the police were thanking amber, too. now they had new clues. like the day scott told amber he lost his wife. it was the very same day he bought the boat. coincidence? no, thought the police, had to be evidence of premeditation. the very existence of amber frey changed everything. and revealed that many little beasts of doubt had been churning about in the minds of even scott's diehard supporters. >> after amber came forward, that's when they started to open up about the things that they had been kind of hiding and holding back. >> reporter: people remembered things. like how scott once told someone he "was hoping for infertility." that he seemed uncomfortable holding babies. that he didn't want to touch laci's pregnant stomach. that he complained he was having a midlife crisis, at age 30. now, when people thought about his story that laci walked their
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dog. they remembered she'd been too tired to do that. and they remembered too the peculiar way he acted the night laci disappeared. >> we were standing in the driveway. i asked if he had called his parents. he said, "no." i was trying to have a conversation with him. and he continued to just turn away from me. he would never look me in the eye. i had to keep following him around, trying to have visual contact with him. >> reporter: because scott peterson had something to hide. >> coming up -- >> i had a romantic relationship that was inappropriate. >> reporter: scott peterson goes public, but in private, strange behavior. behavior. >> he said i think we should puh rheumatoid arthritis. the house on the market. ere are. like an "unjection™". xeljanz xr. a once daily pill for adults
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>> since christmas eve, our one and only focus is to find laci and to bring her home to us. i love my daughter so much. i miss her every minute of every day. >> reporter: on the same day that amber frey told the world about her relationship with scott peterson -- >> scott told me he was not married. >> reporter: laci's mother stood before the cameras too. it was exactly a month since laci disappeared. >> i miss sharing her thoughts and our lives together. i miss her smile and her laughter and her sense of humor. and i miss everything about her. >> reporter: sharon who kept trying to keep hope alive, found it slipping away. >> someone has taken all of this away from me and every one
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else who loves her. >> reporter: any thoughts that scott had nothing to do with it, gone too. even though sharon would not mention him by name. >> i know that someone knows where laci is and i am pleading with you, please, please let her come home to us. >> reporter: unbeknownst to them, scott was thinking about going public too. and he discussed it with, who else? amber. >> i am going to speak to the press this coming week. >> when? >> during this coming week. >> you have a date? >> well, i'm debating on when it should be done. >> okay. >> because tuesday is the, um, state of the union address. >> okay. >> so that will take up, you know, a lot of -- of time. i'm sure it will. >> and i want maximum coverage. >> reporter: he got it all right. a sudden whirl of interviews. a few days after his affair with amber was revealed, scott talked about it on nbc's bay area station. >> obviously, yes.
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i had a romantic relationship that was inappropriate and unfair to a lot of people. >> reporter: in an appearance on cbs's kovr, scott claimed laci knew. >> i told laci about the, the relationship. she knew about it and it's important between us. >> reporter: then he went on abc to assure the whole country he was innocent. >> did you murder your wife? >> no, no i did not. and i had absolutely nothing to do with her disappearance. >> reporter: and now many of the people who knew scott, had loved scott no longer believed a word he said. for the police, who'd never believed him, amber frey was just one part of an intricate and entirely circumstantial case against scott. it relied on the smallest of details, like this outtake from his interview with kovr. >> i'm glad that amber came forward. do you want me to turn that off? >> yeah, what is that? >> that's my phone unfortunately. >> well, it seemed strange his
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phone's ringing. and he's not stopping the interview to go and -- and answer it. now this could be the call that's bringing laci back to him. it could be the ransom call. it could be us, calling him and saying, "hey, we've got some good news for you, that we found her. he went over there and just shut the phone off and resumed the interview, without checking." >> didn't check. >> to see what was -- >> it to see what it was? >> not at all. one more strand. >> reporter: strands of evidence they tried to weave into a rope with which to hang scott. another strand, scott's sudden desire to sell his and laci's home just weeks after she went missing. >> he said, "i think we should get the house up on the market." and my mom said, "this isn't the time to be discussing this, scott." >> reporter: but he did sell laci's car, another strand. and then there was the cement dust at scott's warehouse. >> a lot of people use concrete anchors for small, aluminum boats. and it looked like five of these little coffee can anchors had been made there on that trailer.
