Sharon Rocha Goes 'On the Record'
This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," January 10, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: Now to a story we've been following since the very first tragic day. Laci Peterson was eight months pregnant when she disappeared on Christmas Eve, 2002. Three months later, the bodies of Laci and her son, Conner, washed ashore in the San Francisco Bay. Laci's husband, Scott Peterson, is on death row tonight, convicted of murdering both his wife and unborn son.
Now, three years after Laci disappeared, her mother has written a book called "For Laci." Sharon Rocha joins us live in New York. Hello, Sharon.
SHARON ROCHA, LACI PETERSON'S MOTHER: Hi, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ready to do this?
ROCHA: Yes, I am.
VAN SUSTEREN: We've been talking about this for a number of years.
ROCHA: For a long time.
VAN SUSTEREN: You've written this book, "For Laci." Hard to write?
ROCHA: It was extremely difficult to write. When I decided to do this, I just didn't realize how difficult it would be. I thought I could do it.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, we have such a different view on the outside looking in. The book gives us that inside look.
ROCHA: Yes. That's what I tried to do. I wanted to let people know Laci. We've had many, many requests, many cards and letter from people saying that they would like to know Laci, know more about her.
VAN SUSTEREN: The book is very personal. I mean, you talk about your own life. You talk about life with Laci, Scott, with Ron. Then you talk about the whole thing, the trial. But the sort of overriding theme is the pain.
VAN SUSTEREN: Doesn't go away, does it.
ROCHA: It does not go away. Now, I've been asked, How do you get through this? How I've gotten through it, basically, has been my family and my friends, who've been absolutely wonderful. I'll never get over it, though.
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, is it every single day, I imagine.
ROCHA: Yes, it is. It is. I think about her every day.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, you and I have talked. I mean, holidays are bad. And you and I even talked before, that I said when the trial was over, that's when it really sort of sets in. You lose your mission.
ROCHA: That's it exactly. This Christmas seemed to be the most difficult for many of us, and my family, her friends, and that's part of the reason.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why'd he do this? Why'd Scott do this?
ROCHA: I don't know. I wish I did know. There's no reason. There is no reason. There's no logical reason as to why he did this.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you remember the first time you met him?
ROCHA: Yes, I do.
VAN SUSTEREN: Where'd you meet him?
ROCHA: I met him in Morrow Bay at the cafe that he worked at. Very nice, very personable, such a gentlemen, very well-mannered.
VAN SUSTEREN: Laci crazy about him, no doubt.
ROCHA: Absolutely. Absolutely. She had already gone out with him a couple of times before I met him because she called and said, Mom, I've met the man I'm going to marry.
VAN SUSTEREN: It's sort of interesting, in the book, you write about how even in the first days after she disappeared, when you were suspicious of Scott, you know, you felt bad because you thought, If Laci comes home and knows that I suspected her husband...
ROCHA: Right. And I can't really say that it was, like, a major suspicion. I think a lot of it was subconscious at first. And then as time went on, as the days passed, I just became more and more aware of how unusual I thought his behavior was. I mean, he didn't react like so many of us were, the panic, the need to find her immediately. I never once heard him say — and I felt he would have said this to me, we were always very close — but say, Mom, why would anybody take Laci? Where could she be? What has happened to her? I never heard him say anything like that. And I don't know of anybody he has said it to.
VAN SUSTEREN: When you met him first, did you like him?
ROCHA: I did. I liked him very much.
VAN SUSTEREN: What was it about him?
ROCHA: All the things I just said. He was just very congenial, well- mannered, polite, very attentive towards Laci. And Laci was absolutely crazy about him. He always called me Mrs. Rocha until the day they were married, then it was Mom from then on.
VAN SUSTEREN: When do you think he decided do this? Was this a planned murder?
ROCHA: I do feel it was premeditated. Absolutely. And all I can do is, you know, put out my own theory. I know a lot of people have called Scott a sociopath, and I've read where sociopaths can go on for years and years as if everything is normal in their lives, and then all of a sudden, they're backed into a corner, and that may cause something to snap. And I feel personally that that corner came on December 6, when Shaun Sibley (ph) asked him if he was married.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, when you go through the facts, I mean, when he was confronted with the marriage by that woman, and then you have, I think it was on the 9th or the 12th when the boat was bought.
ROCHA: The 9th.
VAN SUSTEREN: The 9th, the boat was bought.
ROCHA: The reason I say I think that was his corner was because the very next day is when he started searching the Internet for — about the tides in the bay area. And the following day, on the 8th, he searched the Internet for a boat, and the day after that, on the 9th, is he bought it. And that's also the same day that he told Amber Frey that he had lost his wife and this would be his first Christmas without her.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, as you listen to the facts — to jump ahead a little bit — I was there at the sentencing, when you say, you know, divorce is an option, you didn't have to murder her.
