Interview With Friends of Laci Peterson



Aired January 7, 2003 - 20:00   ET


CONNIE CHUNG, HOST: Good evening. I'm Connie Chung.
Tonight: Without a lead, without a clue, her friends anguish over a missing young woman who is eight months pregnant.

ANNOUNCER: Two weeks and still not a clue, an expectant mother gone without a trace. Tonight, for the first time, we learn about Laci Peterson from her dearest friends.

This is CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT. Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York: Connie Chung.

CHUNG: Good evening.

Tonight: It's now two weeks since Laci Peterson disappeared from her home in Modesto, California. She was eight months pregnant at the time. Police have no clues, no leads and a dwindling reservoir of hope.

But, as CNN's Rusty Dornin reports, hundreds of friends and people who never even met her are not giving up yet.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, how are you doing today?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hugs are always welcome at the Laci Peterson volunteer center, especially for Terri Western, who heads up the operation. When the mother-to-be disappeared Christmas Eve, for Western, it was very personal.

TERRI WESTERN, FRIEND OF LACI PETERSON: I got a call from my daughter Stacy. And she and Laci have been best friends since third grade. And Stacy was devastated. "Mom, Laci's missing."

DORNIN: It was too close. And Western felt she had to do something.

WESTERN: We are still making the ribbons. And those ribbons are for events that we have.

DORNIN (on camera): The search part of it for volunteers has scaled back quite a bit, but what are you trying to do here now?

WESTERN: What we're doing now is, we're keeping this volunteer center open to keep Laci's name out there, to keep her face out there. We want them back in the worst way. And that's our purpose, our sole purpose.

DORNIN (voice-over): Laci Peterson's husband and other family members come by every day.

WESTERN: Scott responds to a lot of the family e-mails. And then we print them out and pass them on to other family members as well.

DORNIN: Meanwhile, donations keep the center in a local hotel up and running.

WESTERN: We'll take this down and deposit with Stacy.

DORNIN: There's a special account at a local investment company.

WESTERN: There's a donation from the center for this morning. We put it into the Laci Peterson Foundation.

DORNIN: A stop at her office and a quick visit with her husband and real estate partner.

WESTERN: Are you going to show property?



DORNIN: Then back to the center.

WESTERN: Businesses are a little more receptive.

DORNIN: Western is here 8:00 to 6:00.

(on camera): It's become a full-time job.

WESTERN: Yes, it has. DORNIN: What has created such a hurt feeling among people who don't know Scott Laci that they want to help?

WESTERN: Look at that smile of Laci's. It's just -- that's how she always was and is. It's just that big, big grin. And it makes you just want to be involved as much as you can.

DORNIN (voice-over): Involved in a wholehearted effort to find a young woman that, to Western, has always felt like family.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Modesto, California.


CHUNG: Terri Western's daughter Stacy, Laci Peterson's maid of honor at her wedding and best friend since third grade, is with us now from Modesto, along with some other of Laci's best friends, Renee Garza, Lori Ellsworth, and Rene Tomlinson, all sharing what they know about Laci in their first interviews on national television.

Thank you all for being with us. We so appreciate it.

Stacy, tell me, when was the last time you spoke to Laci?

STACY BOYERS, FRIEND OF LACI PETERSON: I spoke to Laci Monday night at 4:45. She called to wish me a merry Christmas.

CHUNG: So, that was the day before she disappeared. Did she sound at all upset about anything? Was anything peculiar about her conversation with you?

BOYERS: No. Nothing. She was happy as ever, I mean, ready for Christmas and cheerful.

CHUNG: That's the kind of person she always has been, isn't that right? Can you describe her?

BOYERS: Laci is always smiling. No matter where we are or what we're doing, she's always bubbly and talkative. And she's usually the center of attention.

CHUNG: Rene Tomlinson I know you were planning to give Laci her shower this Saturday. It's got to be heartbreaking for you.

