Skip to comments.DA thinks it's Laci
Posted on 04/17/2003 5:31:48 AM PDT by runningbear
DA thiks it's Laci
DA thinks it's Laci
A memorial continues to grow in front of Laci Peterson's home on Covena Avenue in Modesto amid growing speculation the bodies of an adult female and baby boy recovered from the SF Bay are Laci and her son.
ADRIAN MENDOZA/THE BEE
Tiffany Roe, facing, and her sister-in-law, Raynette Roe, hug at the memorial set up in front of Laci Peterson's home Wednesday. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
By GARTH STAPLEY and JOHN COTÉ
BEE STAFF WRITERS
Published: April 17, 2003, 05:01:13 AM PDT
Stanislaus County District Attorney James Brazelton said Wednesday he thinks Laci Peterson is the woman whose body was found this week along San Francisco Bay. "I feel pretty strongly it is (her)," the county's top prosecutor said. "It's too much of a coincidence to have a female and a baby found close to each other a day apart and no others were reported missing. If I were a betting man, I'd put money on it."
Asked about what Brazelton had said about the missing Modesto woman, Police Chief Roy Wasden responded: "We're not discussing this investigation. That includes our feelings and suspicions."
But even an official at the state DNA lab said analysts are focusing on Peterson as they try to identify the remains.
"To date, we don't have another person in mind," John Tonkyn, supervisor of the missing person DNA program, said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference at the lab in Richmond.
Brazelton, within a few hours of making his statements, issued a news release stating that the district attorney's office will no longer comment on the Peterson investigation.
The Police Department began the investigation as a missing person case Christmas Eve, then reclassified it March 5 -- calling it a homicide. Police have not commented on the bodies found at the bay -- though the department is standing by to take jurisdiction if they are linked to the case.
Peterson was eight months pregnant, carrying a son, at the time of her disappearance.
Authorities in Contra Costa County, which has jurisdiction for now, have described the baby's body as a "full-term male child." The body was found Sunday about 15 feet from the waterline in south Richmond, and authorities believe that the body washed ashore.
The woman's body was found the next day at Point Isabel Regional Shoreline, about a mile away, and authorities suspect that it too washed ashore.
Autopsies on the decomposed bodies failed to reveal cause of death or the identity of either, officials said Tuesday.
Authorities are now turning to DNA testing. It could take days, weeks or longer, a coroner's spokesman said.
Tissue and bone samples from both bodies have gone to the state Justice Department's DNA laboratory.
"The big question mark now in my mind is whether they have good DNA material," Brazelton said. "Let's hope they do."
Lab technicians determined late Wednesday that samples from the baby's body contained enough intact DNA to be used for testing, an official said.
A determination on the adult female sample is likely to be made today, state Department of Justice spokesman Nathan Barankin said by telephone from Sacramento.
"We've determined that we can yield a usable DNA profile from the fetus sample," Barankin said. "We're doing a little more work on the adult sample to finally determine whether we will be able to get a usable DNA profile."
Barankin said the results were not an indication that one body had decomposed more than the other.
Lab officials said they had assigned the case a "very high priority," but that results still could be weeks away.
Technicians are working with a tibia, the larger of the two bones between the knee and ankle, from the woman's body, and a femur, or thigh bone, from the baby's body, said Eva Steinberger, assistant bureau chief at the lab.
Richmond police Sgt. Enos Johnson said the baby's body was so badly decomposed that he could not determine if the umbilical cord was still attached when it was found. "It was in very, very bad condition," he said.
Lab technicians hope to compare DNA from the bodies with a hair sample from Laci Peterson and inner-cheek swabs from her parents, Steinberger said.
Lab officials declined to comment on whether they had a DNA sample from Scott Peterson, the missing woman's husband. Such a sample could be used to compare with the DNA sample from the baby.
But a sample from the father is not required to determine if the woman and child are related, Tonkyn said.
He said the lab prefers to get long bones and teeth samples for DNA testing when dealing with skeletal remains, but said no teeth were submitted in this case.
Coroner's officials on Wednesday continued to withhold comment on the condition of the bodies when discovered.
A forensic anthropologist who specializes in submerged bodies examined the corpses for about 4 1/2 hours Wednesday, coroner's spokesman Jimmy Lee said by telephone from Martinez.
"In particular, we're trying to find out what happened after the bodies were in the water," Lee said. "We're looking at what type of damage was inflicted."
The specialist also was trying to determine how long the bodies were submerged, Lee said.
In other developments:
A pathologist determined that a bone found south of the Berkeley Marina on Monday was not human.
Modesto police Sgt. Ron Cloward said police last conducted a water search in the Richmond area March 29, about two miles from where the two bodies were found. He said they were discovered in an area that police had searched previously.
"We spent a whole day hovering over that area in helicopters," Cloward said. "The water there is about 5 or 6 feet deep. It was too shallow there to use the kind of boats and equipment we were using."
No-body murder cases often reach jury some win
No-body murder cases often reach jury some win
By GARTH STAPLEY
BEE STAFF WRITER
Published: April 17, 2003, 05:02:22 AM PDT
It is hard to win a murder case without having recovered a body or without determining a cause of death, experts say. But it is not impossible.
