tragedy in national eye
BEE LOCAL COLUMNIST
Published: January 3, 2003
Last Updated: April 21, 2003, 03:34:04 PM PDT
The disappearance of mom-to-be Laci Peterson has brought
out the best in many people -- and a little of the worst
Hundreds of people, many of whom had never met Laci,
have stepped forward to help. They've walked streets and
shopping centers to hand out and post fliers. They've
ridden and walked along stream banks and through fields.
They attended a New Year's Eve vigil or a benefit
breakfast on New Year's morning.
They responded with dismay and concern because something
has happened to one of our own, a pregnant woman at
that, and on Christmas Eve. These compassionate people
represent the things we value.
Not a lot, but too many people have been behaving like
boors. These are the people driving past her house, for
no reason other than to ogle. One of the worst of them
yelled out his car window, speculating as to her fate
and the person responsible.
Some have called and e-mailed The Bee, suggesting where
her body might be found, even though they have nothing
meaningful to offer.
If I seem a little sensitive, there's a reason: I'm a
little closer to this story than to most.
Laci and Scott Peterson live nearby. I don't know them,
but I have seen them in the neighborhood. Some of the
witnesses in this mystery are my friends. Right now,
they are weary, frazzled, even scared.
It's bad enough to live in the midst of a disappearance
and a major burglary. Now, some of my "colleagues" in
the national media are hounding these Modestans.
Media attention may help solve this case, but does it
have to come in the form of a spectacle? The interest of
out-of-town cameras is a painful reminder of the 2001
Condit campout, when camera crews staked out downtown
Modesto and the street in front of Chandra Levy's home.
The national media spotted the Modesto dateline on the
Laci Peterson story. Reuters, the worldwide news
organization, put it right up front, with this: MODESTO,
Calif. -- Police and hundreds of volunteers hunted the
hometown of murdered intern Chandra Levy on Monday for
another missing woman -- this time an expectant mother
who disappeared on Christmas Eve while walking her dog.
The coincidental connection to Chandra is one of the
reasons newspapers as far away as Florida have carried
stories about Laci.
At one of the "news" conferences at the Modesto Police
Department, a Bay Area reporter asked whether police
thought there might be a connection between the Chandra
and Laci cases. The answer: none. Still, the question
keeps coming up.
The e-mailed suggestions have been even stranger; I'm
not printing them because I refuse to add to the
Anyone with a heart wants Laci Peterson found, ideally
safe, with the baby she is carrying OK. We want the
person(s) responsible for her disappearance held
I also want peace for our neighborhood and our
community. Modesto is not the epicenter of missing
women. We struggle with growth, unemployment and other
things, but we are a good and decent place and that's
how we want, and deserve, to be known.
Judy Sly's column appears Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays
in Local News. She can be reached at 578-2334 or