- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2003

MODESTO, Calif., Jan. 25 (UPI) — A 28-year-old single mother Saturday was attempting to fade back into obscurity, having amazed Modesto by coming forward to express her regret for an affair with the husband of Laci Peterson, the pregnant substitute teacher missing since Christmas Eve.

Amber Frey, a year older than the missing Laci, surprised reporters waiting for a police department news conference Friday night by taking the podium to say, "Scott told me he was not married. We did have a romantic relationship."

She said she had gone to the police as soon as she found out his wife had disappeared.

"I am very sorry for Laci's family and the pain this has caused them," Frey said as the tears began to flow, "and I pray for her safe return as well."

Police confirmed that she had come forward on her own, offered pictures as proof of the relationship and had been cleared as a suspect in the disappearance. Her child is 23 months old.

"For fear of jeopardizing the case or the police investigation, I will not comment further," she said as she asked the media to honor her privacy.

Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden repeated the request in stronger terms when he took over the podium. "It is her desire you respect her privacy. Please don't follow, harass or make any other attempts to interview her during the investigation."

Police officials said Frey had been courageous in coming forward Dec. 30 when she discovered it was Scott's wife who was missing. Police repeated the investigation was still of a disappearance, not of a murder. "We are continuing the searches," Wasden said.

TV camera crews had already been pursuing Frey, having determined her identity after reports of the affair earlier rocked the town while it was still in the grips of day and night volunteer searches for the missing Laci.

"What this is starting to do is border on pretty close to being destructive," the Modesto police chief said of the media pursuit of Frey.

"We've given the information that we feel we need to give and we need to give that information so that a young woman who had the courage to come forward and give us information will not be harassed as she tries to go on with her life," he said.

Police officials issued a press release after the news conference titled, "Relationship Verified in Peterson Case."

Earlier Friday Laci Peterson's brother, Brent Rocha, participated in a news conference by the missing woman's family, saying husband Scott Peterson confirmed to him Jan. 16 that he had been involved with another woman.

Since then, he said, Scott has become estranged from his missing wife's family and, he added, "I am no longer supporting him."

"Since Scott is no longer in communication with anyone in Laci's family and because there are so many questions he has not answered, I am no longer supporting him," Rocha said. "I am pleading with the person who took Laci to please disclose her location."

The Rocha family members, who spoke of Laci only in the present tense, all appeared hollow-eyed and deeply saddened but did not directly accuse Peterson of having anything to do with Laci's disappearance on Christmas Eve.

However Brent Rocha said he wanted to "ask Scott to fully cooperate with the Modesto police."

Police have revealed very little about what, if anything, their investigation has discovered about the mysterious disappearance one month ago. Close to 4,500 tips have been received on a special police telephone line. Forensic tests are being conducted at a state laboratory on materials removed from the Peterson home and vehicles.

The 27-year-old substitute teacher was more than eight months pregnant when she was reportedly last seen on the morning of Dec. 24 getting ready to walk the family dog at a nearby park. She had been seven and a half months pregnant when Scott's relationship with the other woman began, according to Frey Friday night.

The last person to have contact with Laci, other than her husband, was her mother who had casually spoken to her around 8:30 p.m. in the evening on Dec. 23.

Scott Peterson, 30, told police he spent that day fishing on San Francisco Bay 60 miles away and returned to find their golden retriever in the yard with its leash still attached to its collar.

His wife was due to give birth Feb. 10 to her first child, a boy they had already named "Connor."

"I miss her every minute of every day," Laci's mother, Sharon Rocha, told reporters Friday. "I miss the excitement in her voice when she talks to me about the baby."

The Rochas publicly stated in the days immediately following Laci's disappearance that they did not believe Scott Peterson had harmed his wife or was in any way connected to her disappearance.

But that solidarity was destroyed last week when Modesto police told the Rocha family that Frey had been romantically involved with Peterson and had contacted them.

"I trusted him, however Scott was not forthcoming with us," Brent Rocha said. "I'm only left to wonder what else he might be withholding."

He choked back tears and said he wished he had been able to do something that would have kept his sister out of harm's way.

"As your older brother, I only wish I had been there to defend you," he said.

The family urged Modesto residents to continue looking for any clues on their property or in the rural areas around the central California farming community where another victim of a high-profile disappearance, Washington intern Chandra Levy, had grown up.

"Someone knows where Laci is and I am pleading with you to please let her come home to us," Mrs. Rocha said. "Send an anonymous letter to the police department and tell them where she is."

(UPI reporter Hil Anderson in Los Angeles contributed.)

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