One cop came forward to expose secrets in his own ranks.

THE REVELATIONS ROCKED THE COURT SYSTEM


Pittsburg Police Officer Michael Sibbitt was ready to testify in a murder trial when a lieutenant from his own department rushed to the courthouse to reveal a startling secret.

The lieutenant told the court that the officer had resigned more than a year earlier during an investigation into whether he had falsified reports and used excessive force.

Details about allegations against Sibbitt and his partner had not been disclosed in more than a dozen other criminal cases in which the officers had made arrests.

The revelation in a Contra Costa County courthouse in 2015 had a sweeping effect: Nineteen convictions secured with help from the two officers were dismissed after prosecutors learned of the misconduct investigation.

The incident rocked the criminal justice system in this Bay Area suburb and showed how information from officers’ confidential disciplinary files can change the outcome of cases — if courts are made aware of the material.

The case was unusual because the lieutenant took it upon himself to reveal the officer’s background. Most of the time, getting this information into court is a convoluted process that often leaves judges, attorneys and jurors in the dark about misconduct by officers who take the stand in criminal proceedings.

“It’s one of the more stark examples of why we need to have more transparency about police officers’ backgrounds,” Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who teaches criminal law at Loyola Law School, said about the case.

Internal records of police misconduct are confidential in California, but state law allows judges to order police agencies to bring personnel files to court if an officer’s credibility is formally challenged.

Judges, who review the files privately with only a representative from the police agency, rely on departments to present them with complete and accurate documents. Unlike in open court, where lawyers can argue about evidence, prosecutors and defense attorneys are not allowed to review the records with the judge.


This is not how much of the country operates. In 21 states, records of significant police discipline are public. In many others, prosecutors and defendants are able to access them, eliminating the need for a judge’s private review.

But California is the only state in which even prosecutors cannot directly access the personnel file of a police witness. State lawmakers are weighing a proposal this month that would allow the public to see some law enforcement misconduct records.

The police lieutenant in Pittsburg, Calif., a small industrial city 34 miles northeast of San Francisco, said he decided to inform a judge after learning that his department had not given the court information about Sibbitt and his partner in other cases.

The lieutenant, Wade Derby, knew about the investigation because he’d been the one to conduct it. His inquiry forced the officers out of the department, but months later, some of the people whom the cops had arrested were still facing trial.

When judges ordered the Pittsburg Police Department to show them evidence of wrongdoing in the officers’ files, the agency did not bring documents from Derby’s investigation, court records show.

Derby raised concerns in memos to his chief that the department wasn’t revealing the evidence and could be violating the law. He said he was prepared to tell the court himself.

“My whole career I have tried to stand up against wrong, and sometimes it was going on in my own place” of work, he said.

Pittsburg Police Chief Brian Addington acknowledged that his agency failed to properly disclose the documents, but he said the omission was unintentional. He declined to answer additional questions.

Document

“If we do not disclose this information we will likely compromise or have a criminal conviction on a domestic violence homicide case overturned. In addition, there will likely be civil ramifications from the victim’s family. Finally, I believe we will bear possible criminal culpability for violating State and/or Federal laws for nondisclosure.”

— Memo by former Pittsburg Police Lt. Wade Derby

see the document

Sibbitt and his partner, Elisabeth Terwilliger, filed a lawsuit denying they used excessive force and accusing a department supervisor of ordering them to write reports that left out details about hitting suspects with flashlights. They said the department forced them out after Sibbitt complained that the agency required officers to falsely downgrade reports of serious crimes to misrepresent its crime statistics.

In court papers, the department denied the officers’ claims. Sibbitt declined to speak about the case; Terwilliger did not respond to requests for comment.

‘My flashlight is getting to play’

Sibbitt had been a cop for five years when he began mentoring Terwilliger, a rookie officer.

Derby, the internal affairs lieutenant, found troubling messages on the officers’ patrol car computers.

Sibbitt sometimes wrote advice to Terwilliger, teaching her how to instigate high-speed chases and find people to arrest, according to internal department chat messages obtained by The Times.

“Just drive with your lights on back and forth on Leland until you get a vehicle that doesn’t yield and takes off on you. Totally illegal but it works,” he wrote to her in late 2013 from his patrol car computer.

A few months later, he warned the officer not to attribute that type of advice to him. Terwilliger replied: “I’ll just call it fishing. Officer Sibbitt taught me to fish.”

