REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Prosecutors in the Scott Peterson (search) murder trial called to the stand their 174th and final witness, a police investigator who portrayed the former fertilizer salesman as a man on the run because he killed his pregnant wife, Laci.
Modesto Detective Jon Buehler wrapped up 19 weeks of testimony by the state's witnesses, describing the details of Peterson's arrest on April 19, 2003. The defense begins its case next Tuesday.
Buehler told jurors that Peterson had a large backpack and an overnight bag stuffed with everything from hunting knives and a water purifier to snorkeling and fishing equipment to a shovel and duct tape. Much of the camping equipment had been purchased a month earlier, he said.
Peterson also had several changes of clothes, including seven pairs of shoes, jackets, pants, shorts and sweaters. He had four cell phones, two driver's licenses — his and his brother's — six credit cards, including one in his half-sister's name, and nearly $15,000 in cash.
Prosecutor Dave Harris (search) showed photographs of the equipment, found in a Mercedes that Peterson had bought earlier using his mother's first name.
Peterson's attorney Mark Geragos (search) showed photos of similar clothes and equipment found in Peterson's truck months earlier, portraying him as a guy who simply lived out of his vehicle.
Buehler also testified that Peterson also had with him "The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?", a book his former mistress Amber Frey had given him, along with a card dated Feb. 16, 2003.
"I can only hope that this will come to an end soon," Frey wrote. "I wish I could go back in time. I'm praying for you and your family."
Several flyers advertising a reward for Laci's safe return were found in the trunk, Buehler said.
On the day he was arrested, Peterson drove a circuitous nearly 170-mile route in Southern California in what prosecutors suggested was an attempt to evade police. Defense lawyers have maintained Peterson was trying to elude media scrutiny.
The prosecution effectively portrayed Peterson as a man capable of murdering his wife, experts said.
"He lied to everybody," said Paula Canny, a defense lawyer and former prosecutor who has been watching the trial. "The strongest evidence the prosecution has is what Scott Peterson said and what Scott Peterson did."
But former prosecutor Chuck Smith said the prosecution's case "ended with more of a whimper, than a bang." He said it would have been more effective to end with a witness who brought the whole case together or ends it with a powerful new fact.
"The prosecution did neither," Smith said.
Defense lawyers were expected to take at least a week for their case. Judge Alfred A. Delucchi has told jurors they should be able to begin deliberations by the end of the month.
The state alleges Peterson killed his eight-months pregnant wife in their Modesto home on or around Dec. 24, 2002, then dumped her body into the bay. Her badly decomposed remains — and that of her fetus — washed up in April 2003, not far from the marina where Peterson launched his boat that Christmas Eve morning for what he said was a solo fishing trip.
Geragos maintains someone else abducted and killed Laci, then framed Peterson after learning of his widely publicized alibi.