Laci's Family Pledges To Seek Justice


POSTED: 3:15 p.m. PDT April 14, 2003


Laci Peterson's family has yet to meet with reporters since the discovery of two bodies in a Richmond waterfront park, but in a prepared statement they did not mince words -- "we want the animal responsible for this heinous act to pay."


Meanwhile, medical examiners continued their efforts to determine if the bodies discovered Monday were those of the missing Modesto schoolteacher and her unborn son, Connor. A tarp, discovered on the shore of the park on Tuesday, was also taken to a crime lab for analysis.


Speaking on Mornings On 2, former FBI agent Eddie Freyer, who was one of the lead investigators in the Polly Klaas case and a member of the agency's underwater recovery team, said last weekend's stormy weather likely played a role in the bodies surfacing now.


"I don't think it's unusual that a body that might have been in the water for four months suddenly shows up on the shoreline," he said. "There are a lot of dynamics going on in the Bay with the tidal movement and wind driven waves. A body could stay in that area for quite some time. It's pretty shallow. In the Richmond Bay-Berkeley Marina area the tidal movement are pretty mild -- maybe two-three knots."


"However, last weekend we had a pretty good storm. It had some pretty strong southerly winds that would drive those tidal movements up a notch or two. A body could surface."


Freyer also said if a weight was holding down the body, it may have no longer been heavy enough as the body deteriorated.


"A body put in the water right away would take about 30-40 pounds of negative buoyancy," he said. "However, after the body has been in the water for some time, a lot of gas builds up. That adds to the buoyancy of the body with the tidal action, I'm sure that's why the body has come to shore."


Meeting with reporters Wednesday afternoon, John Tonkyn, supervisor of the state DNA lab, said there may be problems with the recovered bodies' DNA because decomposition can cause it to break down.


"We expect the test results (on how usable DNA is) this afternoon," he said.


Tonkyn said his researchers were using the tibia bone and some muscle tissue of the female victim and the femur bone and muscle tissue from the 'full-term fetus' to determine if the bodies were those of Laci and her unborn son. He added that his team had hair samples from Laci Peterson recovered from a brush to use as comparison DNA and also swabs taken from the inside of the cheeks of her biological parents.


When asked about how long the process of identification could take, Tonkyn said there were several factors that will determine how quickly the work could be done.


"If you did not get an adequate amount of DNA or if the DNA was too degraded, you'd have to go back to other samples and repeat the extraction process," he said.


Tonkyn said a "rush" identification process could take a week while a normal testing procedure takes about two weeks.


Meanwhile, the wait has been agonizing for the family, Rocha family spokeswoman Kim Petersen said. But she said there is little doubt about their tenacity to make sure justice was served.


"The family will be very proactive," she said. "They will not sit back and just let things happen. This is their daughter and grandson and they feel it's the least they can do."


The Rochas remained in seclusion Wednesday and had asked the media to respect their privacy.


At an afternoon press conference in Modesto on Tuesday, Petersen -- who is no relation to the Petersons -- read a prepared statement from Laci's brother, Brent; mother, Sharon; sister Amy and her stepfather Ron Grantski.


"Obviously, as you can understand this is a very difficult time for our family as we await the results of the DNA testing. These past three and a half months have been a constant nightmare for us. From the beginning we have done all we can to find Laci and will continue to do so until she is found. But this waiting is the worst. While in the news reports these are two bodies that have been found, to us they could potentially be our daughter and grandson, our sister and nephew. Loving members of our family or possibly someone else's family who is experiencing our same pain."


"We believe that if this is Laci, God has allowed her to be found because our family needs to know where she is and what has happened to her. If this turns out to be Laci we want the animal responsible for this heinous act to pay. We will do all we can to pursue justice for Laci and Connor."


"After Petersen read the statement, Modesto Police spokesman Det. Doug Ridenour offered little, if anything new, about the investigation. He said that five investigators had traveled to the Bay Area and were present at the initial autopsy. He said if the bodies were identified through DNA as Laci and her unborn child then the Modesto police would take over the investigation.


He reiterated that Scott Peterson was not a suspect in the case, nor had he been cleared as a suspect. When asked about Scott's whereabouts, Ridenour said he did not know where he was. Scott's family has only said he was with friends and very aware of what was going on in the Bay Area.


At a press conference earlier Tuesday, Jimmy Lee -- a spokesman for the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department -- said the victims' identities had yet to be determined. Nor have medical examiners been able to link the near full-term baby with the female victim.


He said the initial autopsy also did not reveal "an obvious cause of death" for the female victim.


The autopsy was completed last night around 10 p.m., the procedure lasted for about four hours," he said. "There is no obvious cause of death. That will require us to take it to the next step and what that means is we will need to do more testing and analysis...Analysis is a very time-consuming process. At best, we could get answers in several days. At worst, it could weeks or even longer."


Lee said the coroner's office was going to bring in an outside expert -- "from this person we hope to determine how long the body has been in the water."


Lee said X-rays had been taken of the remains, there had been an external examination and the clothing on the female victim was collected and preserved.


The coroner's office also got a call about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday from the Oakland police reporting that someone had found a bone in the area of the Berkeley Marina. Medical investigators were trying to determine if the bone was human and if it is related to the female victim.


On Monday, Modesto investigators were airlifted to Richmond's Point Isabel Regional Park after a badly decomposed female body was spotted by a dog walker a little more than a mile from where the corpse of a near full-term male baby was discovered on Sunday.


However, local authorities would not speculate if the grisly discoveries had anything to do with the Peterson case.


"What we have is a badly decomposed body that appears to have been in the water for some time," said chief Norman Lapera, of the East Bay Regional Park Police. "But it's (been in the water) longer than a few days. The body shows just some skeleton remains, there is some flesh on the body."


When asked directly whether the discovery had anything to do with Peterson, Lapera answered: "We don't know...It would be unreasonable for me to speculate, (but) that is the concern of everyone."


In a copyrighted story, the Contra Costa Times quoted a source as telling the paper that the head and legs of the body were missing and it was apparent that the corpse had been pregnant. The body was identified, according to the newspaper source, to be a petite female that apparently was clothed in maternity wear.

But Lee disputed that the body was wearing maternity wear, saying that only a standard woman's bra was found.


Speculation that the discovery could be a major break in the Peterson case arose from the fact that Scott Peterson has told authorities he was fishing in the nearby Berkeley Marina on Christmas Eve day when his wife allegedly disappeared without a trace from their Modesto home. The waters off Berkeley and Richmond have been the sites of an intensive underwater search.


Laci Peterson also was eight months pregnant with a baby boy at the time of her discovery.