In fact, it is being done more and more as prosecutors become emboldened by uncontested DNA evidence and other ever-improving technology.
The Laci Peterson case may become Stanislaus County's first in either category -- a missing body or no cause of death -- depending on laboratory test results. District Attorney James Brazelton said Wednesday that he will not shy away as long as his people have enough evidence.
Therein lies the problem.
"Let's face it: You have to establish somehow that the victim died of some form of criminal (act)," said Stephen Lungen, district attorney of Sullivan County in New York. Last week, he coaxed a guilty verdict from a jury in the trial of a man whose wife disappeared three years before her skeleton was found in March 2002.
The victim had been stuffed in a trash can tied with a military parachute cord. No evidence linked her husband to the murder, but Lungen pointed out that the husband had been a Green Beret paratrooper.
A half-century ago, no-cause-of-death and no-body prosecutions were unheard of. That changed when a Los Angeles jury in 1957 did not buy paint salesman L. Ewing Scott's "no body, no crime" defense. He served 21 years of a life sentence for having murdered his wife and confessed a year before his death in 1987.
Since then, such cases have slowly gained more acceptance. Nowadays, they are among the highest-profile cases in the nation. Los Angeles County alone has prosecuted dozens.
Experts say lack of a body can be overcome if prosecutors demonstrate that a person would not disappear without good reason. Early in the Peterson case, Modesto police declared that they had no reason to suspect her to have gone off on her own, because she was close to her family in Modesto, and she was expecting a baby.
Next, prosecutors must accumulate enough circumstantial evidence to link a suspect to the disappearance.
Remains undergo DNA testing
Posted on Thu, Apr. 17, 2003
Remains undergo DNA testing
LACI PETERSON CASE: SALIVA FROM MODESTO WOMAN'S PARENTS MAY HELP IDENTIFY BODIES:
By Yomi S. Wronge
RICHMOND - Strands of hair from Laci Peterson's brush and saliva samples submitted by her parents will help scientists determine whether the remains of a woman and a fetus washed up on the Richmond shoreline this week are that of the missing Modesto woman and her unborn child.
Analysis is under way at the California Attorney General's Office crime lab in Richmond, where scientists on Wednesday began the meticulous process of extracting DNA from the tibia -- shinbone -- and muscle tissue of the female victim, and the femur -- thighbone -- and muscle tissue of the fetus.
``The cases have been assigned very high priority,'' Eva Steinberger, assistant chief of the Bureau of Forensic Services, said at a news conference Wednesday.
Still, it could be several days or even weeks before they'll be able to determine conclusively whether the bodies are those of the Modesto mother and son, she said.
``Nothing's changed; we're just waiting,'' Modesto police spokesman Doug Ridenour said Wednesday. ``If it is Laci, we're hopeful she can be identified. We don't know. It's up to the scientists and the doctors.''
Peterson, 27, a substitute teacher, was eight months pregnant when she vanished Christmas Eve. Her husband, Scott Peterson, 30, said he last saw his wife as he left that morning for a fishing trip in the Berkeley Marina, about two miles south of where the bodies were discovered. The fetus was found on Sunday; the woman's about a mile away, on Monday.
Scott Peterson has not been named a suspect, but he also has not been ruled out.
John Tonkyn, supervisor in charge of the Richmond lab's Missing Person DNA Program, evaded questions about whether Scott Peterson would be asked to submit fluid samples to help scientists determine the paternity of the fetus. The Contra Costa County Coroner's Office has said the fetus was a full-term boy; the Petersons were expecting a son.
Tonkyn said Laci Peterson's family could provide everything they need to make a conclusive match.
``We generally collect DNA samples from family members: cheek swabs from parents, siblings and children of the missing person,'' Tonkyn said.
The condition of the remains will determine which of two testing methods scientists will use. If the bone and muscle samples are well-preserved, a nuclear DNA test will show whether the remains contain the same unique DNA fingerprinting Laci Peterson would have inherited from her parents and passed on to her child.
But if the remains are too badly decomposed, a more sensitive but less discriminating, mitochondrial DNA test will be conducted, Tonkyn said. That test relies on DNA inherited only from the mother that is common among siblings.
Meanwhile, a forensic anthropologist from the University of California-Santa Cruz was brought in Wednesday to determine the race and approximate age of the fetus and adult female, said Jimmy Lee, Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department spokesman.
He was otherwise tight-lipped about the case, including such details as how much of the woman's body washed ashore and whether she was wearing maternity clothes.
The Contra Costa Times has reported that investigators close to the case said the adult's body was missing the head, part of a leg and arm -- and was clothed in maternity-brand underwear.
``We're examining whether or not the body had some clothing,'' Lee said. ``I understand it did have a bra.''
Lee declined to confirm reports about whether the female victim's head was missing. But he did say samples from the woman's shinbone ``are what we're dealing with.''
Lee said other bones found since Sunday, both at the Berkeley and Richmond marinas, and turned in by residents are believed to be animal remains.
