On 13th April 2003 an horrific discovery was made on the shoreline of San Francisco Bay north of the Berkeley Marina. It was a late term male fetus, and the next day a female torso was found in the same area, missing its feet, hands and head. Investigating police identified the remains as those of Laci Peterson and her unborn son, reported missing by husband Scott Peterson some 14 weeks before.
Despite an inconclusive autopsy, hampered by extensive decomposition, investigating police believed that the pregnant Laci had been murdered, and became increasingly convinced that Scott Peterson was the culprit.
Their investigations revealed that he had been engaged in several extra marital affairs and that he had lied to police during questioning. A forensic search of Peterson’s home found a strand of hair on a pair of pliers aboard Peterson’s boat – a hair that was believed to be Laci’s.
Peterson was charged with two counts of murder – in the first degree for his wife Laci and second degree for his unborn son. The case attracted enormous media interest with articles in Vanity Fair and The Washington Post, along with television segments on Fox News and CNN. Television documentaries about the murder were also broadcast in 2004 and 2005.
His trial began in June 2004, with the prosecution suggesting the motives of an extra marital affair, financial difficulties and a desire to escape from marriage as the main drivers behind his actions. Peterson however maintained his innocence throughout.
He was eventually found guilty on both murder counts and sentenced to death with the judge describing Laci’s murder as “cruel, uncaring, heartless and callous”. The trial was later described a “media lynching” by Mark Geragos, a defence attorney.
Scott Peterson remains on Death Row at San Quentin State Prison where his defence team continues to work through the appeals process.
Image: Mugshot of Scott Peterson taken in 2011 by the California Department of Corrections, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.