SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A former Modesto police detective says nothing has changed in his mind in the years since Scott Peterson was convicted by a San Mateo County jury of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, and the couple’s unborn son, Connor, in 2004.
CBS 48 Hours took a new look at one of the most famous spousal murder cases in U.S. history on Saturday. The case is back in the news as the California Supreme Court tossed out his death sentence, saying the trial judge made procedural errors.
The high court left the murder conviction in place, but ordered a new penalty phase trial.
In a separate motion, Peterson’s defense team is seeking a new trial because of their claims of juror misconduct.
Last week, Peterson appeared via Zoom video from San Quentin State Prison at San Mateo County Superior Court hearings on both legal matters. Additional hearings will be held this summer.
Appearing on 48 Hours, former Modesto police detective Jon Buehler said the evidence in the case still all points to Peterson killing Laci during the Christmas holidays in 2002 and dumping her body in the San Francisco Bay.
“There’s nothing that has come out to change my view that Scott got a fair trial and that Scott is the one who killed Laci,” Buehler said.
He said that two men arrested in a burglary in the Peterson’s Modesto neighborhood around the time of Laci’s disappearance were cleared of any involvement in the case.
“Both told consistent stories that were backed up by other independent witnesses,” Buehler said.
He also points out that in the densely packed subdivision, no neighbors saw Laci get abducted in broad daylight.
“How come nobody saw Laci get abducted?,” he said. “Nobody saw an abduction in broad daylight where a girl had a dog, and the dog would be barking, and a girl would be screaming. Tell me how that is going to happen because I don’t see it.”
Buehler also discounts claims by Peterson’s sister-in-law, Janey, that Laci’s body was dumped in the area of San Francisco Bay where Peterson told investigators he was fishing on the day of his wife’s disappearance to frame him.
“What is the likelihood that somebody is going to abduct Laci, and then all of a sudden the media has intense scrutiny and attention to it,” he said. “And then they’re going to take her 90 miles to San Francisco Bay, and they’re going to put her in the exact same area that Scott said he was fishing in? All the while we’re doing searches up there, all the while that the media is camped out over there, that you’ve got cops and deputies and other agencies over there looking into this.”
“You want to try and make that stretch with me that somebody is going to drive from Modesto to Berkeley to take a body out there in the midst of that?,” he added. “Well, I guess possible. But you know, there’s still people that believe the earth is flat too.”
Janey Peterson has turned a room within her family business into a war room to aid in her efforts to free Scott. It is lined with maps, photos and notes.
“The justice system has failed here, and a lot of aspects have failed,” she said. “And it started with the Modesto Police Department. And it started with the fact that they didn’t follow up on evidence that showed Laci was alive the morning of December 24.”
Meanwhile, a pivotal witness in the case is again ready to take the stand according to her attorney.
Amber Frey testified that she did not know Peterson was married at the time she began dating him in the months before Laci’s death. The ruse included a call from Peterson where he claimed he was in Paris celebrating New Year’s Eve.
When she saw news reports of Peterson’s missing wife, she called Modesto police and began cooperating in their investigation, recording his phone calls to her. Some of those calls were played for jurors at the trial.
“Amber has said the truth is the truth,” her attorney Gloria Allred said on CNN. “So if, as, is when the court decides to grant habeas corpus petition to Scott Peterson and decided there should be a new trial — in otherwise not only on the death penalty phase but essentially the case in chief. The guilt phase. She’s willing to testify and she will testify.”
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