RICHARD BEETHAM in Modesto, Calif. and ERIC LENKOWITZ in N.Y.New York Post. New York, N.Y.: Apr 25, 2003.  pg. 009

Scott Peterson's mistress said it was love at first sight with the man she believed was a single guy, but she gradually grew suspicious of his story and enlisted the help of a private eye to check him out, her friends and father said.

Peterson was "a really charming guy, very articulate, but a little too smooth," one of Amber Frey's friends told People magazine. "He kind of seemed too good to be true."

When Frey and Peterson met at a business party in November 2002 - with Laci at home, six months pregnant - he apparently said he was single.

Frey, a body-building instructor turned massage therapist, was smitten from the start with her new beau, parading him around her friends saying he could be "the guy," her friend said.

Frey allowed Peterson to occasionally pick her 2-year-old daughter up from day care, and she started bringing him to family functions.

"She was introducing him to everyone," the friend said. "She was really holding out hope he could be the guy."

Frey's perception changed around the time Laci disappeared - just over a month after they began dating - and a private investigator, who was one of her clients, offered to look into Peterson's background, her father, Ron Frey, told People.

His help became unnecessary after Scott Peterson appeared on TV the next day with reports of his missing wife.

Frey's friends say she is haunted by the fact she had a trusting relationship with an adulterous man facing a possible death sentence for the murder of his wife and unborn child.

"It dawned on her that she's slept with an alleged murderer and trusted her daughter with him," one of Frey's friends said. "She was shaken up."

Ron Frey told The Post yesterday his daughter has been driven into hiding by the constant barrage of media phone calls.

"Some people have offered her big money," said Frey, who fields hundreds of calls a day from people looking for his daughter. "Some people offered her trips for her story."

Frey said his daughter is a well-educated, "wonderful mother" and "She's not going to say anything."

Amber Frey is no longer involved with Peterson in any way and "is not planning to go and see Scott in jail, and she won't visit him if he ends up in prison," Ron Frey said.

But the man doing his best to shield his daughter from the spotlight said Peterson "deserves a fair trial."

"I know some things about the case. We have discussed most things, but I wouldn't say a word," Frey said. "The rest of us want him to have a fair trial. We'll let the facts convict him. If he's guilty, he's guilty."

Meanwhile, Peterson sits in a Modesto jail cell awaiting what could be a lengthy trial conducted in a different venue because of the "special circumstances" of him being charged in a double murder and one victim being a viable fetus.

Even if Peterson is convicted and sentenced to die, law experts said the legal wrangling could take 10 to 15 years specifically because of the issue of a fetus being considered a murder victim.

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