Crime Scene:  523 Covena, the Peterson home

 

523 Covena, Modesto CA was the residence of Scott and Laci Peterson at the time Laci disappeared.  The State acknowledges that Scott was on his way to the warehouse at 10:08 a.m. and did not return until 4:45.  The return time is confirmed by the police through computer usage, a Marina parking receipt, a gas purchase, cell phone records, and the observations of a reliable witness.  He made the first call regarding Laci's disappearance to Sharon Rocha at 5:17 p.m., and the police were in the house at 6:15 p.m. 

 

Scott was immediately suspected, a homicide detective was called in, police photographs were taken and evidence collected that very night.  Finding no obvious signs of a murder on the 24th, and suspecting a cleanup, a search warrant was executed on December 26 and 27 to look for evidence that a clean-up occurred and any trace evidence that a cleanup would have missed.  The FBI assisted with their special blood-detecting equipment.  All suspected blood stains were tested, all items that could have been used in a cleanup were collected as evidence, and a special vacuum cleaner was used to vacuum the area Scott had been seen vacuuming on the 25th.

 

Every single item collected as evidence on the 24th, the 26th, and the 27th came back negative.  Reasonable police officers would have concluded they had the wrong man. But not the MPD. No. Undaunted, Grogan obtained another search warrant. This time to look for evidence of a soft kill that would leave no trace evidence. Did they find any? No, they didnít.


The simple truth is, Laci Peterson was not murdered in that house, either by Scott Peterson or anyone else.


The simple truth is, Laci Peterson was not abducted from that house, by Scott Peterson or anyone else. If her abductor was in that house, Laci left with him or her or them willingly. She was not forced.


There simply was no crime committed in that home, by Scott Peterson or anyone else.

 

December 24:  Four Walk-Throughs and Evidence collected

December 26-27 Search

February 18-19 Search
 


 

December 24:  Walk-Throughs & Evidence Collected

 

Timeline

4:45 p.m.  Scott arrived home

5:17 p.m.  Scott called Sharon

6:11 p.m.  Evers arrived at the Park where Scott was

6:30 p.m.  Duerfeldt asked for a homicide detective

 

1st walk through at 6:20 p.m. by Officers Letsinger, Spurlock, and Evers

 

Summary of Letsinger's Description:  Going into the courtyard, he noticed the mops and bucket next to the door, and it looked like water had dripped recently on the stone. He saw the pizza box on the counter still with some pieces in it, and a rug scrunched accordion style against the doorjamb of the door in the living room.  He noticed several dirty, wet rags on the washing machine.  The rest of the room almost was like a model home. Everything was in place. The chairs and rugs were all set. The magazines on the coffee table were all laid out. He said that's what made the rug and the rags stick out.  He went into the second bedroom and noticed some duffel bags on the closet shelf and one on the floor, upside down. 

 

Jon Evers: . . . I came through the courtyard, through the front door. I stood right here. I stood right here, watched this hallway while Officer Spurlock and Officer Letsinger went this direction, and cleared this part of the house. When they were done, they came up. We then went up the hallway towards the rear of the house, looked in the bathroom, looked in the master bedroom, looked in this, in the second bedroom, and then the third bedroom, which was a nursery. Checked in there. Came back out, and then we got out here in the backyard, looked around this patio area, checked the pool, walked around the back, checked the spa, and came down the side of the house, and then checked around there. And then that was it.

 

After concluding this walk-through, the 3 Officers had a 5-minute conversation with Sergeant Duerfeldt inside the house, near the front door.  Duerfeldt had not yet met Scott Peterson and didn't know who he was.  Based on this discussion, Duerfeldt called Lt. Able and explained that he wanted a homicide detective to respond.  At 6:30 pm, Duerfeldt called Sgt. Carter, who is the supervisor of the crimes against persons unit, and Carter gave him Brocchini's name, as the next homicide detective in rotation.  Duerfeldt called Det. Brocchini, who was in the foothills with his family.

 

2nd walk through by the three Officers and Scott Peterson

 

Officer Evers said he and Scott went through the house, room by room, with Evers asking, "Do you see anything unusual, anything out of place," and in all of the rooms Scott said, No.  Evers opened the refrigerator to see if there was any new food that she might have bought. And Scott said, no, that it didn't look like there was anything new. 

 

The 3 Officers noted that the rug in front of the family room door that leads to the backyard was pushed all the way against the door. Scott said the dog or cat must have been playing there, and he used his toe to pull it away from the door and straighten it out.

 

Spurlock asked Scott what type of fish he went fishing for that day, and Scott didn't say, but held up his hands about 7-8 inches apart.  Spurlock asked him what kind of bait he used, and Scott said a silver lure.  Spurlock asked Scott where he keeps his fishing equipment, and Scott said at the shop (the warehouse).  Spurlock testified that when he questioned Scott about the fishing, Scott threw down his flashlight and said the f word.  However, none of the officers reported this behavior in their reports, and it didn't appear in any of the discovery given to the Defense team.  Scott did give Evers the marina parking receipt, which was subsequently given to Brocchini and booked into evidence.

