The Laci Peterson Murder: How It Has Affected Us All

by Candace Marra

January 22, 2006

December 24, 2002 marks a tragic day in America. It is the day that Laci Peterson disappeared, never to be seen again by those who loved her. Ironically, it was also the day when people all over the world would come to love this beautiful, young, vivacious, pregnant wife. It seems like it was only yesterday when I first saw her smiling face on my computer screen. I can hardly believe the three-year anniversary of her disappearance has already come and gone.

Yet Laci is by no means forgotten. She has become a household name. Who in the United States has not heard of Laci Peterson? And countless people abroad are familiar with her. I have no doubt that in her life, she was a special lady who touched the lives of all who knew her. Even in her death, she seems to have touched the lives of countless thousands.

The Arousal of Strong Emotion

We all fell in love with the smiling countenance that graced our computer and TV screens. We all hoped she was still alive, and that she would be found.. But as time passed, the dreaded realization sank in, that Laci Peterson would not return home. Our thoughts then began to focus on who could harm this beautiful young woman.

While Laciís murder resulted in an outpouring of love from the public, it also ignited a firestorm of hatred for her husband Scott. Many, including the police, suspected foul play from day one, and Scott Peterson was the prime suspect. A month after Laciís disappearance, January 24, 2003, we all learned about Scottís involvement with Amber Frey. At this point, the majority of the public gave up hope that Laci was still alive, and assumed that Scott had killed her. Ironically, it was the public love for Laci which resulted in those who believed Scott was responsible for her death hating him vehemently.

I have found this paradox fascinating. This one case aroused such love and such hatred, all at once. The public love of Laci was obvious: the flowers around the home, the support for the family, the turnout at the candlelight vigil, the fascination with the case, the strong desire to see justice done for her, and even the outrage over what had happened. And the hatred for Scott is also very apparent: the hate mail, the harassing phone calls, the media harassment, the tendency to see all his actions in a negative light, the verbal attacks on his family, the crowd that gathered when he was taken to jail, the cheers at the verdict and sentencing, and the hateful emails and bulletin board posts directed at those who believe Scott may not have been the real killer.

In this sense, Laciís tragic death has brought out the best and worst of many of us. I find it truly heartwarming to see so many people so willing to reach out to a hurting family they barely know, because of a tragedy such as this. America and much of the rest of the developed world has embraced Laciís family and chosen to hurt along with them. This is a display of the best of human nature.

Yet I have also seen the worst of human nature in the hatred for Scott and his family. Nothing justifies the type of hatred I have observedónothing. Even if Scott did it, the hatred is not justified. We can want justice without hating the offender. In reading some of the comments by some of these hateful people, I have found threats to his person, hate-filled posts containing some of the most spiteful content Iíve ever seen, very personal and hateful attacks against his parents, and personal attacks against those who have concluded that Scott is innocent. These people are not young kidsóthey are grown men and women, many in middle age or older, who reduce themselves to childish antics in their expressions of hatred. They often disguise themselves as respectful posters on one bulletin board, only to mock its members behind their backs on other boards. They send hateful emails to the co-owners of SII, and take pride and pleasure in posting rude remarks. While this behavior has declined considerably, it still happens, and often with adults who are of a mature age.

What could possess mature adults to conduct themselves so childishly? Why is it that so many people cannot accept someone who simply has a different opinion? I can only guess that it must be that they are so filled with hatred they cannot see the immaturity of their behavior. Their hatred of Scott has spread to all who support him. They cannot consider the possibility that he didnít do it. They cannot believe that we can think Scott innocent and still care about justice for Laci and Connor. They do not believe any sane, thinking person could possibly draw the conclusion that Scott is innocent. They believe that any thinking, sane people who do say they think Scott is innocent are knowingly supporting a murderer, and have some hidden agenda in doing so. This attitude is prevalent, not only among hateful internet posters, but also in the media, as many assume we are in love with Scott. I am thankful that this does not apply to everyone who thinks Scott is guilty, as I have met many very nice people who believe he is guilty, and I have never seen any evidence of intolerance to the other point of view in these people.

I have also observed strong feelings in those who believe Scott is innocent. I have seen unhealthy competition, or ďforum warsĒ between sites dedicated to his innocence. Iíve seen hate-filled posts by those who are intolerant of people who believe Scott is guilty. Certainly, the hatred exists on both sides. At the same time, Iíve seen a great deal of empathy and concern from Scott's supporters for all parties who have been hurt by this tragedy, including the Rochas, the Petersons, and Scott. I have also observed a great deal of outrage over what is seen as a terrible miscarriage of justice. Although for some, this outrage has led to hatred of those who think Scott is guilty, for others, it has led to a determination to learn the truth, and to changing the public view of Scott. Some have even dedicated their lives to finding the truth. Through these efforts, many relationships have been forged as people have been brought together.

The truth is, whether we believe Scott is guilty or innocent, there are really a lot of similarities between everyone who has a continuing interest in this case, no matter what our point of view is on who really killed Laci. We all began this journey with a deep and growing concern for what had happened to Laci. Although we have drawn different conclusions about who is responsible for her demise, we all desire to see justice done. Everyone wants the perpetrator to pay for this crime. We all care deeply about that. And we all share a continuing interest in the case and what happens next. Our beliefs about whether Scott is innocent or guilty isnít what separates us. What really separates us is whether we choose to take on hatred towards one another, or whether we choose the high road. I am quite sure Laci never would have wanted to see such hatred as what has been generated between people of opposing viewpoints regarding her murder.

