Where It All Began For Laci And Scott Peterson


POSTED: 3:05 p.m. PST January 19, 2003
UPDATED: 10:34 a.m. PST April 23, 2003
To those who knew Laci Rocha and Scott Peterson when both were students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the thought of the tragic events as they have unfolded seemed very unlikely.

Scott Peterson was an outstanding high school golfer, who earned a partial scholarship to Arizona State while competing as a prep star at San Diego's University of San Diego High School.

Among his high school teammates was future PGA star Phil Mickelson, who was two years ahead of him.

After graduating in 1990, Peterson headed to ASU, but his stay would be a short one. He returned home and enrolled at Cuesta College -- a community college in San Luis Obispo. Peterson later would matriculate at nearby Cal Poly, choosing to focus his studies on agribusiness.

Meanwhile, Laci Rocha was emerging as a rising star within the agriculture department, majoring in ornamental horticulture.

Virginia Walter, who has been on the faculty at Cal Poly for 28 years, got to know Laci.

"She's a very lively person, and she's not a wallflower," Walter told the San Luis Obispo Tribune. "She was very active from the moment she stepped on to campus. You can't not know Laci."

Rocha was one of the first students to compete on both the flower-judging team and the landscape team -- both teams competed nationally against other horticultural schools.

She went to work at Cal Poly's plant shop in 1995 and eventually was promoted to manager. At the same time she was excelling in the classroom and also spending some time as president of Pi Alpha Xi, the horticulture honor society.

Peterson also stood out as a student.

Marlin Vix, an agribusiness professor, remembered Peterson as being "pretty sharp."

"(He was) a good communicator, a nice guy," Vix told the San Jose Mercury News. "He was pleasant, pretty sharp, fun to talk to."

In 1995, the two met through a mutual friend. The friend brought Laci into a local restaurant called the Pacific Cafe dinner. Peterson was a waiter there.

The friend recalled that Peterson -- an avid fisherman -- decided to take Laci out on a deep-sea fishing trip. She got sick, but the couple was smitten.

Two years later they were married.

Following graduation in 1997, Scott Peterson was offered a job in Ohio, but the couple decided to stay in San Luis Obispo and open a business.

It was a popular burger joint called "The Shack" -- which is still located on San Luis Obispo's Foothill Boulevard.

After turning the business into a success, the couple decided to move to Modesto to be close to Laci's parent. It was there on Christmas Eve 2002 that Laci Peterson was killed, according to police, and where Scott now sits in a jail cell accused of her murder.