Sharon Rocha - Larry King Live Interview
(Aired 9 Jan. 2006)
by Nadia Taze
One of the first questions Larry King asked of Sharon was whether the writing of her book "For Laci" was cathartic. Sharon didn’t need to reply, you could immediately see that it hadn’t been. During much of the interview, she looked down at her hands, often replying to questions only after taking a deep breath, answering sometimes through gritted teeth, others through a trembling voice. After only 3 years since the death of her daughter and grandchild, understandably, her continuing pain, anger and hurt are still visible.
Throughout the interview, she spoke of her memories of events leading up to Laci’s disappearance and the subsequent trial of husband, Scott Peterson, for her murder.
Some of discussion during the hour long interview, left me confused as to how good Sharon’s recollection of events prior to Laci's disappearance are. During her interview, we were made privy to pieces of information we hadn't previously heard during the trial and the fact that they were only now being revealed is what puzzled me. They were potentially damning details and yet they were never mentioned during the trial, despite their ability to dramatically tip the scales in favor of the prosecution. Here are just a few which I picked up on.
Scott Didn’t want Children
Sharon began by telling us that just after Scott and Laci moved into their new Covena home in October 2000, Laci had called her in tears:
ROCHA: “that's when she told me that Scott had said that he didn't think he wanted to have children. Of course that concerned me because we'd had conversations before in his presence or they had had conversations in my presence about having children.
KING: So then it shocked you?
ROCHA: It did. It really surprised me.
KING: But then she got pregnant.
ROCHA: Well, then she went on to say that not only did she -- that he didn't think he wanted to have children, she also said that he didn't want to. So, I was -- I was really upset about that knowing that he knew how she felt about having children.
And then it was about a month or so later, it was around Thanksgiving time she and I were in the kitchen preparing dinner when she told me that she's going to stop taking birth control pills in December. Well, that surprised me because it had only been a month ago that Scott didn't want to have children.
So, we had a conversation about that and I said, "Are you sure? Are both of you absolutely sure because you can't put the baby back once he's here"? Well, it was an it at that time. It was nothing at that time. And she said, yes, that they had talked about it and they were ready that Scott was ready also.”
The above conversation would have been a vital piece of
information for the prosecution. Potentially explosive since although the
Prosecution never had a motive for Laci’s murder, it would have supported their
continual insinuation that Scott didn't want a family.
In fact, Prosecution never went on to prove that intimation. There was never any evidence provided to contend that Peterson didn't want to be a father. Moreover, Defense actually presented several witnesses on the stand who maintained quite the opposite, and Brent Rocha, Sharon's own son, testified to the fact that Scott had told him that one of his goals was to have a family and had furthermore had cried when thinking about the type of father he would be:
Mark Geragos: And also fair to say that she was very excited about the kid?
Brent Rocha: Yes.
Mark Geragos: Okay. And Scott was as well?
Brent Rocha: Yes.
Mark Geragos: When he talked about, when you talked to him, he would express the fact that he's, I mean he's a goal-oriented person; you heard that description earlier today. You would agreed with that, right?
Brent Rocha: Yes.
Mark Geragos: And is, one of his goals was to have a child and a family?
Brent Rocha: Yes.
Mark Geragos: Okay. And he told you that he was thinking about what kind of father he was going to be and he was crying and he said he was going to be great; isn't that what he told you?
Brent Rocha: That's what he was saying.
So my question has to be, why didn't Sharon testify to this
conversation with Laci during Peterson's trial? Since she says she was shocked
and surprised, I find it difficult to believe that it could have been forgotten
in the circumstances. Moreover, I can see no reason why this testimony couldn't
have been allowed. It wasn't hearsay, it was direct dialogue between she and
Laci. Why are we only hearing about this exchange now during Sharon's book
promotion tour when her public exposure is at its height? It was certainly more
important for this information to have been heard during the trial than after
Another piece of information, surely of benefit to the prosecution was what Sharon recalled in response to King’s question as to whether Scott was happy at the prospect of becoming a father:
ROCHA: He didn't seem to be unhappy except for on June 9th when she discovered that she was pregnant they were at our house and that's when Scott was sitting at one end of the table and Laci and I were standing up and Laci had mentioned that Scott was having a midlife crisis and I asked why? I looked at Scott and he was, you know, obviously not very happy at the moment. And, Laci said, "Oh, he's having that crisis because he's turning 30 and becoming a father all in the same year."