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>> reporter: but only this one anchor was found. >> it's clear there was more than one. now, where are those? nobody knows. >> reporter: were the other four used to weigh down laci's body? and though scott said going fishing was a last minute decision. there were sea charts and maps of the berkeley marina on his computer from early december. and scott told police he spent time at his warehouse office on the day laci disappeared. they couldn't help but notice how secluded the place was. >> this is very isolated back here, and especially on a christmas eve. >> if you wanted to get away with something, this is a place you could do it. >> yeah. >> reporter: like move a body into a boat, thought the detective. >> we have a window here in the front and note that the screen is ajar. >> reporter: so police gathered the strands, spun the rope, and everything that happened,
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happened with a lot of people watching. >> reporter: like in mid-february when the cops returned to the peterson house with a warrant. >> that was crazy. we were inside when we're doing the search, there's all the media's out here. and we're watching ourselves on tv. >> where does scott peterson stand in all of this? >> he's not been eliminated from the investigation, nor has he been indentified as a suspect. >> reporter: not identified as a suspect. not officially. yet clearly the only person of interest. for the cops and the media. >> what've you got in the bags there? >> evidence. >> evidence? >> reporter: and sharon kept grappling with the depressing truth that she just didn't want to believe. >> i felt that i should have felt her leave this earth. i brought her into this world. i should have felt when she left so that i would've known whether she was gone or not. so, at that time i still had hope that, that she was coming home . >> it's a strange and powerful thing, though, isn't it? >> it is.
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>> you give birth to a person, and you bring them up, and you feed them, and you care for them. and -- >> and we were very, very, very close. >> yes. >> reporter: and scott? he soon faded from public view. didn't stay much in modesto. on february 19th, which happened to be the same day the cops searched scott's house, amber finally told him to stop calling her. >> i think right now, for me, scott, um, and -- and really everything that has happened in the last 50-plus days, for myself, and the family, and you -- and everything that's going in right now, i think it'd be best if you and i didn't talk anymore until there's resolution in this whole -- >> yeah, i agree with that. >> good, good. >> you're right. >> reporter: and everyone just waited. until the sea finally revealed what everybody had been waiting
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>> reporter: april 13th 2003. it was a cool day in northern california. sharon rocha was hiding from the >> it was one of those days. i just buried myself in the couch with a blanket over my head and had -- and i had all the drapes drawn. because i just knew. i felt something that day. i knew something was happening. >> reporter: she had so locked herself away that day that friends had to come to her house to tell her there was news. >> they're knocking on my back door on the slider in the backyard. and it's like, how did they even get into the backyard? well, they were trying to, of course, reach me to tell me. >> reporter: it had been nearly four months since laci
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disappeared yet somehow sharon felt more bad news was coming. early that morning when the tides were low, the body of a baby had been found on the shoreline north of berkeley the next day another body, a torso, badly decomposed was found nearby. >> the contra costa county coroner has arrived at the scene and has now recovered the remains of the victim, who at this time we are letting people know that we believe the gender of the victim is female. >> reporter: but even without positive identification. everyone knew. even sharon who, despite everything, kept trying to hold onto a shred of hope that she'd wake from a nightmare. from scott there was not a peep. >> the fact that he didn't pick up the phone and call anybody to find out if that was his wife and his baby left no doubt in my mind. >> reporter: her daughter was dead. her grandson would never be born.
