MODESTO, Calif. – Scott Peterson (search) will stand trial on murder charges that could bring the death penalty in the slaying of his pregnant wife, Laci, and her unborn son, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Superior Court Judge Al Girolami (search) said prosecutors presented enough evidence in 11 days of testimony spread out over four weeks to show probable cause that Peterson killed his wife and dumped her body in San Francisco Bay.
Prosecutors presented a web of circumstantial evidence that pointed toward Peterson from the moment he phoned his in-laws after returning home from what he said was a fishing trip on Christmas Eve last year.
The remains of his wife and son washed ashore in April about three miles from where Scott Peterson said he was fishing.
The defense contends that police suffered from tunnel vision once they locked their focus on Peterson.
The judge set an arraignment for Dec. 3 in Modesto.
Defense lawyer Mark Geragos (search) said he would ask to move the trial out of Modesto and dismiss the charges.
Geragos criticized the preliminary hearing process, which allows police to testify about statements witnesses made during the investigation, without those witnesses being subject to cross-examination.
"The standard, unfortunately, in California, and I say it jokingly, is 'Is the defendant breathing?'" Geragos said.
A battle over a 6-inch strand of dark hair dominated testimony, with prosecutors winning the right to introduce a disputed form of DNA analysis to link the hair to Laci Peterson. The hair was found aboard the boat prosecutors believe Scott Peterson used to ferry her to a watery grave.
During the hearing, Laci Peterson's sister had testified that Scott Peterson said he had golf plans on Christmas Eve, throwing into question his story about going fishing the day his wife vanished. And detective also testified that officers found a loaded gun in Peterson's truck and that he initially denied having an affair.
Peterson was arrested in April, not far from the Mexican border. He was carrying $10,000 and his brother's driver's license and had dyed his hair blond.
On Tuesday, prosecutors presented their final two witnesses, investigators who said they had tracked Peterson's cell phone calls on the day his wife vanished and found more than 240 calls between Peterson and his mistress in the three months surrounding Laci Peterson's disappearance.
Peterson and Fresno massage therapist Amber Frey spoke as often as 16 times a day between Nov. 19 and Feb. 19, Stanislaus County investigator Steve Jacobson. The few days they did not exchange calls included Christmas Eve and Valentine's Day, he said.
In the transcript of a phone call made two weeks after Laci Peterson's disappearance, Scott Peterson apologized for deceiving Frey about being a widower at a time when his wife was still alive, but he failed to explain the inconsistencies in his stories.
"You sat here in front of me and cried and broke down," Frey said in the Jan. 6 call, and introduced into evidence Tuesday. "I sat here and held your hand, Scott, and comforted you and you were lying to me."
"Yeah," Peterson replied.
The call was made as the story of Laci Peterson's disappearance became a national news story and her photo was splashed across newspapers and television sets as police, family members and volunteers searched for her across California.