Well, I looked over at him and I said, jokingly I said, "Oh, get over it." I said, "Thirty is not midlife and becoming a father is supposed to be a great time."
Again, details which would have supported the Prosecutions claim
that Peterson didn’t want to be a father and therefore, were potentially
damaging to his defence. No reason exists why it couldn’t be permitted in court
because again, it was an indisputable conversation between Sharon and Laci.
Nevertheless, not a mention of this from Sharon on the stand nor any referral to
it by Prosecution.
Preparation of the Nursery
The suggestion that Scott built the nursery for Conner was rejected by Sharon. She contended that his contribution had only been minimal, he only put together a crib and built some shelves. The indication seemed to be that Scott wasn't interested in his child.
KING: Was he building a nursery?
KING: That was a mis-story?
ROCHA: Right. That was one of those. He put together the crib. There was nothing to build in the nursery. You know there were a couple of shelves in the wall and he was supposed to -- she had a dresser that he was going to convert into a dressing table but that never took place.
And the reason for that was because she had told me at one time that, you know, things were a little tight at that time so she wasn't going to buy a dressing table.
I can’t be sure as to the purpose of the above comment, it’s
confusing. There wasn’t anything to build other than the crib and shelves and
that is somehow incriminating? I’m going to assume that by dressing table,
Sharon actually meant a baby’s changing table.
I looked at the pictures of the nursery, People’s Exhibit 115. It's appearance is small, barely big enough for much more than the crib and shelves, but it was painted, furnished with draws and storage, and had a preserver on the wall. Sharon herself testified that even the bedding was bought and Dec 27, 2002, the Modesto Bee reported: “The walls are bright blue. A rocking chair, crib and changing table are in place. The nautical theme is nearly complete.” I'm curious as to what else it required?
We don't know precisely when this conversation purportedly took
place, but Laci was only 7 and a half months pregnant when she disappeared. So
when the discussion took place, there were still a minimum of 6-7 weeks left
before Laci was due to give birth. Would it be very unusual for a couple not to
have finished the nursery at this point (if indeed it wasn’t)?
And who painted the nursery, put the drawers in etc.? Sharon testified at trial to the room being painted which is confirmed in the pictures. I doubt it would have been Laci since it's not advisable for pregnant women to breathe in paint fumes and Laci was very conscious of both hers and the baby's health. Sharon, Ron, Amy or Brent didn’t help to help make the nursery – at least none of them testified to having done so, and neither did any of Scott and Laci's friends. Therefore, my conclusion is that it was in fact Scott who did the majority of the work.
Sharon went on to describe how Laci had told her that she had a dresser which Scott would convert into a dressing table due to lack of money. Note that the above Modesto Bee article refers to a changing table being present in the nursery. Perhaps between the time that Sharon and Laci had this conversation and 24 December, Scott had in fact made the changing/dressing table.
If not, we know that Scott had recently purchased a mortiser, (for which he looked up instructions and attempted to assemble on 24 December prior to going to Berkeley Marina). Isn't it likely that this was for use in converting the dresser?
Eyebrows were raised by Sharon when she mentioned Laci's claim to a lack of money to buy a new dressing table for the nursery. It was as if she was confirming that the couple had been having financial problems (another part of the suggested motive for Laci's murder, but again never confirmed during trial). However, just how financially stretched could they have been when they had no trouble in finding the additional finances for a complete reconstruction of Laci's wedding ring? If they were really facing financial struggles, would Laci have truly put her own wants before her child's needs?
Sharon also came back to Scott's use of the word "missing" the evening of Laci's disappearance. Personally, I'm still at a loss as to what the problem with Scott's use of this word is. It reflected the situation of not FINDING Laci at home perfectly. When you can’t find something, it’s usually missing. What would the reaction have been if he'd said Laci had "gone" or was "lost"? Probably the same. For those who believe Peterson guilty, this word holds great importance and is apparently a large piece of the puzzle so Sharon's comments should be addressed.
ROCHA: . . . I remember when he said missing I remember thinking to myself missing, what do you mean missing? You know that's not a word you use.
KING: You say usually not home.
ROCHA: Right or I can't find her. I don't know where she is. And, it's odd how you remember certain things but I can remember feeling a little irritated hearing him say that. But I thought, you know, she's not missing. She's at a friend's house or someplace around and that's what I told him, you know, check with her friends. I'm sure she's with somebody.
