- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

MODESTO, Calif., Jan. 10 (UPI) — The sonar search for a pregnant Modesto, Calif. woman who disappeared from her neighborhood on the day before Christmas has yielded an object at the bottom of San Francisco Bay late Thursday that police said could be a body.

Divers will enter the frigid Bay on Saturday to inspect the suspicious object that was picked up on sonar near the Berkeley marina where Laci Peterson's husband said he had gone to fish on the day she vanished.

"A further search today in the area of the Berkeley Marina revealed an object on the sonar device that is possibly a human body," Modesto police spokesman Doug Ridenour said in a press release.

"Weather and diver fatigue did not permit divers to examine this object today," the statement said. "Saturday, weather and conditions permitting, divers will attempt to examine the object and determine what exactly it is."

The 27-year-old Peterson's husband, Scott, had produced a parking lot receipt from the marina area after reporting his wife missing on Christmas Eve. Mr. Peterson, who has not been named a suspect in the case, told police he had left his wife that morning to fish by himself for the day.

His wife, who was expecting her first child on Feb. 10, planned to take the family dog for a walk along a nearby trail.

Mr. Peterson said he had tried to call his wife in the afternoon from the marina and could not reach her. When he got back to Modesto, he found their unattended golden retriever in the yard with its leash attached.

San Mateo County sheriff's deputies, using sidescan sonar, found nothing Wednesday in their search of the marina. Sidescan sonar is able to produce three-dimensional images of objects at the bottom of a body of water and can cover large areas rapidly.

"It's a very expensive piece of equipment and they volunteered their officers and their time to assist us," Modesto Police Sgt. Ron Cloward told reporters earlier Thursday. "We cleared most of the area with it and we had divers over there again today to further the search and clear their area as well."

An intensive search of the Modesto area has failed to turn up any sign of Peterson, whose purse was found in the house.

Volunteers, many on horseback, continue to search the rural Modesto area — a semi-rural, bucolic area that has numerous farm fields and bodies of water.

Scott Peterson, who comes from an affluent San Diego family, has refused to talk to reporters, saying he does not want to shift the public spotlight away from the search for his missing wife.

(Reported by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles)

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