REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Prosecutors tried to establish a monetary motive for Scott Peterson to want his pregnant wife dead through testimony about valuable jewelry Laci Peterson inherited in the months before she disappeared.
Laci Peterson (search), with other family members, had inherited more than $100,000 worth of jewelry from her grandmother before she vanished Dec. 24, 2002, witnesses have testified.
On Thursday, prosecutors in Scott Peterson's murder trial questioned a jewelry store clerk who said she remembered Laci Peterson bringing in various items to be appraised.
Mary Anna Felix testified that Laci Peterson told her it was Peterson's husband who wanted to know how much the jewelry was worth — and when Felix estimated the jewelry to be worth more than $100,000, "she said that he would be very happy."
Felix also said Laci Peterson wore a diamond pendant, and told her she never took it off, even when she slept, for fear of losing it.
Prosecutors showed a picture of the pendant sitting atop a dresser in the Petersons' home. The photo was taken after Laci Peterson vanished.
Robin Rocha (search), Laci Peterson's aunt, also testified that she and Laci inventoried the jewelry when the grandmother died and that after Laci disappeared, a watch and a pair of two-carat diamond earrings were missing.
Prosecutors called the owners of a Modesto pawn shop to testify that Laci Peterson sold some of her grandmother's jewelry on Dec. 10 for $140 and on Dec. 14, Laci and Scott Peterson returned to the store to sell more items for $110.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Mark Geragos (search) displayed a receipt that showed someone sold a watch, identical to the one Rocha claimed was missing after Laci vanished, on Dec. 31, 2002, at another area pawn shop.
Geragos didn't say whose name was on the pawn shop receipt but indicated it wasn't his client, in an apparent attempt to show that someone else was in possession of the missing watch.
Prosecutors have said Peterson's affair with a massage therapist drove him to murder. Thursday's questioning introduced another possible motive — that with his wife out of the way, Peterson might have thought that he could profit from the jewelry.
Defense lawyers claim someone else abducted Laci Peterson and dumped her body in the bay to frame Peterson after his alibi was widely publicized. They have hinted at a number of theories to create reasonable doubt, including one that Laci Peterson often wore a lot of jewelry, inviting trouble from the transients in the neighborhood.
Prosecutors allege Peterson, 31, murdered his pregnant wife in their Modesto home on or around Dec. 24, 2002, then dumped her body from his small boat into San Francisco Bay. Peterson has told police he went fishing on the bay that Christmas Eve morning and returned to an empty house.
When the remains of Laci Peterson and her fetus washed ashore nearly four months later, near where Peterson claimed to have been on his solo fishing trip, he was arrested.
Peterson could face the death penalty or life without parole, if convicted.