MODESTO, Calif. – Michelle McKinney hugged her daughter and wiped away tears as she watched her 12-year-old son place a blue and gold teddy bear in front of Laci Peterson's home.
"The baby didn't get a chance to live his life and grow up," said McKinney, 33. "She didn't get a chance to enjoy her baby."
As the makeshift memorial of flowers and toys grew outside the Peterson home, residents across Modesto went through waves of sadness and anger. First, authorities confirmed that bodies found last week near Berkeley Marina were Laci Peterson and her unborn son. Then they booked her husband, Scott Peterson, into the Stanislaus County jail to face charges in their deaths.
"For a father to do this to a kid? If he didn't want her, he should have divorced her," said Flora Tappeh, 41, who bought flowers to the house Saturday.
Scott Peterson told police he out was out fishing when his wife disappeared on Christmas Eve, and her family stood by him for weeks.
But their support turn to suspicion when information surfaced that he had been having an affair with another woman. After the rift, Peterson launched his own search effort for his wife, distributing fliers in Los Angeles, while authorities continued to search near San Francisco Bay and Modesto.
When police pulled him over Friday and arrested him in the San Diego area, where his mother lives, Peterson had dyed his dark hair blond and grown a beard.
He also had $10,000 in cash with him, NBC and the Los Angeles Times reported, citing unnamed sources.
Modesto police spokesman Lt. Doug Ridenour declined to comment on the reports. However, Attorney General Bill Lockyer said authorities moved in because they feared Peterson might try to flee.
"You look to eliminate possibilities and that's what we kept doing and Scott could just never be eliminated," Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden said. He wouldn't comment on possible motives.
Peterson's attorney, Kirk McAllister, did not return telephone calls Friday and Saturday seeking comment. On Sunday, the voicemail at his office was full.
Outside the Peterson home, a stream of residents passed by through the weekend, some lighting candles as a memorial to Laci Peterson and the son she had already named Conner. Children brought Easter toys and stood with their families and prayed.
Many in this central California city of 200,000 never met the 27-year-old woman with the big smile and dimples, but after the months of searching and vigils that followed her disappearance, they felt they knew her.
A makeshift wooden cross covered with aluminum foil on the Peterson lawn reads: "We prayed everyday that Laci and Baby Conner would come home. Now, Laci and Baby Conner are home with the Lord."
Modesto has had more than its share of yellow ribbons and tragedies.
In May 2001, Modesto resident Chandra Levy, 24, disappeared in Washington, D.C., triggering speculation about her relationship with Rep. Gary Condit. One year later, a walker found Levy's body in a Washington park, but police still have made no arrests.
Condit, a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election last year.
Modesto was also a command center after the 1999 disappearance of three women in Yosemite National Park. Five weeks later, authorities found Carole Sund, 43, her daughter, Juli, 15, and Argentina exchange student Silvina Pelosso, 16, murdered in nearby foothills. A jury convicted motel handyman Cary Stayner last year and sentenced him to death.
"Once again we're being brought together. I don't like what we're being brought together for the last three years, but we stand together," said Diana Morris, 33. "We stand together and we're behind each other."