ROCHA: Absolutely. It is an option. I don't know. I think something has gone awry here where so many men feel that murder is their only option out of a marriage. And I think they need to realize it's time to stop murdering our daughters.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the thing that's so profoundly difficult — and you know, it's so much easier for me — is that it appears that Laci never saw it coming. I mean, it does not appear...
ROCHA: I know that she didn't see it coming. I know she didn't.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's the worst, you know, in a way.
ROCHA: It is.
VAN SUSTEREN: We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back with much more. Sharon, of course, stand by.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROCHA: Laci and her unborn child did not deserve to die! They certainly did not deserve to be dumped in the bay and sent to a watery grave as though their lives were meaningless!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROCHA: There are no words that can possibly describe the ache in my heart or the emptiness in my life. I know that someone knows where Laci is, and I'm pleading with you, please, please, let her come home to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: That's, of course, Sharon Rocha in January 2003, just one month after her pregnant daughter, Laci, disappeared. And of course, we are back with Sharon.
Sharon, by that date, January 23, you knew what had happened.
ROCHA: Yes. Well, I wasn't sure exactly what had happened, but I knew that Scott was responsible for it. I knew Laci wasn't coming home alive.
VAN SUSTEREN: You don't, even to this day, know the details. I mean, you write about that in the book, that it's almost sort of an incomplete aspect. Do you need to know?
ROCHA: I think the only thing that I want to know is that she didn't know what happened. I don't need to know the details.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you sort of understand like, Beth Holloway Twitty has no information about her daughter at all.
ROCHA: That is just devastating to me. I know how I was those four months until Laci was found, and I just can't imagine what she's going through.
VAN SUSTEREN: The media was all over this story. I was probably the worst offender of all, so this is your big chance. I mean, give us some idea. What were we like? Were we a problem?
ROCHA: In the beginning, it was absolutely great because it just kept Laci going. It kept her face out there. Even though I knew that Scott was responsible, you know, in the back of my mind, I still had that sliver of hope that she would come home. So it was great, like you say, keeping her picture out there, her face, people looking for her.
And to be honest with you, most of the time, it wasn't a problem. There were a few times that it was a problem, when I'd hear things that I didn't want to hear about or hear things that were reported incorrectly.
VAN SUSTEREN: One day, I showed up at Scott's house, Scott and Laci's house. I never dreamed you were there. You were there.
ROCHA: I didn't dream that you would have been there, either!
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, no, I know. Neither one of us did. You know, I felt badly when I saw you. And of course, at first, your friends sort of ran interference. I mean, it was a rather awkward exchange. Is that the horrible part, when we just sort of show up?
ROCHA: Yes, it is. It is. Unexpected. But at that time, we were there cleaning the yard. We were taking care of the yard, pulling weeds. Everybody had mud on their hands. And we'd been approached before, and not necessarily by the media, but through the fence. I don't know if you remember how the fence was. You could see through the fence, and we would see people coming up the driveway.
VAN SUSTEREN: You watched some of the shows. You even write in the book about, in fact, that, you know, you were watching the shows at night. Were the shows more painful to you?
ROCHA: In the beginning, I keep saying in the beginning because all of this was — you know, it was just surreal. It's kind of hard to describe it, but a distraction for me. It was like, OK, there's Laci. There's Laci. I'm still looking at Laci. She's still alive. She's still out there. We need to bring her home.
VAN SUSTEREN: We did a show one night on bait, and you write about it in the book, how you confronted Scott with what our experts said on the air.
ROCHA: Exactly. I turned to him, and I said, you know, what kind of bait did you use? And he just turned and looked at me over his shoulder and smiled, and his sister-in-law, Janie, said that he used a lure. And I said, Well, was it at least shaped like a shrimp? Because your expert had said that you use live bait.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mark Geragos — and I've known Mark for years, and without any doubt, he walked into the courtroom with a swagger. What's your thought on Mark?
ROCHA: I didn't think very much of him, to tell you the truth. He really irritated me. I think in the beginning — I mean, he was very knowledgeable, don't get me wrong. He knew what he was doing, and he was a great defense lawyer. I mean, he did everything that he could to defend Scott. But it was his tactics. Of course, I had never been in a courtroom. I didn't realize that a defense attorney can say anything or do anything to distract the jury.
But did I not like the incident of the boat, the boat that he put in the parking lot with the dummy in it, the headless and legless and handless dummy. I thought that was very tacky.
VAN SUSTEREN: I think he could have gone without sort of joking in the well of the court, in front of you, with his client. I mean, you know, and I don't think defense lawyers realize, you know, just, you know — you know, who's in the courtroom and what they see.
VAN SUSTEREN: We're going to take another quick break. Sharon, stand by.