Document

“JUST DRIVE WITH YOUR LIGHTS ON BACK AND FORTH ON LELAND UNTIL YOU GET A VEHICLE THAT DOESNT YIELD AND TAKES OFF ON YOU. TOTALLY ILLEGAL BUT IT WORKS”

— Message sent on patrol car computer by former Pittsburg Police Officer Michael Sibbitt

see the document

(NOTE PAGE 36)

On April 26, 2014, Terwilliger said she wanted to watch a police dog “gnaw on someone.” But the dog was not available, Sibbitt replied.

“Maybe a flashlight party is in order?” she wrote. “U have to teach me that good flashlight work.”

The next night, Sibbitt struck a boy with his flashlight as Terwilliger struggled with the suspect, according to court records. The juvenile, who officers thought was armed, had an unloaded BB gun.

Some departments warn officers against hitting people with flashlights because they can inflict more severe injuries than batons.

“Two weekends in a row my flashlight is getting to play,” Sibbitt wrote his partner about an hour after the incident.

“Good flashlight work kid,” replied Terwilliger, whose last name was Ingram at the time.

The officers failed to document that they hit people with flashlights on two occasions, according to a Pittsburg police memo filed in court. The department launched internal-affairs and criminal inquiries into whether they used excessive force and lied on reports.

Their badges and guns were seized on June 18, 2014. They resigned six weeks later.

Messages sent by a police officer in Pittsburg, Calif., from his patrol car computer led to an investigation into excessive force and false reporting.

None of this was told to judges or the people who were still facing trial after being arrested by Sibbitt and Terwilliger.

In one case, Terwilliger took the witness stand against a man she had arrested on suspicion of possessing drugs and a firearm but never mentioned that she had been placed on leave two days earlier.

Terwilliger testified that Carl Schoppe was combative and made evasive movements near his car when she approached him. She found a glass pipe in his pocket and discovered a pistol and baggies of powder that turned out to be methamphetamine in the vehicle.

Schoppe accused the officer of lying, saying that he had never made any furtive movements and that he had cooperated with Terwilliger from the start. His girlfriend, who was in the car at the time, said the weapon was hers, not Schoppe’s.

Schoppe filed a so-called Pitchess motion asking a judge to review any potential evidence of misconduct in Terwilliger’s file.

After granting the motion, the judge ordered a police representative to bring the officer’s internal affairs file to a judge for a private viewing.

Under the law, if a judge determines that some of an officer’s file is relevant to the case the court may release some information, but the documents are not entered into the public record.


Police advocates say the process is necessary to balance an officer’s right to privacy against a defendant’s right to a fair trial. Robert Rabe, an attorney who represents several police associations in California, said that the 1978 law that created the Pitchess system has “stood the test of time” and that problems are rare.

“The great majority of the men and women in law enforcement … comply with Pitchess requests and provide what’s necessary,” he said.

But in Contra Costa County, the Pittsburg Police Department failed to deliver the documents about Sibbitt and Terwilliger after judges had ordered the files be brought to court. Judges had no way of knowing there were, in fact, relevant records that should have been handed over.

Schoppe’s Pitchess motion yielded no records on Terwilliger. He pleaded no contest to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

Two other defendants who filed Pitchess motions also entered pleas after judges said there was nothing to disclose about Sibbitt or Terwilliger.

They were among the 19 defendants whose convictions depended on the word of the two officers.

Priscilla Cardenas was eating at a Salvadoran restaurant in Pittsburg in 2013 when a waitress called the police on her. The waitress, who’d been a victim of an armed robbery at a food stand months earlier, said she recognized Cardenas as one of her attackers.

Sibbitt responded to the call and showed up at the restaurant. He spoke to the waitress, wrote down Cardenas’ contact information and issued a police report of the encounter.


Priscilla Cardenas says that after being arrested and convicted, she’s had difficulty finding jobs and stable places to live. Josh Edelson / For The Times

Cardenas, then a 21-year-old community college student with a clean record, was later arrested and accused of using a handgun and a knife in the taco truck robbery — an offense that carried a maximum seven-year sentence.

Cardenas claimed she was innocent and had been four hours away in Bakersfield at the time of the robbery. The waitress said the robber spoke fluent Spanish with a Salvadoran accent. Cardenas, a California native, said she does not speak Spanish well.

