- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2003

MODESTO, Calif., Jan. 24 (UPI) — A 28-year-old single mother came forward Friday night to say she was sorry she had an affair with the husband of Laci Peterson, the missing substitute teacher, making a surprise appearance under the watchful guard of police.

"I met Scott Peterson Nov. 20, 2002," the woman said immediately after taking the podium in what police had said would be their news conference.

"Scott told me he was not married. We did have a romantic relationship," she said.

News media cameras had earlier captured images of the woman after her identity was determined, following days of speculation about the other woman whose existence was first made known to the Peterson family by the Modesto police.

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

The woman was identified by police as Amber Frey, but her place of residence was not immediately made known.

She asked that her friends not talk to the media about her and said she had chosen not to sell pictures of her and Scott Peterson together to the tabloid press.

"For fear of jeopardizing the case or the police investigation, I will not comment further," she said.

Police officials, who issued a press release titled, "Relationship Verified in Peterson Case," echoed her plea to be left alone, saying she was courageous for initially coming to them after she discovered that Scott's wife was missing.

Police said she has now been eliminated as a suspect and that, as far as they are concerned, the case is still that of a missing person, not a murder.

To the news media, Modesto's police chief had a stern request: "It is her desire you respect her privacy. Please don't follow, harass or make any other attempts to interview her during the investigation."

The unexpected appearance of the woman before the television cameras followed by a few hours a news conference held by Laci Peterson's immediate family in which the missing woman's older brother said Scott Peterson confirmed to him that he had been involved with another woman.

Since that Jan. 16 admission, Scott Peterson has become estranged from his missing wife's family, the brother said, and, he added, "I am no longer supporting him."

At the tearful family news conference in Modesto, Laci's brother, Brent Rocha, told reporters that Peterson and his wife's side of the family were no longer in communication with one another.

"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 speak 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. 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." She was nowhere to be found despite a massive search of the area by volunteers and law enforcement officers.

"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 rocked last week when Modesto police told them that a woman in Fresno who had been romantically involved with Peterson had contacted them. The woman supported her allegations by providing photos of herself with Scott Peterson in attendance at a recent social affair.

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

Rocha 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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