Missing Calif. Woman Due to Give Birth
February 10, 2003 3:14 PM
The Associated Press
The arrival of a missing pregnant woman's due date Monday was an emotional milestone for everyone involved in the case, but did not help investigators' efforts to solve the mystery, police said.
Laci Peterson, who was eight months pregnant when she disappeared on Christmas Eve, was due to give birth to a son that she planned to name Conner or Connor.
"Everybody's aware of it," Modesto Police Sgt. Ron Cloward said. "Everybody's aware that that's the due date."
Investigators working on the case have felt the weight of the approaching date, Cloward said, while probing for clues to Peterson's fate.
"It's not changing anything we're doing," he said.
Peterson, 27, was reported missing by her husband, Scott Peterson, who says she was gone from their Modesto home when he returned from a solo fishing trip to the Bay Area on Christmas Eve.
A woman later came forward to say she was having an affair with Scott Peterson before his wife disappeared. Police have searched Scott Peterson's boat and truck, although they have not formally declared him a suspect.
As Laci Peterson's due date approached, the public focus on the internationally publicized case persisted, and in some ways intensified over the weekend.
Hundreds of people showed up Saturday to search a canal area west of Modesto, part of a renewed effort by the missing woman's family to uncover new clues in her disappearance that may have been overlooked by police.
Although authorities previously scoured the site, the searchers found several items, including a woman's dress. But police said none of it appeared to be connected to Peterson's disappearance.
Meanwhile, a Web site devoted to the safe return of the young woman has continued to draw visitors from around the world. Along with messages of sympathy for Peterson's family, there are hundreds of angry postings accusing Scott Peterson of Laci's murder and calling him an adulterer.
"The response has been unbelievable," said Jonathan Smith, a sales manager in Sunnyvale, who created www.lacipeterson.com. The Web site, which had 15,000 main page hits when it appeared Dec. 29, has now been seen by more than 4.5 million people, Smith said.
By far, most of the entries are heartfelt prayers and wishes for Laci Peterson's parents, brother and sister. But by late last week, many entries had turned so ugly - and in some cases so obscenely sexual - that Webmasters had to step in to control the traffic.
"Because some of the postings are so rabid, so over-the-top, we were forced to add a dozen volunteers to scan the guest book several times daily and report to us which messages should be deleted," said Gregg DesElms, a Berkeley consultant who is helping Smith as a Web designer and writer/editor.
In addition to the angry rants and sweet expressions of sympathy, someone posted the home address for Scott Peterson's parents, asking that letter writers urge them to persuade their son to talk more with Modesto police. Jackie Peterson, Scott Peterson's mother, told the Modesto Bee her family has been organizing volunteers to contact medical clinics, birthing centers and hospitals.
"We have the California Registered Nurses Association help in e-mailing all their registers to view Laci's Web site and note the urgency of delivery date," Jackie Peterson wrote Friday in an e-mail to the Bee.
A group of Laci Peterson's friends and family members were planning to hold a private candlelight vigil Monday night in honor of her and her baby. "It's something that Laci's friends really wanted to do," family friend Terri Western said.