Cardenas’ attorney said no one notified her of any reason to distrust Sibbitt, so she didn’t file a Pitchess motion seeking background on the officer.

Sibbitt testified at Cardenas’ trial, six months after he had resigned from the Police Department and four months after he had taken a job as a Macy’s loss-prevention officer. He told the jury the waitress was “shaking” and “stuttering” upon seeing Cardenas at the restaurant. That testimony helped convict Cardenas in February 2015.

She was sentenced to three years in prison.

It would take several more months before Derby revealed the extent of Sibbitt’s file to a judge in the murder trial in October 2015.

After Derby filed a civil claim alleging retaliation by the Police Department in March 2016, the two officers’ alleged misdeeds were made public. His allegations, first reported by the East Bay Times, prompted the county’s public defender’s office and local prosecutors to launch a review of the officers’ cases.

In his civil case, Derby described his investigation against Sibbitt and Terwilliger, claiming he was pushed out of the department by his managers after exposing the information. The department denied wrongdoing, noting that Derby had agreed to resign after he was found to have sexually harassed another officer. A judge recently dismissed Derby’s civil suit and he is appealing.


Former Lt. Wade Derby says supervisors at the Pittsburg Police Department retaliated against him after he exposed information about fellow officers’ misconduct.

Sibbitt and Terwilliger dismissed their lawsuit voluntarily in June. Neither the city nor the officers would respond to questions about whether the case ended in a settlement agreement.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in Brady vs. Maryland and later rulings require prosecutors and police to alert defendants to favorable evidence, including information that could undermine the credibility of government witnesses. Once the details about Derby’s investigation became public, several defendants argued that they’d been unlawfully deprived of the information about the officers’ alleged wrongdoing and never had the chance to attack their credibility.

Contra Costa County prosecutors looked into other criminal cases where the two officers had testified to determine whether the defendants should have been notified about the information. That also included a look at cases in which defendants accepted plea deals without going to trial.

“If I have reason to doubt the credibility of an officer, or a witness, then anything that witness introduces, I can’t use,” said Lynn Uilkema, a Contra Costa County prosecutor who was involved in the dismissals.

Those concerns pose an especially high risk to prosecutions of low-level crimes, such as drug possession and resisting arrest, which often rely heavily on an officer’s eyewitness account. An internal affairs finding that an officer has lied in the past could undermine the prosecution of a minor crime in which there is little evidence other than an officer’s word.

Of the 19 convictions thrown out by Contra Costa County prosecutors, seven involved nonviolent felonies, such as drug possession or being a felon carrying a firearm. Eleven others were misdemeanors or infractions — DUI, petty theft, domestic abuse, false representation to a police officer, disturbing the peace or resisting arrest. Most of the defendants pleaded no contest.

In at least some cases, there was compelling evidence that defendants were in fact guilty. One man convicted of carrying a loaded, concealed firearm told The Times the weapon had indeed been in his car.

In the murder trial in which Derby revealed the extent of the records on Sibbitt, prosecutors dropped him as a witness rather than risk his credibility being questioned in front of jurors.

Even in Cardenas’ case, which involved other evidence on top of Sibbitt’s testimony, prosecutors found they could no longer stand by her conviction, given the allegations about the police officer’s past misconduct.

They offered to throw out Cardenas’ armed robbery charge and release her immediately if she would plead no contest to a lesser count of grand theft. She agreed.

Since her release, she said, she’s had difficulty finding permanent jobs and stable places to live.

Before she was arrested, Cardenas was taking courses at a local college near Pittsburg and was interested in studying criminal justice.

FACEBOOK FAKE NEWS OF THE DAY…….

COPS TAKE A KNEE THEN WALK OUT ON REDSKINS LEAVING

THEM STRANDED IN THEIR LOCKER ROOM OVERNIGHT



The Washington Redskins allowed 11 of their players to take a knee for the National Anthem Monday night, enraging fans and local law enforcement in Philadelphia. After the game, the 14 officers assigned to seeing the team safely to their bus decided to show them the same respect they’re showing our veterans.

The men lined up in front of the door, took a knee, put a fist in the air and shouted “Blue Lives Matter!” Then the captain informed them that they were “on their own” and the corp walked out. With nobody to make sure they weren’t mauled by angry fans, they ‘Skins decided to hunker down for the night and have a little slumber party right in their locker room instead.