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detective jon buehler had known that for a while and now he was nearly ready to arrest scott. just not quite. >> we were going to wait to serve the warrant until after the dna results were released, to confirm the bodies were laci and conner. >> reporter: by that april scott peterson was living in san diego near his parents. so, tick tick tick. detectives waited for lab results. police kept an eye on scott. >> they had the surveillance going on him for quite some time before that. >> reporter: then april 18, 2003 7 am. the lab results were still pending when scott peterson decided to play cat and mouse with whomever was after him. >> he's a pretty good driver, at least he was. he knew we were behind him. >> reporter: scott started driving erratically very fast. >> and we were trying to keep this rolling surveillance on him. we had a helicopter for part of the time. >> reporter: he stopped and started. >> he'd cross over three lanes of traffic and take an exit ramp. and of course we couldn't do
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that. we'd end up missing him. >> reporter: driving evasively at times, giving one cop the finger. how long did he lead you on this merry chase? >> oh, gosh. this was -- it seemed like it might have been a couple hours or so. maybe longer. >> reporter: scott, with police trailing, traveled 160 miles that morning. until law enforcement decided it was just too dangerous. >> we have to arrest him. and they put the lights on him and he pulled off into the entrance to torrey pines golf course. and they made contact with him as we pulled up, came out of the car, put the handcuffs on him. no hysterics, no profanity, typical, you know -- scott, you know, his -- controlled, you know, demeanor. >> reporter: what they found in the car with scott was fascinating. camping gear, four cell phones, his sister's credit card. his brother's driver's license. and cash. >> almost $15,000 in cash -- >> reporter: in cash. >> reporter: he also looked different. way different.
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by intent, clearly. when you arrested him, did he express anything that would sug -- suggest he understood that that was it, he was going away -- >> i went to search his car, he said -- "jon, can you tell me if those bodies were my wife and son?" and i just told him. i said, "scott, you already know the answer to that." >> reporter: as they drove north to modesto with their prisoner in the back seat buehler got confirmation that the dna was in the bodies were connor and laci. they told scott. >> now he's wearing sunglasses at the time. i look and i can't -- he doesn't make hardly any reaction whatsoever. >> reporter: and just a few minutes later they stopped by a roadside burger place to get something to eat. given the news he'd just received, buehler assumed scott wouldn't have much of an appetite. he was wrong. >> and he goes i'll have a double double with cheese, a small fry and a vanilla shake," like we were coming back from fishing. >> reporter: cold? that's what buehler thought. >> i've run into people that have had grief before many, many times. and this was completely off the
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charts. nobody's ever reacted this way in my presence, when it came to something like that. >> reporter: when they got back to modesto, scott was booked into jail it seemed like the end of the road for scott peterson. but the circus wasn't leaving. it was just moving up the road a bit. >> reporter: coming up -- >> i am innocent. >> he can be very smooth, but there's something under beneath the surface. >> reporter: prosecutors speak out in their first in depth television interview. >> he wanted a different life. on nearly 15 years to share. man] flo: [ amplified ] i got this. guys, i know being a first-time homeowner is scary, but you don't have to do this. man #2: what if a tree falls on our garage? woman: what if a tornado rips off our roof? flo: you're covered. and you've bundled your home and auto insurance, so you're saving a ton.
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>> is that correct mr. peterson? you're pleading not guilty to the two charges of, uh, murder plus the special, denying the special allegations? >> scott looks forward to finding out who did this to his
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wife and to his child, conner. >> reporter: and women's advocate. >> thank you for coming today. i'm attorney gloria allred. to my right is amber frey. >> reporter: gloria allred, who erected a protective wall around the story's wild card, amber frey. >> amber was not gonna be doing any interviews during the course of the case even though so many people wanted to interview her. >> sure. wasn't she offered immense amounts of money to do covers and things like that? >> there were many offers to amber if she would only provide an interview. but she needed to protect her testimony for the actual case. >> reporter: but altogether missing in the legal cacaphony, were the prosecutors, birgit fladager and dave harris. this, all these years later, is their first and only in-depth television interview about the peterson case. back then they often had to bite their tongues. >> your radio would go off in the morning, the radio alarm and the little news blurb that you would hear on the pop. >> first think you h -- >> radio station, whatever, would -- would reference the