State lab compares DNA samples to Laci Peterson
State lab compares DNA samples to Laci Peterson
By Karl Fischer
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
RICHMOND - Using a femur, a tibia and decomposing muscle tissue, state forensic investigators said today they hope to divine the identities of two bodies found this week along the city shoreline.
Authorities say that barring complications it could take two weeks to tell whether the body of a woman that washed up Monday at Point Isabel Regional Shoreline belongs to missing Modesto woman Laci Peterson, and whether the "full-term fetus" discovered the day before was her child.
"We do not consider this to be a long time," said Dr. John Tonkyn, supervisor of the state Attorney General's Missing Persons Unit at the state DNA lab in Richmond. "We consider it an appropriate amount of time to get accurate results."
However, identifying the samples leap-frogged to the top of the lab's priority list this week out of consideration for Peterson's family, authorities said.
If officials find the bodies are related, whoever killed the woman could be charged with double homicide for killing the child, making it a possible death penalty case.
California's fetal homicide law outlaws killing a fetus beyond eight weeks gestation during a criminal act.
Scientists will extract DNA from all samples provided Monday by the Contra Costa Coroner's Office and compare it to DNA pulled from hairs harvested from Peterson's hairbrush and cheek swabs from her parents, Tonkyn said.
The poor condition of the bodies may prevent the lab from collecting undamaged DNA, Tonkyn said, meaning authorities would need more material from the coroner's office and additional time to complete the job.
Nuclear DNA testing will produce best results, allowing scientists to compare the "unique DNA fingerprint" of the woman's body with Peterson's genetic material. But that requires undamaged genetic material from a cell nucleus.
If cells in the muscle tissue the coroner provided are too degraded for nuclear testing, scientists can analyze mitochondria -- tiny structures outside a cell's nucleus -- that also contain DNA.
Mitochondrial testing requires more time and is less exact, Tonkyn said, capable only of matching an unidentified body with maternal relatives.
Either test could potentially identify the bodies in question. But there is a chance that the coroner's samples will prove too decomposed.
"The fact that the body was in the water does not make it that different than a body that was just out in the environment," Tonkyn said. "When DNA decomposes, it's harder to get a DNA profile, but not impossible."
When Dad does it
Posted on Thu, Apr. 17, 2003
When Dad does it
There has to be a special place in hell for a man who doesn't ensure the safety and well-being of his unborn child and that child's mother.
While we wait to hear if the bodies of the woman and newborn male that washed up on the Northern California shoreline are Laci Peterson and her unborn son, we can't help but be reminded of the times we went through these same motions only to learn mother and child were harmed or killed by the father.
In 1989 in Boston, Charles Stuart killed his pregnant wife and blamed the murder on a black male so he could collect on her insurance policy. Some 5,000 black men were reportedly detained or questioned as police looked for the killer.
Apparently at the end of the line, Stuart took his own life. Most of us remember seeing authorities pull his lifeless body from the Charles River.
What we probably remember most about former NFL player Rae Carruth is that after girlfriend Cherica Adams died, he fled Charlotte. FBI agents found him in Tennessee, hiding in the trunk of a friend's car at a motel.
Adams, who was eight months pregnant, was following Carruth in a separate automobile. According to a taped 911 call made by Adams, Carruth stopped his car in front of hers while gunmen in a third vehicle pulled alongside her and shot her four times. (One bullet, according to doctors, missed the baby by an inch.) When police arrived, she was able to tell them "I'm pregnant and I'm shot."
Prosecutors also said that before Adams died -- a month after being shot -- she scribbled notes that apparently implicated Carruth.
The baby, who was blue from lack of oxygen, was delivered by emergency Caesarian section. His heart nearly stopped beating during delivery. He has brain damage and cerebral palsy. At 14 months, he could not do what is considered "normal" for a 4-month-old to do.
Then there's Larry Gene Heath of Phenix City, who was executed March 20, 1992, for the Aug. 31, 1981, kidnap-murder of his nine-months-pregnant wife, Rebecca McGuire Heath. Heath reportedly left home to meet the two men in Columbus he hired to kill his wife. He led them back to his residence, gave them the keys to his car and left in his girlfriend's pickup truck. Heath and the girlfriend reportedly watched the wife's abduction from a nearby churchyard.
Some of these men would be pathetic if they weren't such psychopaths. Heath and Stuart made very dramatic gestures at their wives' funerals. Stuart with his eulogy, and Heath by kissing his wife and their baby and openly crying crocodile tears.
In these cases, the men used murder to get themselves out of the messes they'd made of their lives. They ridded themselves of the wife or girlfriend who no longer served their purpose. But how do you reconcile killing your child?
If the bodies of the baby boy and the woman are not Scott Peterson's family, he's still on the hook for doing whatever he was doing the day his pregnant wife "disappeared."
(Excerpt) Read more at modestobee.com ...
I was on another, but things weren't *heated* when I was there. I don't think they were at least. Sometimes I think the problem is not so much disagreements and flames as it is people taking them way too seriously, and not being able to leave them on the thread where they happened.
BTW -- I just scanned that thread and you are right.
Agreed. Heaps him with shame and makes a slave of him for the next 21 years to boot?
He might be a little ticked. But how would he KNOW?