Because they had no other choice. Their buses sitting right outside and a long ride ahead of them, it wasn’t until after 5 AM when tailgating closes at the stadium that the team was safe enough to start their long-haul back to DC.

The Philadelphia Police Department released a statement that those officers are on the stadium payroll during games and therefore not subject to disciplinary action. Stadium officials say the matter will be handled internally. In other words, good job, fellas. Show those entitled brats how things really work.

DAWG SAYS:

SORRY FOLKS AS MUCH AS MANY OF US WOULD ENJOY THAT, I FIND NO PROOF THAT IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. JUST BECAUSE WE WISH IT TO BE TRUE DOES NOT MEAN IT IS TRUE. SADLY NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE FACT CHECK.

 

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SCOTT PETERSON FACTS OF HIS WIFE LACI’S MURDER…….


The story of Laci Peterson’s Christmas Eve disappearance shocked America to the core back in 2002, but nationwide disbelief quickly gave way to outrage when it transpired that her husband Scott was suspected of murdering her and their unborn son Connor. After claiming that he had returned home to find his pregnant wife missing, Scott initially had the full support of friends, family and the media, though they all turned against him as details of his involvement began to emerge. He became the most reviled man in America when authorities announced that he had been arrested for double-murder after the remains of Connor and Laci washed up in San Francisco Bay.

In 2004, Peterson was found guilty on both charges and sentenced to death, though the state of California has yet to execute him despite the public backlash that followed the leak of the autopsy report—Laci’s head and limbs had been removed and lacerations were found on Connor’s tiny body. Sadly, this is just one of many startling facts about this case, some of which were not even heard by the jury and only came to light after the verdict. This is the untold truth of the Laci Peterson murder case.

Scott’s fishing trip

When Scott Peterson returned from what he told officers was a fishing trip to Berkeley Marina on December 24, 2002, his wife was supposedly missing. The call was put in to police, and investigators became suspicious of Peterson shortly after arriving, firstly questioning why a man would leave his 8-month pregnant wife alone on Christmas Eve and drive 90 miles away from their Modesto home to fish alone. “I had a gut feeling, and the patrol officers out there had gut feelings,” detective Al Brocchini told People in an exclusive interview. “When we questioned him a couple of hours after he got home, he didn’t know what he was fishing for or what bait he was using. Those were red flags.”

Prosecutor Rick Distaso, who was also present to give his take on Peterson’s odd behavior at the beginning of the investigation, found that the convicted killer’s recollection of his day out on the water was a little too hazy.. “I’m a fisherman,” he added. “I could tell you what I was fishing for three years ago.” Peterson told police that marina staff saw him that day and could vouch that he was there on an innocent fishing trip, but these men he claimed could provide an alibi never came forward.

Peterson’s in-laws soon started having the same suspicions the police had, Laci’s stepfather in particular. Ron Grantski was an avid fisherman and after hearing his son-in-law’s account of what he did that day, he started to poke holes in the story, questioning why he set out so late and which rod he used (Peterson’s personal rod was sitting in Grantski’s garage). “I said, ‘9:30? That’s what time I get home from fishing, not when I go,'” Grantski recalled. “I said, ‘I think your Berkeley fishing trip is a fishy story.'”

Laci’s brother, Brent Rocha, also thought that something didn’t add up, and decided to confront Peterson about the evidence mounting against him after he saw a tabloid story about police finding a cement anchor in his brother-in-law’s garage. Rocha said that Peterson attempted to explain away the find with a story about how he “used to make cement anchors,” but authorities only discovered a single anchor on his property, not a collection. When Rocha pointed this out, Peterson replied: “Well, I used the rest as cement for my driveway.”

Laci’s mother Sharon Rocha also had a gut feeling that something was wrong with the picture when she first heard from Peterson what had happened. She was preparing an evening dinner for Scott and Laci when the former called to let her know that Laci was “missing,” which she thought a strange choice of word to use right off the bat.

The voicemail

Another thing that wasn’t adding up for investigators was the voicemail Peterson left on his wife’s phone before he supposedly set off for home. During a Christmas Day police interview, Peterson was asked about his cell activity the previous day and answered by playing a voicemail that he’d left for Laci. “Hey beautiful,” he said in the recording. “I just left you a message at home, ah, 2:15, I’m leaving Berkeley. I won’t be able to get to Vella Farms to get that basket for papa. I was hoping you would get this message and, ah, go out there. I’ll see you in a bit sweetie. Love you. Bye.”