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case, they -- they could say whatever they wanted, right? and it wasn't always necessarily true. >> good morning. >> good morning your honor. >> reporter: in court, geragos won a change of venue, though, just 90 miles or so from modesto, did anyone not know about the peterson case? >> how is scott feeling about the move? >> he just wants the trial to take place so that people will be able to see what really took place. >> reporter: scott's mom assured reporters her son was innocent. but she couldn't have been very happy when everyone decamped to the new court house and saw this billboard a local radio station bought across the street. >> "man or monster?" what'd you think when you saw that? >> well, that was when we were about to start -- >> jury selection-- >> first day of jury selection. >> so i, i think we were worried we were going to have another change of venue. >> reporter: but here it stayed. >> opening statements get underway today in the trial of scott peterson, accused of killing his wife, laci, and their unborn son. >> reporter: june 1, 2004 a year
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and a half after laci peterson vanished, her husband, scott, went on trial for her murder. and right off the bat, the prosecution told the jury about scott and amber. he winced as they showed these photos of the two of them from the night of the party, the same photos that helped get him caught. and then they showed the jury this picture of laci, same night different party, she went alone. >> the reason for the murder was he didn't wanna be married anymore and he didn't want to have a child. he wanted a different life. and amber was just a symptom of that. he didn't want what he had. >> and he wanted to be rid of what he had? >> he did. >> one way or another. >> laci and conner were -- were responsibilities and he didn't want that. >> he doesn't care about anyone but himself, he can be very smooth, but there's something underneath the surface that is truly evil. >> reporter: so, said the
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prosecutors, scott strangled or suffocated laci on christmas eve early in the morning or possibly the night before. >> and then after that, after he had done that? >> dragged her from the bedroom, out to the carport, pick-up truck backed into the carport. take her out the side door, wrapped up most likely. load her into the bed of the truck, drive over to the warehouse, move her to the boat, cover the boat. >> reporter: then after sending an email and putting together a wood-working tool, law enforcement believed he headed to the bay. but evidence of murder, that was all circumstantial, they had no incriminating dna, few forensics, just all those little strands. and in fact it didn't always go well for the prosecution as geragos worked to keep them off balance. >> we would try and present witnesses in a chronological order, in a way that made sense to our theory of the case. and they were very good at disrupting that and saying, "we're not ready for that witness."
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>> just trying to throw a monkey wrench into your smooth telling of the story? >> if it happened once maybe it was just coincidence. if it happened every single week at some point in time, it's a plan. >> reporter: it got worse for the prosecution. geragos, who believed the modesto p.d. had it out for his client, tried to make it look like al brocchini had hidden evidence. he asked him on the stand. "did you delete information from a police report about laci visiting scott's warehouse december 23rd?" >> the answer was, "i did." and then, "okay, we're done for the day." and it's like, you know, can i answer? or an -- can i say anything else?" >> and that was a very good point for him to make, because it would create the impression that in fact, laci did know about the boat as scott said she did, and it leant credibility to the rest of his story as a result. >> well, maybe, maybe not. but he could have got the whole story. >> reporter: of course, the whole story wasn't what the defense attorney wanted. that the information was in another cop's 's report. that nothing had been hidden.
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but what did the jury think? >> what was your sense of how well that prosecution was going? >> i was a bit concerned. i felt that their burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, had not yet been met. >> reporter: but the big change, the sea change, was the day she walked in. >> walking in the courtroom, you could hear bodies shifting towards the door, a lot of pressure. >> reporter: as scott watched, amber frey told the jury everything from strawberries and champagne on their first date to his tearful confession of losing his wife weeks before she went missing. >> how did you lose her then, before she was lost? explain that. >> there are different kinds of loss, amber. >> reporter: and all those phone calls were played for the jury. >> the jury could hear his words, of course, not his words
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under oath but his words on the phone call to amber and how he lied and lied and lied and even lied about lying. >> reporter: mark geragos did what he could. he went after amber, repeatedly questioned her about how much she had to drink on her dates with scott and about how often she and scott had sex and how soon. >> did the defense rattle you? >> no, he tried. >> reporter: amber didn't buckle, and the prosecution hit its stride. an expert told the jury that the baby died between december 23rd and 25th. another expert told the jury that laci's decomposition was consistent with three to six months in the water. and a search dog handler testified her dog picked up laci's scent at the berkeley marina and said the prosecutors it was obvious scott peterson knew laci and connor were gone for good. he'd even turned connor's nursery into a storage room.
