Modesto Relieved To See End Of Peterson Trial


POSTED: 4:47 pm PST December 13, 2004
UPDATED: 5:09 pm PST December 13, 2004

MODESTO, Calif. -- In Laci Peterson's hometown, where the expectant mother became more widely known in death than in life, donors giving blood in her name Monday cheered as a jury sentenced her husband to death for her murder.

Deantha Myers, with a blue bandage around her arm, led the charge by clapping as she heard the word "death" from a small television in the city's convention center.

The rest of the crowd of about 30 -- blood donors, volunteers, medical staff -- remained silent as the judge confirmed the verdict to execute Scott Peterson by lethal injection.

"Was it death?" asked Lisa Hedrick, a student volunteer.

Myers nodded.

"Yes!" Hedrick exclaimed.

"He shouldn't be able to live in a prison, you know, getting three meals a day, having a bed to sleep in, while she's dead with her son," said Hedrick, 24. "The crime should fit the punishment and she's dead, so he should be too."

The death sentence verdict closed a chapter on the case that has fascinated the nation and taken a more personal tone in the town where Laci Peterson was once a high school cheerleader. Thousands of strangers have grieved her death, showing up to a public memorial or laying flowers and candles outside her house. Hundreds joined in the four-month search for her body in the grassy foothills outside of town and along reservoirs, canals and San Francisco Bay.

Outside the house where the Petersons decorated a nursery for the boy they planned to name Conner, a neighbor, Scott Maxwell, gave a thumb's up sign from the window of his pickup truck as the death sentence was broadcast on the radio.

Mishelle Dean showed up later with three children and a sign reading, "Sweet Laci and innocent Conner may you now rest in peace!" They set the sign down, joined hands and said a prayer.

The jury's verdicts seemed to have erased any sympathy Scott Peterson once evoked when he spoke of his missing wife. He's scorned as the lying cheat who led volunteers on aimless searches for his wife's body. Some call him a monster.

Still, some thought he deserved a life sentence in prison and at least one blood donor was disturbed by the reaction that followed the verdict.

"I thought it was ironic that here we are giving blood, giving the gift of life and people are cheering for the death penalty," said Rodney Cordova, 39, who works at a BMW dealership. "That just doesn't make sense to me. If you're pro-life, you should be pro-life all the way."

Unlike the guilty verdict, which came during the lunch hour, there was hardly a crowd in downtown Modesto in the early afternoon. Where a group of nearly 30 people had pressed into a television van a month ago when Scott Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder for killing his pregnant wife, the number of TV trucks -- at least a half dozen -- outnumbered the size of any crowd gathered near one.

It was by coincidence that the verdict came during the Second Annual Laci and Conner Memorial Blood Drive. It was planned about six months ago, said Arthur Morrison of the Delta Blood Bank. Nearly 700 people had given blood in her name since Thursday, each earning buttons with a picture of Laci's trademark wide smile.

Myers, 30, and her husband, Jason Myers, 29, were doing errands when a country radio station announced the drive was taking place.

They headed right there -- not knowing that one pint later they would be hearing the verdict among others sympathetic to Laci's plight. It was the news they hoped for.

"She seemed like a wonderful person, just looking at the pictures," Jason Myers said. "I am so dead against people doing this against their loved ones."

As blood was drawn in the back of the large hall, a small crowd of donors snacked on crackers and gazed at the small monitor.

"Sucker!" Deantha Myers said after the judge accepted the verdict.

Then she started clapping again. This time most of those wearing Laci and Conner pins joined in.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.