Interviewing detective Al Brocchini immediately pointed out that Peterson’s claim he made the call at 2.17pm was false, as the time stamp on the message read 12.17pm—he would have still been on his way to the marina, not about to leave it as he states in his message, and the parking lot receipt recovered by police proved that he arrived at his destination at 12.45pm. “When Al played the tape of that lame-o message that Scott left on Laci’s phone it just seemed so insincere and false, like he was making this call to make us think he was in love with her,” detective Jon Buehler said. “But anybody who has been married for five years knows there aren’t too many people who talk to their spouse like that after that amount of time.”

The interview that later came back to haunt him

Four weeks after her disappearance and with Laci presumed dead by Peterson’s hand by authorities at this point, Detective Brocchini decided to go over the first interview he conducted to see what else his suspect might have tripped up on. He knew that Peterson had either made a mistake or lied about the time he made the “sweetie” phone call that had everyone doubting his sincerity, and if they were going to build a case for his prosecution without a murder weapon or dead bodies, they needed more. Brocchini found it.

Peterson had told him that he and Laci had watched Martha Stewart on morning television the last time he saw her, but when pressed for details on what Stewart was baking, he said it was something with meringue. Upon reviewing the episode, Brocchini found that no meringue was used that day. The interview also brought up several points of interest to the prosecution—Peterson took a phone call from his sister-in-law during the session and didn’t once ask how their search for Laci was going, and he also told Brocchini that Laci would often get into arguments with the homeless people who lived in the park she had supposedly walked the dog through the day that she vanished, something her family and friends said was not in her character.

The first thought on the mind of an innocent man should not be whether or not he needs an attorney present to deal with police, though this was always at the forefront of Peterson’s mind according to the detectives assigned to find his wife. “We’ve been doing homicides for a while,” Detective Buehler said. “When you compare Scott’s demeanor with other people we’ve dealt with, he didn’t even register on the scale as far as seeming concerned [about Laci].” Peterson’s attempts to keep officers at arms length frustrated them at first, but that frustration started turning into suspicion the longer he kept up his odd, standoffish behavior.

“He would cooperate to a point,” Buehler added. “But when we asked him for more, he would at times stop and then invoke, ‘Well, I need to talk to my attorney about that.’ He wasn’t in custody, but for a guy whose wife is missing to even get an attorney—not that he doesn’t have a right to—that’s not usual. We don’t see that. We find people generally will open up their closets, their bank accounts, whatever it takes, to cooperate.”

He told his father that he was ‘pulling an O.J.’


When Detective Brocchini asked Peterson about the phone calls he made the morning that Laci went missing, he neglected to tell him about one he made to his father, Lee Arthur Peterson. While the true topic of discussion in that particular phone call will never be known, Lee Peterson testified that his son never mentioned that he was fishing that day—in fact, he didn’t even know that he owned a boat. The defense argued that it wasn’t unusual for Scott to make a frivolous purchase and keep it from his dad, whose comments seemed to put his son in further trouble.

The contents of a later phone call between Peterson and his father were recorded, however, and it didn’t paint them in a good light. “On January 14th Scott receives a call from his dad, whom he refers to as Chief,” Investigator Steve Jacobson’s report read. “His dad talks about sending him $5,000 to help out financially, then asks where he is. Scott states, ‘I’m going to workout for a few minutes here at the club, relax a little bit. I don’t know if I’m pulling an O.J. by being at the club or not, but…’ Scott goes on to explain about ‘you know, misperception.’ It is very interesting that Peterson would compare himself to O.J. Simpson, who was charged with the murder of his wife but was later acquitted by a jury.”

His parents accused police of lying

Both Lee Peterson and his wife Jackie were fully convinced that their son was innocent. In an exclusive interview with TIME, the pair spoke about the grief they were going through over the loss of their unborn grandson but reiterated their stance that somebody else had killed Connor and Laci. “Our family is just devastated, and we feel an equal amount of pain for the Rocha family—Sharon and Ron and the whole family. But … our son is innocent. We know that. We’ve known it from day one.”

