- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2003

SACRAMENTO (AP) — Ten months after a pregnant Laci Peterson vanished from her Modesto home, prosecutors are about to lay out evidence that her husband murdered her and their unborn son.

A preliminary hearing will get under way today to determine whether Scott Peterson must stand trial on murder charges that could bring the death penalty.

The hearing in Modesto is expected to reveal the most detail to date about the evidence amassed by investigators in the case, which riveted the nation after the substitute teacher disappeared on Christmas Eve.

Mr. Peterson reported his wife missing when he returned home from a solo fishing trip near Berkeley. His 27-year-old wife was eight months pregnant with a boy whom they planned to name Conner.

The case was portrayed as an American tragedy, with Mrs. Peterson’s smile beaming from photos and videos. The expectant parents seemed like the All-American couple until Mr. Peterson’s mistress surfaced and he admitted having an affair.

In April — nearly four months after Mr. Peterson and other family members led hundreds of volunteers to search canals, reservoirs and wildlands — the decomposed remains of the mother-to-be and her fetus were found by dog walkers along the San Francisco Bay, within miles of where Mr. Peterson said he had been fishing Dec. 24.

The arrest and subsequent hearings did little to reveal what clues led investigators to suspect Mr. Peterson from the beginning.

Leaks led Judge Al Girolami to impose a gag on participants in the case and seal most of the police records to protect Mr. Peterson’s right to a fair trial.

Voluminous court filings have provided glimpses of the evidence that defense attorneys will try to prevent prosecutors from presenting: DNA analysis of Mrs. Peterson’s hair found on pliers in Mr. Peterson’s boat, bloodhounds used to pick up the scent of Mrs. Peterson in the boat or at a storage warehouse that her husband rented, and wiretaps and global-positioning systems used to monitor and track Mr. Peterson.

The 31-year-old former fertilizer salesman has been held without bail since he was arrested in San Diego County — not far from the Mexico border — with his hair bleached and $10,000 in cash.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos has said he would prove Mr. Peterson innocent and would find the “real killers.” The defense team has intimated that a satanic cult might have been responsible. Police have disputed such claims.

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