REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – An unruffled Lee Peterson took the stand Thursday, telling jurors that since he doesn't particularly enjoy fishing, his son, Scott, rarely talked to him about it, and that Scott wouldn't necessarily tell him about large purchases.
Scott Peterson (search), who's accused of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, sat back in his chair and gave his full attention to his father, who testified for about 40 minutes.
Wearing khaki pants, a striped golf shirt and a beige sweater vest, Lee Peterson was self-assured as he swore to tell the truth, and announced he was "proud to say Scott's my son."
Prosecutor Rick Distaso immediately hit Lee Peterson with a series of questions he couldn't answer — about his son's boat, his mistress and his whereabouts on Dec. 24, 2002, the day Laci Peterson disappeared. He was trying to show that despite telling investigators he spoke with his son on the phone "nearly every day," there was a lot he didn't know.
Defense lawyer Pat Harris countered by prodding Lee Peterson to explain that although he liked golf, his son had long preferred fishing.
Scott Peterson claims his wife disappeared when he was out fishing in his new aluminum boat — which, prosecutors allege, neither his wife nor his parents knew about — on the San Francisco Bay. The bodies of Laci Peterson and her fetus were later found down the shore from the Berkeley Marina (search), where Scott Peterson says he launched his boat that day.
"We didn't talk fishing," Lee Peterson said of the phone conversations he had with his son at 12:40 p.m. and 12:45 p.m. on Dec. 24.
"He knows you're not interesting in fishing, right?" Harris asked.
"Pretty much," Lee Peterson answered.
Lee Peterson also told jurors his son didn't often share information about large purchases. He told about a time he visited his son in college; they hadn't seen each other in about six months.
"You were surprised to find in the front yard ... a boat," Harris asked. "He hadn't told you about the boat, had he?"
"No," Lee Peterson replied.
"He also had a motorcycle, right?"
"There may have been two motorcycles," Lee Peterson answered simply and calmly, adding his son paid for everything himself and never mentioned them. "That's not Scott."
Court watcher and former prosecutor Dean Johnson said Lee Peterson helped his son's case.
"He did not come across as angry or particularly biased," Johnson said. "I think he played well to the jury."
Lee Peterson was the last in a string of 25 prosecution witnesses called this week to fill in a variety of gaps left in earlier testimony.
Johnson called them "kitchen sink" witnesses.
"(Defense lawyer Mark) Geragos, in his opening statement, promised he would turn this into an eyewitness case," he said. "But the prosecution's going to say these witnesses who say they saw Laci Peterson are simply mistaken."
Earlier Thursday, five women who lived in the Petersons' Modesto neighborhood testified in quick succession about where and how often they walked their dogs.
Two of the women had golden retrievers, like the Petersons' dog, and one woman was visibly pregnant at the time Laci Peterson disappeared. Prosecutors are trying to show the neighborhood was full of women who regularly walked their dogs to counter testimony from defense witnesses who are expected to say they saw Laci Peterson walking her dog on Dec. 24, 2002 — after prosecutors say her husband killed her.