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>> put office furniture, and pillows and a locking device form a car in there. scott wasn't expecting conner to ever come home. >> reporter: coming up -- >> he was a lying cheat? >> yes, he was. >> a cheater, a liar, but a killer? killer? >> i mean really, who else could have done it? you know, geico insures way more than cars. boats, motorcycles... even rvs! geico insures rvs? what's an rv? uh, the thing we've been stuck on for five years! wait, i'm not a real moose?? we've been over this, jeff... we're stickers! i'm not a real moose? give him some space. deep breaths, jeff. what's a sticker?!? take a closer look at geico. great savings. and a whole lot more. ♪
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>> reporter: four months into the trial, the defense got its chance to disprove the
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we wanted to talk to scott peterson, but he wasn't interested. turned us down, said his family, because he didn't like my coverage of the case back in 2003. >> scott's frantic story, simple yet utterly baffling was this -- >> reporter: his family still insists he's an innocent man. and we wanted to hear that from them. they turned us down, too and suggested we talk to a retired journalist named richard cole who shares their point of view, and said the prosecution theory of the case makes no sense. >> because it was so ridiculous. scott peterson kills his 160 lb wife. puts her body in the back of his truck. he then drives it to his office to pick up the boat. and then what does he do with the dead body of his wife in a parking lot?
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he goes back into the office, spends an hour on the internet sending christmas e-mail to his boss. and then he said, "oh, well, i guess i better get rid of the body now." >> reporter: cole believes that media coverage, biased against the defendant, somehow seeped inside the courtroom. >> this gigantic tsunami of media coverage, much of it false, much of it totally distorted, concentrating on things that had nothing to do with the evidence. and that basically, i think, consumed that little fact trial inside the courthouse. >> reporter: the most damaging witness against scott, he said, didn't see anything really related to a murder. but nonetheless forever tainted scott in the eyes of the public. and the jury. >> once you started looking at
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that case through an amber lens, everything he did was wrong. >> because he's a lying cheat. >> yes, he was. >> reporter: the affair with amber, said cole, made everything scott did look sinister, but didn't prove he killed laci. scott peterson was behaving pretty s -- oddly? >> his behavior does look odd. he backed in -- himself into a horrible position. >> sure. >> he's thinking if anyone ever finds out about this woman, not only will look bad for me, but that will become what this story is about. and he was exactly right. so he, very foolishly, and not very well, tried to keep her at bay with lies, thinking laci will be home next week. >> reporter: and that would explain why scott hid from tv cameras. not guilt about laci, guilt about amber. in cole's mind, scott acted like
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a man who'd expected his wife to come home. so that, said cole, is why scott didn't want a ding on the car door when the cops were searching his truck. >> sold laci's car, though? >> he did sell the car because, you know, he was not rich. the peterson family isn't rich. >> reporter: and scott hemmed and hawwed about what he was fishing for, said cole, because the whole point of the trip was not so much to catch something as it was to test the boat, before giving it to laci's stepdad ron grantski as a christmas present. >> the boat was basically a -- kind of a gift, and that's why it was kept a secret from the granskis because it was a christmas thing. >> reporter: all innocent, said cole. but why did scott tell amber, before laci vanished, "i lost my wife." >> amber confronts scott about having a wife and he says, "i lost her and this will be my
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first christmas without her"? >> yeah. scott had had that line used on him by a woman who was married. and -- he asked her if she was married. and she said -- "i lost my husband." and scott decided that he liked that and that was a really good line. >> reporter: in other words, scott was a cad. not a killer. so said cole, anyway. but then how to explain the strange similarities between scott's fishing story, and the circumstances of the murder? >> but you know, he went fishing in the bay? >> yeah. >> they found the bodies in the bay? >> yes. >> i mean, really. who else coulda done it? >> i'm glad you asked that question. let's remember the scene. she disappears. within a few days, scott's "i went fishing in berkeley" story is all over the media. >> reporter: so the real bad guys, maybe local sex offenders, or the two men arrested for the burglary across the street, took their victim to the bay. and framed scott that way. that's cole's theory, anyway. made more sense he said than the case against scott. so, what really happened on that
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cold december morning? twelve people would decide. >> members of the jury, you have heard all of the evidence and the arguments of the attorneys. and now it is my duty to instruct you on the law that applies to this case. >> reporter: after 5 months of trial, the jury went off to deliberate. one day -- two -- a week they stayed out. and nobody knew. what were they thinking? >> reporter: a life in the jury's hans.
