- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2003

MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) An autopsy on the body of a woman that washed ashore found no obvious cause of death, the sheriff's department said yesterday, and further testing is required to determine if it is that of Laci Peterson.
Contra Costa County sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee said it could take days or even weeks before experts determine the identities of the woman whose body was found Monday and that of an infant found Sunday.
Mrs. Peterson, who was 27 when she vanished in her hometown of Modesto, was eight months pregnant and had been due to give birth to a boy in February.
"We're still trying to find out the identity of the body, and … whether or not there's any relationship between the adult female and the baby male," Mr. Lee said. "There is no obvious cause of death."
On Monday, the forensic pathologist took X-rays of the remains, did an external exam, and removed and preserved any clothing on the body. Then the autopsy began, lasting about four hours. Mr. Lee refused to comment on the condition of the woman's body or on how the body was dressed.
He said that as part of the investigation, officials have contacted an eluviation expert someone who studies how water affects corpses.
"That person will analyze the body and should be able to tell us roughly how long that body's been in the water," Mr. Lee said.
Police in Modesto, who have been searching for Mrs. Peterson for months, had been called in after the bodies were found.
"All it is at this point is they had a body wash up," said Modesto Sgt. Ron Cloward, who has headed the search. "We have no indication at this point that it has anything to do with Laci."
Mrs. Peterson's husband, Scott Peterson, told police he last saw his wife the morning of Dec. 24 as she went out to walk the dog. He said he then went fishing at the Berkeley Marina, about three miles south of where the woman's body was found in Richmond by a woman walking her dog in a park.
The baby's body had surfaced about a mile away Sunday with his umbilical cord still attached. Authorities were also studying a bone found near the Berkeley Marina on Monday.
Mr. Peterson has been questioned about his wife's disappearance but never named as a suspect. He admitted in January that he had an affair last year but denied any role in her disappearance.
His attorney, Kirk McAllister, said he had told his client about Monday's developments. "He's very concerned and broken up at the prospect that it might be his wife," Mr. McAllister said.

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