Laciís Impact on History

I believe Laci and Connor will always live in our memories, as will the dynamics of her murder. Her name is also going to live on in history. On April 24, 2004, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act was signed into law by President Bush. This law was dubbed ďLaci and Connorís Law.Ē This was a rather contentious bill in Congress, particularly in the Senate, because some were concerned about its future impact on abortion rights, since it grants personhood to a fetus. I canít help but wonder if adding Laci and Connorís name to the bill eased its passage by putting pressure on some to vote in favor of it because of public sympathy towards anything pertaining to Laci.

Scott Peterson has been wrongfully convicted, a fact that only adds to the tragedy of Laci and Connorís murder. I do have faith that one day this miscarriage of justice will be reversed. When that happens, I believe this case is going to cause the public and also the judiciary to take a close look at some of the methods used to convict. I believe the courts will experience public pressure to address the issues that lead to wrongful convictions in the first place. It is even possible that other wrongful convictions will be reversed as the issues that led to this wrongful conviction are addressed. Many wrongful convictions have been reversed without fanfare, and without public outrage, but the public concern for Laci Peterson makes this case stand out from the others, and it could very well be the case that reverses the trend towards wrongful convictions.

Laciís Impact on My Life

When I first learned of Laciís disappearance, I was immediately concerned. She was 7Ĺ months pregnant, while I was nine months pregnant. I was experiencing the vulnerability that one feels during pregnancy, and my heart went out to her. Although trivial, I was also struck by the fact that we were both 5í1Ē and she weighed almost exactly what I weighed at that point in my first pregnancy. Like the rest of the world, I wondered what happened to her. As long as her body wasnít found, I continued to hope she was still alive, even after news of Scottís affair with Amber broke. I was always a person who was aware and concerned that there are many wrongfully convicted people in our prison system, so my first thought without knowing much about the case was that they were going to pin this on the husband. But, I just kept hoping she was alive, and that it wouldnít even have to come to that.

Of course, when the bodies were found and Scott was arrested, there was no more room to hope she was still alive, and at that point, my focus shifted to the case against Scott. I didnít watch any of the interviews, and I didnít have access at that time to shows like Larry King Live or to Courttv. I depended on the internet for much of my news. All I could find were stories that seemed slanted towards his guilt. I did a lot of google searches under ďscott is innocentĒ hoping to find something that showed another point of view on the case. At that point, I was a fence-sitter as far as his guilt, and I really wanted to be able to look at it from both points of view.

It was during one of these searches that I found SII for the first time. I spent a lot of time there, but still did not form a conclusion on his guilt until late in the trial, although I did lean towards innocence throughout the trial, except when the Amber tapes were played. Towards the end of the trial, which I followed quite closely through Courttvís website, I reached the conclusion that Scott was innocent. I just didnít see anything presented in the trial that pointed to his guilt, and I thought that the defense did a a great job during cross-examinations. I had also learned a lot of information from SII. After lurking for a period of time, I joined the SII bulletin board shortly before the sentencing, just as a regular poster. I had never met or contacted Marlene or anyone else on the bb prior to that time. Shortly after Marlene opened the new bulletin board, I was asked to become an administrator, and I accepted. I considered it a real honor, in part because of my deep respect for Marlene, and in part because of my desire to make a difference in this case. By this time, I had become obsessed with the case, in part because of my concern that Scott had been wrongfully convicted, and in part because of my need to know who really killed Laci.

I have to say that working with Marlene and Nadia has been a very pleasant experience. And I found my work on the bulletin board quite rewarding. I have become a much more confident person, I am more assertive, and I have felt like my thoughts and opinions really mattered. It was a valuable experience, and I will always treasure that time.

My departure from SII and the bulletin board should not be confused with a lack of interest in the case or even with any type of burn-out on my part. It was not a result of any disagreement between myself and either of the other co-owners. It was simply time for me to move on. It was a difficult decision because I enjoyed working with Marlene and Nadia immensely, and I believed in what I was doing. It was extremely difficult to break the news of my decision to the other co-owners, but I do thank them for respecting and supporting me in that decision. Marlene and Nadia, you will both always have a special place in my heart.

A Final Wish

I sincerely hope those who have taken on hatred towards people of opposing viewpoints on Laciís murder would be willing to lay that down in honor of her memory. Insulting peopleís intelligence, holding people in derision, judging peopleís motives, and spewing hatred towards Scott, the Petersons, posters on other boards, and anyone else are all expressions of hatred, and they do nothing to honor Laciís memory, or to resolve the issue once and for all as to who the real killer is. We all want to see the correct person held responsible for this crime. We all want to see justice for Laci and Connor. I have been willing to accept that reasonable, informed, and intelligent people have drawn a different conclusion than I have, and thatís okay with me. I have sought to demonstrate that believing Scott is innocent does not make me unreasonable, insane, or stupid; that it does not mean I am unsympathetic to the Rochas; and that it does not mean I believe in supporting killers. I understand there are strong feelings about this case on both sides, but letís not allow those strong emotions to reduce us into lesser people than we are.

I believe Laci Peterson would never have guessed she would become so famous, or that she would touch so many people. It is not her death that aroused so many passions, that brought people together, or that touched so many hearts, but her life. It is so tragic that her life and that of her unborn child Connor were robbed so prematurely. It is so tragic that Sharon Rocha had to experience the death of her beloved daughter. It is so tragic that Sharon never got to hear Laci called mom. It is so tragic that Laci never got to hold Connor. Truly, there is no way to understand this tragedy. At best, we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that Laci and Connorís lives were not in vain. Not that this can take away from the tragedy of their deaths, but perhaps it can help in the healing process. Laci and Connor have already made a difference in many of our lives, and in other ways that none of us know about. Only history can tell the impact that Laci and Connor will ultimately have.