But first, much more of our interview with Sharon Rocha.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON GRANTSKI, LACI PETERSON'S STEPFATHER: Our friends, family, country searched for Laci everywhere. There wasn't one place that wasn't searched. They had no — no reason to doubt that it was Scott who did what he did. And he got what he deserved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROCHA: I love my daughter so much! I miss her every minute of every day. My heart aches for her and Conner. Without them, there is a huge void in my life. I literally get sick to my stomach when I allow myself to think about what may have happened to them. No parent should ever have to think about the way their child was murdered!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: That's Sharon, of course, in April 2003, just after the bodies of Laci and Conner washed ashore and Scott Peterson was arrested for their murder. Sharon Rocha joins us again live in New York.
Sharon, throughout this entire book, I woven within it, as this crime, this grief, this behind-the-scenes stuff. This is like it never stopped.
ROCHA: No, and it still hasn't stopped. I feel that Scott not only murdered Laci and Conner, the Scott that's in prison murdered my son-in-law, also.
VAN SUSTEREN: You loved him.
ROCHA: I loved Scott. I loved him.
VAN SUSTEREN: What was it like looking at him across the courtroom?
ROCHA: The person I was looking at wasn't my son-in-law most of the time. It was very difficult for me the day the prosecutors gave their closing arguments in the guilt phase. I really had a difficult time that day because I knew that the jury was going out shortly to make a decision as to whether he was going to be guilty or not. And at that time — and there are still sometimes — not nearly as many as it was at that time, but I had a hard time separating my son-in-law from the murderer.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, when you think about it, it's like, every conversation you had with him after he was in custody was a public one. I mean, from the witness stand.
VAN SUSTEREN: You've never have been able to sort of sit and have a private — and you'll probably never be able to.
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, I don't know what you would say then, but I mean, the relationship was, I mean, I would assume that you have a lot of sort of, you know, undelivered things you'd like to say to him privately.
ROCHA: You know, right now, I can honestly say that there isn't anything I want to say to him because that person is not the Scott Peterson that I knew.
VAN SUSTEREN: What about his parents?
ROCHA: I haven't spoken to them since the trial.
VAN SUSTEREN: During the trial, it seemed like there was some tension. But in fact, at one point, I think there was the problem with the home because I think Jackie and Lee said you couldn't go in the home, and you wanted to reclaim some of Laci's items. I mean, at least, it appeared from the outside the tension was growing.
ROCHA: Actually, what had happened there was I had been told several times that I could go into the home, and it would be next week when they would be there. And then when the day would arrive, I wouldn't get the phone call. So I finally just took it upon myself and said, OK, we're going in to get Laci's things because they were slowly disappearing.
ROCHA: Did you have a good relationship with Jackie and Lee before Laci disappeared?
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, we did. We didn't know each other very well. We were acquaintances. They live in southern California, we're in the central valley. So we saw them occasionally when they would come to visit Laci and Scott. But we did have a good relationship.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, sitting in the courtroom, I mean, you know, from the back of the courtroom, on the right hand we'd see Laci's family. On the left side, we'd see Scott's family. And you could see, you know, it wasn't just Laci and Conner, you could see sort of the ripple effect, you know, the destruction was so vast.
ROCHA: Absolutely. Absolutely. It didn't stop at the families. It spread out. I mean, there were friends, there were total strangers on both sides of the families.
VAN SUSTEREN: Jackie — I've spoken to Jackie in the last six months, I can't remember when, and she still believes her son's innocent.
ROCHA: And that's her prerogative, to believe that he's innocent. But we don't have to believe that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Amber. Hero?
ROCHA: I think Amber did a great job of recording the conversations between her and Scott. My own personal opinion, I think the star witness was Craig Grogan. I saw a difference in the jury when Craig testified.
VAN SUSTEREN: He was the one that sort of looped it all together, put all the pieces together at the end. He was the closer.
ROCHA: He was the closer, and I could see the expressions on their faces were, like, OK, now I get it. Now I know what we've been listening to all these months.
VAN SUSTEREN: Were you curious what the jury was thinking throughout the trial? I mean, because you can't talk to them.
ROCHA: I was curious, of course. I was just hoping that they were understanding what was going on because I certainly wasn't, in the beginning.
VAN SUSTEREN: So what'd you watch? Did you watch Scott, you watched Geragos, you watched the prosecutors, or did you watch the jury in the courtroom, or the judge?
ROCHA: I watched them all. I watched all of them. I took notes on everything.
VAN SUSTEREN: We're going to take a quick break. Stand by.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROCHA: I can only hope that the sound of Laci's voice begging for her life and begging for the life of her unborn child is heard over and over and over again in the mind of that person every day for the rest of his life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Tonight, more than three years after Laci Peterson and her unborn baby were murdered, her mother has written a new book called "For Laci." We're back with Sharon Rocha.