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>> reporter: nearly two years after laci disappeared -- after nine days of deliberation -- rial finally announced -- they had a verdict. >> so it's pretty exciting and terrifying. >> reporter: as the crowds gathered out front, the reporters got into position, and everyone flooded back into the courtroom. >> what is it like for your level of anxiety. >> i felt like i was going to explode. >> a verdict is being read right now in california courtroom in the double murder case against scott peterson. there is no camera in the courtroom but an audio, live audio feed is being provided. >> we, the jury in the above entitled cause, find the defendant, scott lee peterson guilty of the crime of murder of laci denise peterson. >> reporter: finally the words sharon and all those who loved laci had been waiting for: guilty of laci's murder. and --
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>> guilty of the crime of murder of baby conner peterson. [ cheering ] >> reporter: outside the courthouse, crowds cheered. inside -- [ cheering ] >> i remember i just burst into tears. everything just comes gushing out. >> two years of -- >> anxiety. of waiting. >> reporter: a month later the jury decided scott's fate. >> we the jury in the above entitled cause fix the penalty at death. >> reporter: now scott sits on death row at san quentin . a certain irony to his residence here. if he had a window, he could look out on the bay where he launched his boat, and what was in it, that christmas eve in 2002. it's not likely he'll be put to death anytime soon. california hasn't executed anyone for more than a decade. and nearly 15 years after he sounded the alarm that his wife was missing, scott waits on his appeal and a moment of media payback.
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his family has been working with a filmmaker on a documentary they believe will show scott got a raw deal. >> reporter: sharon rocha knows she has no control of any appeal or film. she tries not to think about that or her ex son-in-law. >> i really don't give much thought to him. it's rare. >> reporter: but she does spend time thinking about other mothers and that most painful time, when laci was just missing, and she didn't know the truth. so she's become part of this sisterhood. when natalie halloway disappeared, sharon called her mom. more recently she, with stacey's help, have reached out to other families whose cases haven't gotten any attention. >> we'll use laci to help get their stories out there if we can. >> and there are other people who need attention. >> absolutely. >> brought to their -- their cases. >> reporter: you can find more about the people, sharon and stacey are trying to help on our website. >> reporter: no one has survived untouched. amber frey's life certainly never returned to what it was.
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but, if anything, she told us, the whole strange experience made her stronger. her beliefs stronger. >> i'm a christian. i'm a true believer in jesus christ. and i believe truly in my heart that god prepared my life for this. >> reporter: and she's determined to teach her own daughter something she wished she'd understood better when she met scott. >> we all have heard the expression women's intuition. that gut feeling. i think more women need to listen to that. because it's so easy for i will say a man to say, "you're crazy. like, you're being paranoid." >> reporter: sharon rocha wishes she had had some sort of gut feeling in late december 2002, when she and laci were looking forward to the new baby, their lives full of hope, back then. back in those innocent days before the rest of us heard the name laci peterson.
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or saw that smile. >> it does make you question yourself. you no longer trust your instinct or what you think you know about people or who you know or how you know them. >> reporter: laci's mother, her friends, their lives never really returned to normal. how could they? but they've adapted like humans do. stacey, lori, and rene now have their own children and those children who never met laci, know her. in a way. >> she's part of our lives. i mean, she is a part of our life still. so, that means our children need to know about that part of our lives. >> she's special and she had a baby. >> reporter: so the cemetery isn't a place of sadness for them, usually. >> i love it. because my boys get to hear about her. and they always bring cars out for conner. or i think they brought a
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baseball out this time. >> reporter: it's a place where they can celebrate a life, someone they loved. >> reporter: she's in heaven and she's in our hearts. >> reporter: their laci >> oh, how pretty. >> reporter: that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm lester holt, for all of us
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right now at 11:00, friday night lightning. we spotted a light show over parts of the area tonight. that means the umbrellas were out. nbc 10 here as people tried to


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