But looking back and I realize that I was the first person he called, the only person he called to begin with and he was already telling me that she was missing instead of checking with the hospital.
So, these words stuck in Sharon's mind. She remembers being
“irritated” by Scott's use of the word – it was inappropriate. The problem with
this statement is that Sharon didn’t actually remember anything about Scott’s
irritating use of the word “missing” for more than a month after Laci’s
Between December 24 and January 27, Sharon Rocha had a minimum of 11 conversations with Modesto Police Department detectives (those are the ones we know of) and not once did she recall the above.
On 20 January, Detective Grogan suggested that Sharon and her friends sit together and try to remember anything Scott had done or said which could be considered suspicious or incriminating. Still Sharon revealed nothing. In fact, it took a further 7 days for Sharon to suddenly recollect this detail.
Why did it take so long for her to remember and why was it only after the coercion of MPD? Perhaps because it's use didn't seem inappropriate until after she heard about Scott's dalliance with Amber Frey and Law Enforcement began to plant seeds of suspicion in the family's heads by use of lies and exaggerations.
I believe the answer lies in the following observation from Dr Elizabeth Loftus, Forensic Psychologist and a specialist on memory research:
Question: What kind of dynamic can occur between a victim and the police investigator?
Loftus: One of the things that happens when you have a victim of a serious crime and a police investigator is they both have the same goal. They want to see the crime solved and they're going to work together to do that. And that is perfectly natural, but if you have somebody who is very, very motivated to see that crime solved, she may be especially sensitive to feedback that she might be getting from investigators who are assisting her in that process. And so, if they've a suspect in mind, if they've an idea who the perpetrator is and they communicate that idea to the victim, even unwittingly, she may be more sensitive to picking up that communication.
And if they explicitly give her feedback, "Well that's the guy we thought it was," then this can be a serious problem. This kind of feedback can artificially increase the confidence level of the victim, make the victim more certain if the police believe it, they must have a good reason, "I think that's the guy, in fact, I'm even more confident than I was before." And now, you have a victim who's going to be even more persuasive when she goes into the court room to testify than, perhaps, is warranted.
In my opinion, the above describes perfectly the relationship in
existence between Sharon Rocha and Modesto Police Department and what occurred
prior to the return of the “missing” memory.
Let me make it clear that my intention is not to insult Sharon Rocha, nor to suggest that she is deliberately lying. I have great respect for her strength and how she has managed to survive such an horrific tragedy. She is a victim almost as much as Laci and Conner were, the only difference being that she must constantly live with the pain of losing them. Of course she will never “get over it”, it’s an affront to suggest that she will, but hopefully, the worst is now over.
However, this doesn’t override my need to understand where all the new memories which occurred too late to make it to the witness stand came from and why now?
The impression I received from the Larry King Live interview was that Sharon Rocha’s memories are a consequence of a subconscious need to continually validate the conviction; essentially to reinforce to both herself and the public alike that the correct person is sitting in San Quentin. Why? Perhaps, despite her belief in Scott’s guilt, she recognizes that the evidence against him was, at best, weak. Or could it be due to the understandable difficulty of not being able to reconcile the Scott Peterson who now sits on Death Row with the one who, in her own words, she loved prior to December 24, 2002? After all, there were none of the tell tale warning signs usually associated with spousal homicide. To all those who knew them, Scott and Laci appeared to live in harmony. This makes the murder all the more difficult to comprehend. Perhaps Sharon’s memories are the result of the need to believe there were signs, which in turn would help corroborate the conviction.
However, perhaps Dr. Loftus again holds the key to unlocking the answer and should have the final comment:
“Truth and reality, when seen through the filter of our memories, are not objective facts but subjective, interpretive realities. We interpret the past, correcting ourselves, adding bits and pieces, deleting uncomplimentary or disturbing recollections, sweeping, dusting, tidying things up. Thus our representation of the past takes on a living, shifting reality; it is not fixed and immutable, not a place way back there that is preserved in stone, but a living thing that changes shape, expands, shrinks, and expands again, an amoeba-like creature with powers to make us laugh, and cry, and clench our fists. Enormous powers--powers even to make us believe in something that never happened.” (From Witness For the Defense: The Accused, the Eyewitness, and the Expert Who Puts Memory On Trial by Dr. Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham, emphasis added).