“They know it too,” Jackie said of the Rocha family. “They supported him fully until the police misled them, and that was to divide and separate him from them. He was their support. They were his support.” The Peterson’s belief that Laci was snatched by somebody while Scott was out fishing were fueled by apparent sightings of her that morning, as Lee explained. “Chief [Roy] Wasden made a comment during his news conference that on the evening before Christmas Eve, Laci’s mother had spoken to Laci at 8:15 and that’s the last time anyone saw Laci. Not true. There are several people who saw Laci.”

Jackie, who passed away in 2013 still fighting her son’s conviction, went as far as comparing the behavior of the authorities to that of Nazis. “You have a district attorney calling this a ‘slam-dunk’ before there’s even an arraignment,” she said. “I’m feeling like I’m living in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.”

When massage therapist Amber Frey saw the man she was dating on the news in connection with a murder, she called police and told them everything about her relationship with Peterson. According to Detective Brocchini, it was the shot in the arm that their investigation needed. “Amber told me, ‘Yeah, that’s my boyfriend.’ She had dates down. She was very articulate … It was exciting to think that Scott is calling this girl in Fresno while we’re looking for his wife.”

His affair with Amber Frey is revealed

Knowing that the media would find out, they showed Laci’s family the photographic evidence of Scott’s infidelity that Frey had provided, and the penny finally dropped. “Sharon and Ron came and sat down at our lunch table, and we briefed them quickly,” Detective Buehler said. “Then I just slipped the photo across the table. Sharon buried her head in her hands and said, ‘Why did he have to kill her?'”

They later learned that Peterson told Frey he was a widower after being introduced to her by a woman named Shawn Sibley. Sibley later discovered the truth about Peterson, but he cried as he talked his way out of it, telling her he lost his wife emotionally, not literally. “We learn from Sibley that Scott wept uncontrollably and that Scott begged her not to tell Amber,” former prosecutor Dean Johnson told CBS. “Some would say that Peterson showed more emotion over getting caught than about his missing wife.”

Frey went on to testify in the murder trial and helped to land the guilty verdict that she and Laci’s family both sought, though the whole thing took a tremendous toll on her personally. In an exclusive interview with Inside Edition, Frey revealed details of her life after Peterson and how she felt about him a decade on from his conviction. When asked if she still loved the man, she replied emphatically: “I do not. That was put behind me so many years ago.” But even so, she still gets recognized as the girl who dated the murderer. “It didn’t matter if I had a hat on and glasses. People still recognize me years later.”

Frey also answered questions about what Peterson’s motives were when he was arrested. Not only did he have his brother’s passport and $15,000 in cash on his person, a search of his vehicle uncovered knives, rope, a shovel and a map to Frey’s place of work. Many came to the obvious conclusion that Peterson saw no other choice but to shut Frey up and intended to murder her as well, though he never got the chance, apprehended by officers who saw through his disguise of dyed blond hair and a goatee. “It’s pretty creepy,” Frey said.

Speaking of the contents of Peterson’s car, 12 Viagra tablets were also found in there, though the jury were never told this. Peterson’s problem with erectile dysfunction was not the only information that Judge Alfred A. Delucchi deemed unnecessary for jury ears, also dismissing claims that tracker dogs had proven that Laci had been in her husband’s boat as “iffy.” He also barred the pornographic contents of Peterson’s computer from being entered as evidence—a search of his hard drive uncovered images of bondage and bestiality as well as an essay called “Rape The Teacher.”

Perhaps the most damning evidence that was kept out of the trial was the fact that Peterson purchased four phony college diplomas totaling $267 a week before his wife went missing. When lead investigator Craig Grogan questioned Peterson about the bogus certificates, he told him that they were not part of some plan to flee and create a fake identity, but a practical joke. He said that the whole thing was done by Laci, who liked to tease him about how long it took him to finish his degree, but investigators found that the counterfeit diplomas were charged to Peterson’s own credit card and shipped to their home under his name.

Frey wasn’t the first mistress that Peterson had taken during his marriage to Laci, as her family later came to find out. Another woman (who was referred to as Janet in the transcription of her police interview) came forward with details about an affair with Peterson, concerned that something he told her years ago could be of importance in the disappearance of his pregnant wife. The report read: “I asked [Janet] if her and Peterson talked about having a family. [Janet] said her and Peterson had gone to a rodeo on one of their dates and there were kids present at the rodeo. Peterson told [Janet] he did not want kids because they would get in the way of his lifestyle. [Janet] said Peterson made it clear that kids were not in his future.”

