Laci hubby in wacky makeover

New hair & beard - plus eye for border?

By MARY PAPENFUSS in Modesto, Calif.
and MAKI BECKER in New York

Scott Peterson, accused of killing his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, changed his appearance and knew he was under police surveillance when he was arrested in La Jolla, Calif. - just 30 miles north of the Mexican border.

Normally dark-haired and clean-shaven, Scott Peterson had dark blond hair and was sporting a thick goatee when taken to a Modesto jail late Friday.

Cops said they feared he was planning to make a run for the border following the recovery of Laci Peterson's body and the fetus last week on the rocky shoreline along San Francisco Bay.

Yesterday, friends of Scott Peterson said on NBC's "Weekend Today" show that they noticed his hair color appeared different about two weeks ago.

Mike Richardson, the best man at Laci and Scott Peterson's wedding, said Scott Peterson told him he had been "swimming in a friend's pool and it got bleached."

Scott Peterson called Richardson and his wife, Heather Richardson, at their home from jail, Heather Richardson said.

"I didn't expect to hear from him," she said.

Mike Richardson added: "It's a hard, hard thing to even discuss. ... We're best friends with both of them. Now, thinking that he took her life is just a crazy thing."

Tender tributes

At a makeshift shrine outside the empty Peterson home in Modesto, grieving community members left Easter lilies and lit candles yesterday to pay tribute to Laci Peterson, who was 27, and the baby she was planning to name Connor.

Late Friday, dozens outside the Stanislaus County jail cheered seeing Scott Peterson in police custody. Some carried signs calling him a murderer.

A friend of Laci Peterson's parents said police told them Scott Peterson had been arrested.

"Well, they finally arrested the son of a bitch," Laci Peterson's father, Dennis Rocha, told his family, according to the friend.

Cops had been tailing Scott Peterson, a 30-year-old fertilizer salesman, for several days before his arrest, authorities said.

They had tapped his phones, were tracking his car using a global positioning system and had obtained a warrant Thursday for his arrest, officials said.

Scott Peterson once stopped his car, got out and questioned police who had been tailing him.

"He was driving erratically, sometimes looking around for surveillance," Modesto Police Department spokesman Roy Wasden told the Modesto Bee.

The bodies found

Police pulled him over just after 11:10 a.m. as he was driving a Mercedes-Benz near a golf course in La Jolla, close to his parents' home.

Scott Peterson had been keeping a low profile since Monday, when Laci Peterson's headless body washed ashore from the San Francisco Bay. A day earlier, a dog walker found the remains of a fetus within a mile of where the other corpse was discovered.

The remains were found within 3 miles of where Scott Peterson had told cops he took his boat for a fishing trip on Christmas Eve - the day he reported his pregnant wife, a part-time schoolteacher, missing.

Within days of Laci Peterson's disappearance, many in the northern California town of Modesto grew suspicious of her husband.

At a volunteer center gathering, witnesses said they often saw Scott Peterson smiling and flirting with other women.

Nearly the whole city - and the nation - turned against him in late January after a Fresno massage therapist announced she had been in a "romantic relationship" with Scott Peterson at the time his wife vanished - and that he had told her that he was not married.

Yesterday, a jail spokesman said Scott Peterson had been placed in a cell by himself. He was allowed to make several calls and then went to sleep.

Originally published on April 20, 2003