RENE TOMLINSON, FRIEND OF LACI PETERSON: Yes, it is, to say the least.

CHUNG: What are you going to do, Renay, for this Saturday? You're going to hope that she comes back and celebrate?

TOMLINSON: We are praying that she comes back and we can continue on with the plans. And it will probably bigger than we had anticipated, but we're hoping that she's going to be here with us. And if she's not, then we are going to continue our efforts and hope that we have a good stream of volunteers that day.

CHUNG: I know you all are working at the command center.

Lori, you have known Laci, because both of you were cheerleaders at the same time in junior high school. She sounds to me as if she is the quintessential cheerleader, just a happy, out-there kind of person.

LORI ELLSWORTH, FRIEND OF LACI PETERSON: Definitely. Definitely. All through junior high and high school, she was the cheerleader. You saw that big smile. She just kept everybody going.

CHUNG: Renee Garza, I know you have known her since kindergarten, which is really amazing, that all of you have stayed in touch now, as you're adults.

Renee, tell me, what was her relationship with her husband, Scott?

RENEE GARZA, FRIEND OF LACI PETERSON: Their relationship was really good. They were very -- they are very, very happy. The two of them, you can't describe it. They're like school kids. They're like teenagers in love. They are. And they were very excited for the birth of their first son.

CHUNG: Had you ever seen them argue?

GARZA: No. No.

CHUNG: In fact, don't you have a story about how they argue?


CHUNG: You can tell us.

GARZA: As a matter of fact, I do. We were talking one day, Scott and Laci and myself. And we were talking about arguing. And Scott would say, I'm mad. And Laci would say, I'm mad. And then they would say, let's hug.

And that's how -- it sounds silly, but that's how they solved their arguments. They are an amazing couple. They are an amazing couple.

CHUNG: Stacy, when you heard so much speculation about whether or not Scott in fact might be involved in her disappearance, what did you think?

BOYERS: No one's going to guess what's happened. No one knows what's happened. And I'm not going to try and guess what's happened to Laci. We just pray that she comes home safe and sound.

CHUNG: The question, I think, for so many people who don't know Laci and Scott, do any of you believe that Scott had anything to do with her disappearance?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Absolutely not.

CHUNG: And can one of you tell me why not? Is it just so out of the realm of possibility? Tell me.

TOMLINSON: I think I heard Sharon on an interview earlier this morning. And she said it perfectly. If you saw -- if you ever have the chance the opportunity -- the privilege, I should say -- to see Scott and Laci together, you would have no question in your mind, because they are the ideal couple.

They enjoy the same things. They enjoy being together. They made time for each other. They're building their home together and working on that, which everyone knows is a day-to-day thing. So, they had so many plans going forward. You just -- you wouldn't even question it, if you had got the opportunity to see them together.

CHUNG: Rene, do you think there was anything unusual about the fact that Scott was going fishing on Christmas Eve all day long?

TOMLINSON: I don't. And I'm glad you asked me, because I actually had the opportunity to see him last winter.

I was up skiing at our local -- Laci had purchased a ski pass for Scott for his birthday. And I was sitting in the lodge. And, all of a sudden, I see Scott walk in. I'm like, what are you doing here? And some friends had seen him out on the slopes. And he's like, oh, I'm just practicing up. I want to get this down before I go in public to show everybody how I snowboard.

And he was actually getting ready to go out of the country for a business trip, I think that night. I'm like, don't you need to be home packing? He goes, oh, I just wanted to come up here for a couple of hours. And I said, oh, where's Laci? She just wanted to stay home. She didn't feel like coming up.

So, it's not out of the normal, ordinary for him. He's just -- the two of them are so together and so on top of things, if they had something planned, they were ready for it. And a trip here, a trip there for a few hours wasn't going to set them back. And that's just an example. And he's an outdoorsman in every aspect, whether it's golf, fishing, hunting, snowboarding now. That's just him.

