- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2003

MODESTO, Calif. (AP) — A hair found in a pair of pliers on the boat that Scott Peterson took fishing the day his wife disappeared matched a genetic sample from Laci Peterson’s mother, an FBI lab supervisor said yesterday in a preliminary hearing.

For much of the day inside a packed courtroom, FBI lab supervisor Constance Fisher testified about the disputed method of DNA analysis she specializes in, which she says can show a genetic match between a mother and child.

She testified that a one-inch strand of hair found on pliers in the boat did not match Mr. Peterson, but did match a swab of DNA taken from the mouth of his mother-in-law, Sharon Rocha.

Defense lawyer Mark Geragos challenged the admissibility of the testimony, saying the analysis was the focus of a “raging debate” in the scientific community and suggesting that the hair sample might have been contaminated or tampered with by law enforcement.

The technique has not been widely accepted in courts, and it was ruled admissible only once in a California state court, in a murder case in San Diego.

The hearing is expected to last into next week, after which Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Al Girolami will decide whether Mr. Peterson will be tried in the deaths of his wife and their unborn son. Prosecutors are seeking two murder charges and the death penalty.

Mr. Peterson reported his 27-year-old wife missing when he returned home from a solo Christmas Eve fishing trip. She was eight months pregnant with a boy they had planned to name Conner.

The remains of mother and son were found four months later in April, along the San Francisco Bay, within miles of where Mr. Peterson said he had been fishing.

The hearing is expected to give the most detailed picture to date about what clues led investigators to suspect Mr. Peterson from the beginning.

Mr. Geragos can present his own expert to dispute the FBI analysis and try to get the judge to prevent it from being used at a trial. Mr. Geragos has said he would not only have Mr. Peterson acquitted, but would find the “real killers.”

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