Feud Over Laci's Funeral; Prelim Delayed To Oct. 20


POSTED: 6:58 a.m. PDT September 2, 2003
UPDATED: 2:18 p.m. PDT September 3, 2003
A Stanislaus County judge Tuesday delayed Scott Peterson's preliminary hearing until Oct. 20 after the defense argued that it needed more time to prepare its case.

Judge Al Girolami granted a defense request for the delay from Sept. 9 because of the 'volume of discovery' in the case and also defense attorney Mark Geragos had a scheduling conflict with a case he is defending in Los Angeles.

Girolami told the defense that 'it was highly unlikely' that the prelim -- which has now been delayed twice -- will be rescheduled again.


Meanwhile, in an exchange of emails, the mother of Scott Peterson -- who is accused of killing his wife and unborn child -- begged Laci Peterson's mother to delay the funeral of her daughter-in-law and unborn grandchild. Those pleas were ignored, igniting a bitter dispute between the two families.


The growing rift between the families emerged on Monday night just hours before the latest court hearing in the capital murder case. Scott Peterson was to be in a Modesto courtroom on Tuesday where his attorneys may ask for a delayed in the preliminary hearing that is scheduled to begin on Sept. 9.

The remains of Laci and Conner Peterson were laid to rest at a private ceremony late last week after being released by the Contra Costa County Coroner's Office. Sharon Rocha, Laci's mother, invited some 200 mourners to attend the services in a quiet Northern California cemetery. However, Lee and Jackie Peterson and members of their family were not among those attending and only found out about the services by reading a newspaper account.

In an email obtained by KTVU to Sharon Rocha, Jackie Peterson wrote: "The past eight months fill the most difficult moments in all our lives. Arriving soon will be more trying times for all of us. We are dismayed at the failed efforts of Judge Girolami to close the coming hearing. Our effort to do so centered on keeping the press from exploiting the lives of Laci and Conner."

"Scott is brokenhearted over not being able to protect his family on that fateful day in December and now again not being able to protect the memories of Laci and Conner."

"We are writing with an appeal to your heart. Though by law, you are granted the decision on how to handle the remains of all our loved ones, we ask you to postpone the service until such times Scott is exonerated and we all join together as a family to mourn your daughter, Scott's wife, our and yours grandson and Scott's son who has been taken from all of us so cruelly."

"Please respond so that I know you received this. Our hearts go out to you and your family. We, as you, miss Laci every minute of every day. She had that effect on those close to her."

The Petersons received the following email from the Rochas' lawyer Adam Stewart in response: "Dear Mr. and Mrs Peterson, You have been aware for several months that our firm represents the interests of the Rocha family. Despite this, you continue to contact members of the family and friends via email, mail and telephone. We ask that you discontinue this practice immediately."

"The family wishes to be left alone during this difficult time."

Outside the Stanislaus County Jail on Monday night after visiting their son, Jackie Peterson was near tears as she talked about the memorial service.

"It's unforgivable," Jackie Peterson said of not being invited. "I think Laci would have been appalled...She loved us and we loved her...It's just cruel."

The Rochas family has yet to comment about the growing bitterness of the dispute that began when Laci's family was ordered by the Peterson's attorney not to enter the couple's home to retrieve some of their daughter's cherished items and family mementos.

But the family and friends staged a daylight raid on the home and removed among other items Laci's wedding dress, a rocking chair and nursery furniture. Although the Peterson's threatened legal action, they did not follow through.

Peterson, 30, has pleaded innocent to two murder charges in the deaths of his wife, Laci, and the couple's unborn child. Laci Peterson, 27, was eight months pregnant when she disappeared Christmas Eve -- her body and that of her son washed ashore along San Francisco Bay in April.

Scott Peterson is being held without bail in the Stanislaus County Jail and faces the death penalty if found guilty of the charges.