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Mother-in-Law Testifies Against Scott Peterson

Murder victim Laci Peterson's parent says defendant avoided being alone with her and making eye contact.

June 08, 2004|Donna Horowitz | Special to The Times

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — Scott Peterson acted oddly and didn't seem concerned about his wife's welfare in the weeks after her disappearance, the woman's mother said Monday.

"I'd try to schedule meetings," Sharon Rocha said. "He'd always cancel. I thought he was trying to avoid being alone with me."

Under questioning by Stanislaus County Deputy Dist. Atty. Rick Distaso, Rocha said that Peterson's actions on the evening he told family members she was missing made her feel "a little bit suspicious."

Peterson, 31, a former fertilizer salesman from Modesto, is accused of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, around Dec. 24, 2002, and dumping her body into San Francisco Bay. Her body and that of the couple's unborn son washed up four months later near where Peterson said he had gone fishing on the morning of Dec. 24.

In testimony, Rocha said that when she went to search for her daughter that day in a park near the couple's house, she saw Peterson about 20 to 30 feet away with the leash of the family dog in one hand. She said he was looking in the river.

Rocha said that when she yelled to get Peterson's attention, "he never acknowledged I was calling out his name."

She said that later that night she was finally able to ask him questions about what Laci's plans had been for the day, but that he never made eye contact. She said Peterson told her Laci had planned to go to the store, make gingerbread and walk the dog.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos asked Rocha if she had ever seen Peterson become violent or angry at Laci. Rocha answered "no, no."

Questioning Monday also focused on Laci's walking habits during her pregnancy.

During opening arguments, Geragos had said that Laci might have been kidnapped by someone with a grudge against her as she walked her golden retriever.

On Monday, when Geragos asked whether Laci had taken any long walks during a trip to Carmel not long before she disappeared, Rocha said she knew nothing about any such walks.

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