CHUNG: Well, Lori, if you could say something to Laci right now, what would you say, if she happens, for some reason or another, to be listening?

ELLSWORTH: We're ready for you to come home. It's time. We can't wait to throw your shower for you and have you help us plan it and see that baby boy.

CHUNG: Oh, do you know it's a baby boy?


CHUNG: You do? Oh, how exciting. And her due date is what, February 10?

ELLSWORTH: Tenth, right.

CHUNG: How much -- she must have been looking forward to this so much, her first baby.

ELLSWORTH: She was very much looking forward to it. She was so prepared. I think she probably has every book imaginable that you could read on pregnancies and knowing what she can and can't do throughout her pregnancy, going so far as, she wouldn't eat sushi with us one night when we went out for dinner, because it's not the right thing to have. So, yes, she was very prepared.

CHUNG: So, Renee, the other Renee -- I was talking to Rene Tomlinson before, right?


CHUNG: Renee Garza, is it hard to remain optimistic, because it has been two weeks? And that's really rough to think about that she's been gone for two weeks.

GARZA: Absolutely not. Laci is the strongest girl you will ever meet, personality-plus. It is not hard to be hopeful. We know she's coming home. We know she's coming, because this is what's keeping us going. This is what's keeping everyone going. And she's OK. I know she is.

CHUNG: What's amazing is that, when Scott and Laci moved back to Modesto, what, something like two years ago, all of you got back together and you've been so tight since then. Isn't that true, Stacy?

BOYERS: Yes. Laci was the one that actually brought us all back together for our Christmas parties, our New Year's parties. And for everybody's birthdays, she bakes us a cake specially for us. And she's been the one that brought us all back together.

CHUNG: So, you all must have a terrible empty feeling that you're missing a link in that chain of friendship that you have.

BOYERS: Yes, we do.

CHUNG: All right.

Is there anything else that we can pass along to the public that could be of help, because I know all of you are manning this command center and want to help as much as you can.

TOMLINSON: Just keep coming and volunteering and helping us out. We need help finding Laci.

GARZA: We know she's out there.


GARZA: And we need someone to help us bring her home.


Stacy, Renee, Lori, and Rene, thank you all so much for being with us. We appreciate it and we'll keep our fingers crossed.

GARZA: Thank you.

TOMLINSON: Thank you.

ELLSWORTH: Thank you.

BOYERS: Thank you.

CHUNG: Police today said they are scaling back their briefings. It will be once every two days now, rather than every day. And the sad fact has been that they've had very little to report.

Joining us once again tonight with what we know is Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden.

Chief Wasden, I thank you again for being with us. Do you have any late information?


CHUNG: Do you have any late information tonight?

WASDEN: We are just continuing our searches. We are out in the rural county areas and doing some water searches that are going to on. They were working at Tulloch Reservoir today in a bridged area, based on some expert advice that we received. And so we're continuing, but we don't have a lot of new information at this point.

CHUNG: I know you had nine divers out there right at that bridge area. You said based on an expert's advice. What was it? Was it an expert's tip or was it information that you had?

WASDEN: No. We work with the local experts in that area, trying to follow a logical sequence of what-ifs and based on some information that we would follow through on those. And then, listening to the experienced law enforcement personnel, the county sheriffs up there, that have a lot of experience in the area, we located some areas and decided that it was prudent to search and do so with some divers.

They found that area to be very difficult to search. So we'll continue to work those areas. We are going to use some other equipment in the future.

CHUNG: Chief Wasden, are you scaling back the frequency of your briefings because tips seem to be drying up?

WASDEN: We're up 2,121 tips at this point. We continue to receive calls. We just don't have new information to give to the media. We do want to keep the public's interests on this case. If Laci is alive and well, we need the public to be looking and helping us find her. If Laci is not alive and well, we need the help of the public for any information that will help us find her and get her home.

CHUNG: All right, Chief Wasden, I thank you so much for being with us. And we'll check in with you again.