Sharon, how are Amy and Brett doing that's Laci's siblings?
ROCHA: They're doing fine. They are both back at work and they're doing fine.
VAN SUSTEREN: And Ron who is for all intents and purposes Laci's stepfather, raised her?
ROCHA: Yes. He's known her since she was two years old.
VAN SUSTEREN: He's out in the Green Room, out in the waiting room.
ROCHA: Yes, he is.
VAN SUSTEREN: He's fine too. But it still takes its toll. I mean they're fine but there's a toll.
ROCHA: It absolutely takes its toll. None of us will ever be the same. Laci's always there with us. We talk about her all of the time but there is, absolutely there is something missing from all of us.
VAN SUSTEREN: When we were paging through the book, now we're passing it around the newsroom, I mean with the comment that was made the smile.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's all anyone, I mean people who don't know her talk about that giant smile.
ROCHA: And you can see from the pictures in the book that was Laci.
VAN SUSTEREN: That was a big smile.
ROCHA: She always had that smile on her face. She laughed. She giggled. She was happy.
VAN SUSTEREN: Prosecution team, high marks?
ROCHA: Absolutely, absolutely.
VAN SUSTEREN: How closely did they work with you?
ROCHA: I'm sure, you know, they kept me at a distance as far as a lot of the information because they just weren't allowed to give me information but as far as working with us they were the best. They were just the best. I mean we talked to them on a daily basis whether they wanted me to or not.
VAN SUSTEREN: They've had some career changes some of them.
ROCHA: Oh, yes. Rick Distaso is now a judge.
VAN SUSTEREN: That was the lead prosecutor.
ROCHA: He was the lead prosecutor.
VAN SUSTEREN: We were hard on him.
VAN SUSTEREN: And so we will apologize. He won the case. We were hard on him. We lawyers we're used to it.
ROCHA: Birgit Fladager is running for district attorney.
VAN SUSTEREN: Unopposed or does she have an opponent?
ROCHA: She does have an opponent. We've been busy trying to raise funds and get her elected here. And, Dave is still with the D.A.'s office also, Dave Harris, so and they've just been wonderful people. They really are.
VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think of the judge?
ROCHA: You know, I may have disagreed a couple times with him but I think he was a great judge. He was very fair. He was very cautious. He made sure everything was done by the book. He obviously doesn't want any appeals, nor do any of us.
VAN SUSTEREN: Simmons' nose got out of joint about seating though one day. What happened? He was going to put you in the back of the courtroom, all the parents?
ROCHA: Yes, with a little incident out in the hallway with the Petersons, which was actually a build-up of previous things that had happened.
VAN SUSTEREN: Which is such, I mean which is such a sad thing when you think of it like the parents, I mean like the two sets of parents who did nothing wrong and you see them sort of having to file separately out of the courtroom and were all sort of cautiously keeping everybody separate.
ROCHA: Yes because there were comments that were made, you know, as we would pass through the doors or walk down the hall. Quite often Lee would make a comment to us until, you know, it just came to a point enough is enough. They obviously blamed us for Scott being there.
VAN SUSTEREN: The detectives get very high marks too. I mean you say when there's, I mean in the book you write very, you know, very warm things.
ROCHA: Yes. Craig Brogan, Al Brocchini, John Buehler, all of them did a wonderful job. Craig was the lead detective and the other two — they were the three that we worked the most with.
VAN SUSTEREN: I don't think people realize that sometimes the detectives, I mean they get very personally involved in it.
ROCHA: You know, everyone involved in this case, well I say everyone but at least many of the people that I've talked to, those detectives and many others with the police department and the D.A.'s office, all the prosecutors they actually had to go through call it a decompression themselves when this was over. I mean they were that involved. They spent 24/7. They spent almost a year away from their families.
VAN SUSTEREN: And we were hard on them.
ROCHA: And you were very hard on them.
VAN SUSTEREN: I'll take that as well. You know, do my penance. And finally, we only have about 30 seconds left, your friends.
ROCHA: The same thing, friends and family, everybody has suffered through this.
VAN SUSTEREN: But they were there for you all the time.
ROCHA: They were there. I couldn't have asked for better friends and family or everybody who supported us, all the people who sent cards and letters.
VAN SUSTEREN: I think I got a few elbows from your friend Sandy to push out of the way because I was trying to move in. So, I mean and we got a few of her elbows and Patty's. Everybody tried hard and did well.
ROCHA: Yes, they did absolutely.
VAN SUSTEREN: The book is "For Laci." It is selling like hotcakes. It really is a worthwhile read because you can really get the inside story about this horrible tragedy, so buy it and you're going to learn a lot. Sharon, thank you, always nice to see you.
ROCHA: Thank you, Greta.
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