It was a third ex-mistress who would manage to get a first confession out of Peterson, at least, according to her book. In 2007, Donna Thomas released I’m Sorry I Lied to You: The Confession of Scott Peterson, explaining exactly how she gained the convicted killer’s trust during visits to San Quentin. Thomas (who claims to have been involved with Peterson on-and-off for 14 years) claims that he told her how he strangled his wife, fixed cement weights to her body and drove it to Berkeley Marina. He then apparently admitted to casting off and reading Playboy magazine for half an hour before dumping Laci’s corpse overboard, nearly capsizing his boat in the process.

He lives a comfortable life on death row

There are those that have sympathy for life-term convicts, and those that don’t. In the case of Scott Peterson, finding people willing to spare a thought for his predicament is nigh on impossible (though they do exist, as we’ll come to in a moment). Those that have been willing authorities to make Peterson the first sanctioned execution in California since murderer Clarence Ray Allen was put to death by lethal injection back in 2006 were infuriated when they found out that he had been living a “shockingly comfortable lifestyle” on death row.

An In Touch exclusive used documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act to reveal the items that Peterson receives from the commissary on a regular basis, including fat-free milk, smoked scallops and oysters, granola, multivitamins, sugar-free honey and weight-gain protein tablets. Journalist Nancy Mullane, who was granted permission to interview Peterson for her 2012 book Life After Murder: Five Men in Search of Redemption, confirmed that he was looking fit and well. “When I saw Scott, he was playing basketball,” she said. “He didn’t look depressed. He looked like someone you’d see on the street playing basketball. He had his shirt off and his boxer shorts up. He wasn’t ripped, but he looked healthy. He was having a good time.”

While most people are convinced the jury got it right, there are those who argue that Peterson might actually be innocent. His own mother once told him “I can’t imagine anyone being stupid enough to say they went fishing in the Berkeley Bay after having committed a crime there, I mean not even you Scott,” while his lawyer Mark Geragos blamed a Satanic cult that had been operating in the area. “This was far and away [my] worst defeat,” Geragos said. “Scott is clearly not just not guilty, Scott is innocent. I will believe that till the day I die.”

Geragos was speaking at a showing of an unfinished documentary called Trial By Fury: The People vs Scott Peterson, a film that argues that the police, public and media were guilty of tunnel vision, ignoring facts contrary to Peterson’s guilt. Cable network Oxygen just beat them to the punch, however, airing a two-part special on the murder and trial as the opener to the 20th season of their true crime series Snapped. The network said they wanted to delve into the evidence not shown to the jury and “bring forth a different perspective that could lead to a new trial and review Peterson’s twisted web of lies which led to the ultimate demise of his family.”

His latest appeal

Condemned men like Peterson have two avenues of appeal open to them from death row, the first being a direct appeal. The convicted killer filed this with the state Attorney General’s office in 2012, with his appeal demanding a new trial on the grounds that the judge’s rulings on which evidence to admit and which jurors to excuse were deeply flawed. Peterson’s team got a response in 2015 and are currently awaiting their chance to make their argument with the Supreme Court.

Not content with waiting for a date to be set for the oral proceedings, however, Peterson launched a second appeal in 2015, which is known as a habeas petition. A habeas is normally used when new evidence that should have been presented at trial has come to light, but it can also be used to point out errors made by the defense counsel during said trial, which Peterson’s family have done on several occasions.

“There were things that Mark Geragos could have done better,” Scott’s sister-in-law Janey Peterson said when discussing their 200-page petition with 10 News. “One of the jurors evidently lied on her jury application. She said she’s never been involved in a lawsuit. She’d never testified as a witness. Both those things are not true. It is to me clearly evident, not only that Scott is innocent, but in addition to that he did not get a fair trial.”

While Peterson’s sister-in-law may be convinced of his innocence, his sister by blood is not. In an NBC exclusive, Anne Bird said she let her brother crash with her during the height of the search for Laci and in that time became convinced (along with the police) that he was guilty. “Scott is charismatic, charming, courteous, polite,” she said in her first interview about her brother’s death sentence. “When you’re talking to him, he looks directly at you. And you’re the only person he’s focusing on… I think I was kept, you know, as a confidante. And I think that’s why I ended up getting so much information.”

