Repayment of Peterson trial costs said near


Last Updated: February 22, 2006, 05:24:52 AM PST

The check isn't exactly in the mail.

In August, Modesto and Stanislaus County leaders gleefully predicted at a press conference that state officials would reimburse $3.2 million in local costs to put Scott Peterson on death row.

Six months later, they still are waiting for the money.

"It's a complicated issue," said Terry McHale, a Modesto native lobbying for the city at the state Capitol. He predicted resolution in "the next couple of weeks," and a state spokesman said it should wrap up in a month or two.

Peterson, 33, was convicted of murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner, after a trial lasting much of 2004. The case fed cable news shows for more than two years and spawned two made-for-television movies and nine books.

'Closer on the numbers'

State Controller Steve Westly's office audited the county's expense records and issued a $764,059 check in September. Requests for additional money since have been tied up in negotiation.

"We're working for everyone involved to get the reimbursement they're entitled to," said Garin Casaleggio, a spokesman for Westly. He refused to speculate on the reimbursement amount.

Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced, said state, county and city representatives sat down Tuesday in a meeting that left him "cautiously optimistic."

"We're getting closer on the numbers," he said.

The investigation and trial cost taxpayers an estimated $4.13 million. Authorities ultimately submitted to the state requests for $1.83 million to the county and $1.38 million to the city.

Said McHale, "It has taken awhile but we're doing it right. It's been gratifying to see people with differing views come to the table and do the right thing."

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or