- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) — Within a day of reporting his pregnant wife missing, Scott Peterson lied about his extramarital affair, gave conflicting accounts of his whereabouts and brushed off in-laws helping search for Laci Peterson, prosecutors said in opening arguments of Mr. Peterson’s murder trial yesterday.

Prosecutor Rick Distaso wants jurors to connect those dots, along with other circumstantial evidence, to conclude that Mr. Peterson killed his wife.

Mr. Peterson, 31, faces the death penalty or life without parole if convicted in a trial that is expected to last up to six months.

The bodies of Laci Peterson and her fetus, a boy the couple planned to name Conner, washed ashore in April 2003 near where Mr. Peterson told authorities he set out on a solo fishing trip the morning his wife vanished.

On the day of Laci Peterson’s disappearance, Mr. Peterson told Laci’s mother, Sharon Rocha, that he was fishing on San Francisco Bay. But he later told Laci’s uncle and two neighbors that he had been golfing all day. He was also unable to tell police what he had been trying to catch on his fishing trip.

Mr. Peterson also told investigators that he never had an affair — a lie that would become public when his mistress, massage therapist Amber Frey, stepped forward.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos has countered that authorities unfairly targeted Mr. Peterson from the start, ignoring important leads that didn’t fit their theory. Although Mr. Geragos did not present his case yesterday, prosecutors were already struggling with their own challenges: the absence of a murder weapon, a cause of death or an eyewitness to the supposed crime.

They say Mr. Peterson killed his wife on or around Dec. 24, 2002, in their Modesto home because he was having an affair. Authorities say he then concealed her body in his truck, drove nearly 100 miles to Berkeley and heaved it into the bay from the small boat he had purchased less than three weeks earlier. Investigators found a loaded .22-caliber handgun in the glove compartment of Mr. Peterson’s truck, but have not said how they think he killed his wife.

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