REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Laci Peterson (search) was a bubbly woman who changed her husband's life from the moment the couple met, witnesses testified Tuesday during the penalty phase of Scott Peterson's murder trial. The testimony brought the slain schoolteacher's mother to tears.
"Laci was just a bubble and you could see Scott would see this and cherish this," said James Gray, who owned a business near a packaging company Peterson ran with his father in San Luis Obispo.
Witnesses Tuesday painted a picture of Peterson far different from the murderer prosecutors depicted during the guilt phase of his trial, which concluded Nov. 12 with his conviction.
Jurors were expected to begin deliberating Thursday whether to sentence Peterson to life without parole or the death penalty for killing his pregnant wife and her fetus.
An agriculture professor who taught the Petersons at California Polytechnic State University said Scott Peterson (search) graduated with a 3.38 GPA and was on the dean's list three times.
"He was very intelligent, bright, confident, able, productive," said Robert Thompson, Jr., "The kind of student that sticks out."
He said he had been "grieving ever since" Laci Peterson's slaying. "I was close to Laci and she was such a warm ... type of person so I miss her terribly," he said.
Laci Peterson's mother, Sharon Rocha (search), cried throughout Tuesday's testimony.
Imami Abbas, owner of a restaurant where Peterson once worked and where he met his future wife, described Peterson as one of the best waiters he's ever hired.
"I want you to know I'm not trying to paint a pretty picture of Scott. I'm just going to tell you the truth," Abbas said. "The best quality I can think of in him is he is the politest and most courteous person I've ever seen in my life."
"When he met Laci, he was suddenly changed. Oh my God, he was so excited," Abbas added, starting to cry.
Earlier, Eric Sherar, a college friend of the pair, described the Petersons' relationship as that of "an average couple."
"I don't ever remember any real bad arguments," Sherar said, adding that Scott Peterson was generous and caring. The couple lived for about two years on a San Luis Obispo ranch that Sherar managed, he said.
Also Tuesday, Judge Alfred A. Delucchi (search) ruled jurors will not be allowed to consider sympathy for Peterson's family when determining his fate. Defense lawyer Mark Geragos argued panelists should be able to consider the impact a death sentence would have on Peterson's family since the fetus was to be a grandson to both the victim's and the defendant's parents.
"Sympathy for the defendant's family is not a matter the jury can consider in a capital case," Delucchi said. He also said he would tell jurors they could give Peterson the lesser sentence if they have doubt about the circumstances of the crime and its premeditation.
Prosecutors say Scott Peterson smothered or strangled Laci in their Modesto home on or around Christmas Eve 2002, then dumped her body into San Francisco Bay. The remains of the victims were discovered about four months later a few miles from where Peterson claims to have been fishing alone the day his wife vanished.
Sentencing has tentatively been set for Feb. 25.