“I just know that he did this,” Bird said point blank. “It’s very hard to comprehend. And it hurts.” She also revealed a lot about her relationship with her mother, Jackie, who she didn’t meet until she was 32 years old. Scott’s older sister had been given up for adoption at birth by a mother who herself was raised in an orphanage after her father was murdered and her own mother suffered a breakdown.

By the time she reunited with Jackie and met Scott, she could see there was a special bond between the two. “The golden boy and his doll-like bride,” she called Scott and Laci in her book Blood Brother, in which Bird also gives the impression that Jackie always held the view that Laci wasn’t good enough for Scott.

Peterson’s lawyer blamed a Satanic cult

Mark Geragos was not only convinced his client was innocent, he believed he knew who the real culprits were. In an interview with People (via ABC News), the lawyer blamed Laci’s murder on a Satanic cult that had supposedly been operating in the California area for years, pointing to another murder that took place under similar circumstances. Evelyn Hernandez also went missing in 2002 while pregnant, and her body also washed up in San Francisco Bay. Her disappearance happened on May 1, which (like December 24, the date Laci vanished) is a holy day in the Satanic calendar.

Similarities were also drawn with the Salida massacre of 1990 in which four people were slain at a trailer park by cult members, with Larry King even mentioning a possible connection to the Peterson case on his show. According to the Modesto Bee, the police took the claims seriously enough to consult Randy Cerny, a local expert on ritualistic crimes. They also contacted the owner of a local furniture store after a tip off that Satanists were operating out his his building, but came up with nothing.

The defense even claimed to have obtained a jacket belonging to an occultist who had bragged about being involved with Laci’s murder, but it all proved to be posturing. In the end, people just didn’t believe it. “I think you’d be better off suggesting Saddam Hussein really did it,” said Richard Ofshe, the author of Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy and Sexual Hysteria.

The Satanist theory fell apart after Laci’s graphic autopsy

The Satanist theory was later dispelled when forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz studied the findings of the autopsy report. The defense alleged that Laci’s head and limbs were removed during a ritual, and that baby Connor was cut from her womb. This wasn’t the picture that Laci’s injuries painted when they were examined by Dr Spitz, however.

“All this Satanic cult business that Peterson’s lawyer Mark Geragos is throwing around shows that he is full of hot gases,” he told the National Enquirer (via Find Laci). According to the report Laci’s head was missing, but so were vertebrae numbers one through six, a tell-tale sign that she wasn’t decapitated. “The sixth vertebra is down on the neck between the shoulder blades, not a spot where it’s easy to cut someone’s head off.”

Dr. Spitz also contested that baby Connor had been cut from the womb, with a tear near the top of Laci’s uterus confirming a different (but no less horrific) end for him. “The unborn child did not emerge from the birth canal but from that opening near the top of the uterus,” he confirmed. “The uterus is the last part of a woman’s body to decompose, so it would protect the unborn child until the last.”

He went on to confirm that the injuries on the parts of Laci’s body still in tact pointed to her husband’s involvement. “I’ve seen wounds like this [before],” Dr. Spitz said. “They are caused by boat propeller blades, not Satanic cults.”

Footage of Peterson’s first police interrogation


While transcripts of Peterson’s first interview on Christmas Day 2002 were made available at the time, it was only recently that actual police footage of that initial interrogation surfaced. Dateline NBC ran a piece on Laci’s murder to coincide with the 15 year anniversary of her disappearance, and in it they included clips of her former husband looking nonchalant as he fields questions about the day she vanished.

Peterson slouches back in his chair as he gets quizzed about the last time he saw Laci, appearing to not have a care in the world despite the fact that his pregnant wife is unaccounted for at 1AM in the middle of winter. “Never once did he say ‘Oh my God, where is Laci? where could she be? I hope she’s okay, I hope she’s not harmed,” Laci’s mother Sharon Rocha told Dateline, who also revealed incriminating audio recordings of Peterson’s phone calls to mistress Amber Frey.

Rocha had stood by her son-in-law until the day Frey came forward with the details of their affair, at which point she – like the rest of nation – turned on him. “It has definitely been a rollercoaster since December 24, 2002,” Rocha told Dateline’s Keith Morrison. “There are many times when I get up in the morning and just go back to bed… I’m never going to get over this. I don’t see how any parent will ever get over it. You just have to get through it.”

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