I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news that Scott Peterson had been arrested for the murders of his pregnant wife Laci and their unborn child. I was driving a beat-up old Bronco that doubled as a radio news car in Los Angeles.
My original drive on April 18, 2003 was intended to put together a story about golfers, but when the news came crashing out of the crusty old speakers about Peterson, my stomach dropped; I hit the gas to get back to the newsroom as soon as I could. I knew I’d be getting on the next plane heading north to get in place for his arraignment.
At the time, I was working as a general assignment reporter for the a.m. radio powerhouse, and was deeply engrossed in the Laci Peterson story. I had gone to Modesto several times to report on the disappearance of Laci Peterson, and had even done several reports outside the Peterson’s home while Scott was still there. He was coming and going from his house with great ease as the reporters watched him from the street closely. “Could he have done it?” “Could this man standing just feet away be responsible for killing his pregnant wife, and dumping her body into the ocean?”
It just seemed unthinkable that someone could do something so evil — and on Christmas Eve. Looking at Scott and Laci’s photos, they were snapshots of the perfect American dream. They were a good-looking couple, had success, a baby boy was on the way and a loving family surrounded them every step of the way. The dream ended up unfolding like a slow motion nightmare, with details of an affair, a lot of lies and a smiling Prince Charming that turned into a villain right before our eyes.
I grew up in Sacramento, Calif., and Modesto was just a short drive away from home. I knew the area well, and felt some kind of a connection to the case immediately. Laci, as we all know, was vibrant, adorable and had a big, bright smile. My best friend Amy, who was living in Sacramento, was also pregnant at the time. All of our friends had been planning baby showers and other fun stuff that comes along with watching someone you love move forward in her pregnancy. I could only imagine the torment Laci's family and friends were going through when she vanished.
On April 13, the devastating news was out that a baby had washed ashore in the San Francisco Bay. The following day, a woman washed up — missing her head, hands and feet.
I can still remember hearing Scott Peterson come into the courtroom before I could see him. He jingled and jangled as he shuffled into the room, clanking from walking with handcuffs and chains wrapped around his waist and feet. He was wearing a red jail jumpsuit and had horribly dyed blonde hair. He had told a friend that his dark hair turned yellow after jumping into a swimming pool that had chlorine. Investigators would later reveal that they believed he dyed his hair as part of a getaway plan to split to Mexico. When he was arrested, he was carrying $15,000 in cash, many items of survival gear, four cell phones, Mexican currency and more. This was a man who was about to bolt — cops realized this and grabbed him before he could get over the border.
The following two years were a roller coaster of days in the courtroom. Several jurors were dismissed during the double murder trial. Amber Frey, the woman Peterson was having an affair with, would prove to be one of the most important witnesses. The autopsy photos of Laci and Conner still haunt the courtroom full of people who saw them, myself included.
Scott Peterson now sits on death row overlooking the San Francisco Bay where he dumped the body of his pregnant wife. He continues to receive bags of mail from supporters and female fans — hard to believe, but they are out there. He has a team of lawyers working on his appeal, and is said to be an ideal inmate — one that's helpful and usually keeps to himself. In the meantime, Laci’s family and friends say they still can’t look out into the San Francisco bay without a sick feeling in their stomach. A part of her is still out there. Speculation as to why he committed the murders center around his apparent desire to be a swinging single again, a man who wanted no ties and no responsibilities.
Sharon Rocha, Laci’s mother, may have asked the most important question while on the witness stand, as she yelled at Scott, “Why couldn’t you just divorce her?”
Laura Ingle has been a correspondent with FNC since 2005, and most recently reported for the Gerardo At Large syndicated news magazine program. She currently is based in New York.
Laura Ingle currently serves as a New York-based correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) and also frequently anchors FOXNews.com/LIVE. She joined FNC as a Dallas-based correspondent in 2005.