 

3rd walk through by Detective Brocchini and Officer Evers

 

Detective Allen Brocchini, the responding detective, arrived at the Covena home about 9:30 pm (9:55 pm according to Sgt. Duerfeldt). Scott was outside with some family and neighbors. After being briefed by Evers and other police officers at the scene, Brocchini did a 10-minute walk through with Evers, who pointed out things that were suspicious to him.

 

4th walk through by Detective Brocchini, Officer Evers, and Scott Peterson

 

Brocchini did a 45-minute walk-through with both Evers and Scott. Brocchini noted the mop and bucket, but did not smell bleach or other cleaning solutions and observed that the floors were not wet. He noted Laciís purse in the closet, with Laci's wallet, keys, sunglasses, and other items of personal property inside. Laci's cell phone was in the Rover plugged in to the cigarette lighter, but it was not charged and would not stay powered on.  During the walk-through, Brocchini saw Scott's long guns, and asked if he had any hand guns. Scott told him he had owned two, but one was stolen a year or two or three earlier from his vehicle, and he had a second gun that was out in his glove compartment. He told Brocchini that he had used the gun pheasant hunting, but it misfired.

 

Evidence collected

 

Brocchini asked Scott if the ID Officer could come to the house while they went to the warehouse, so he could photograph it and "look for evidence." Scott consented. While Scott was standing in the driveway and out of earshot, Brocchini instructed Officer Letsinger to tell Lovell, the ID Officer, to take the bucket and mops into evidence. Brocchini also gave instructions for Lovell to take the towels that were on the washing machine and to use an alternate light source to look for any type of blood or anything and collect it if he found any. Scott was not informed of any of this and was not given receipts.  Detective Brocchini also seized the handgun in the Ford pickup, unknown to Scott.  Brocchini then took Scott to the warehouse, and finally to the police station for an interview.

 

People's 37: 31 Photos taken of 523 Covena on the night of December 24, 2002

Defendant's 7W:  Photo of kitchen counter, with open phonebook, taken December 24, 2002

Defendant's 8A 1-2:  Photos 2nd bedroom bed w/pillows & Master bedroom bed

Defendant's 8T:  Photo of kitchen taken December 24, 2002

2 mops and a mop bucket, collected

11 cleaning rags/towels, collected

scrunched rug, observed as suspicious

Berkeley Marina parking receipt, collected

Flashlight incident

 


 

December 26-27 Search

 

Detective Grogan asked for the first search warrant because there was no evidence of a crime on the night of December 24th, but the mops and mop bucket and the fact that Scott washed his clothes indicated a clean-up.  The 1st search warrant on 523 Covena was primarily to find evidence of a clean-up and to find the trace evidence that would have survived the clean-up. 

Birgit Fladager: Now you were aware, were you not, that police officers had in fact walked through the house on Christmas Eve that night?
Craig Grogan: Yes.
Birgit Fladager: And to your knowledge had they reported seeing any evidence of a crime scene that jumped out at them?
Craig Grogan: No.
Birgit Fladager: Now given that information, was that any reason to you why you should not still try and determine if there were a crime scene at the house?
Craig Grogan: That didn't mean that there wasn't something that we hadn't found. Certainly there was no forensic tests done at the house in a brief walk-through on the night before. There were issues about a mop being out and some mop water recently thrown out. The fact that the defendant washed his clothes apparently after the fishing trip that led us to believe that possibly a cleanup had taken place at the house and we needed to try to go back there and see if that was the case or not.
Birgit Fladager: If there's a cleanup is there some sort of testing that can be done by some particular agency that can help determine that?
Craig Grogan: Well, it depends on the agency. As I learned then, the Department of Justice Crime Lab will come out and they will, they will examine along floorboards and through the house very carefully and then test specific items that they see to see whether it is blood or not. The FBI had access to a substance that the Department of Justice does not use which, and that's called Luminol, and it's a substance that you can spray and if it is blood it is supposed to fluoresce. So we decided that we wanted to call the FBI and see if they would come and assist in a search of the house.

Detective Rudy Skultety was the crime scene manage for this search warrant.  He arrived on the 26th at 7:30 p.m.  Detective Rick House had already secured the residence. The officers were briefed prior to the search detailing the specific items sought under the search warrant.  The only objective on the 26th was to search for forensic evidence--signs of blood, a struggle, etc.  A clean-up was suspected, so the officers were instructed to search baseboards, creases, lower parts of furniture.  On the 27th, they conducted a complete search, looking for the items listed in the search warrant. 

 

The FBI assisted with their special blood-detecting equipment. All suspected blood stains were tested, all items that could have been used in a cleanup were collected as evidence, and a special vacuum cleaner was used to vacuum the area Scott had been seen vacuuming on the 25th.

 

On the 27th, after the search concluded, but while the house was still secured, Det. Grogan asked Det. Brocchini to go back to the house to "collect a small sample of the dried concrete -- freshly dried, it looked like to me, concrete on the side of the house . . . It was in the front driveway, on the north side of the driveway. There's a small patch of dirt between the fence -- like between the hedges of the fence and the driveway." 

 

Results:  No evidence of a clean-up or of trace evidence left behind. 

 

Pictures taken and used as Exhibits

Other Evidence examined and collected


 

February 18-19, 2003

 

Seeking another search warrant for the Covena home and storage shed, Lead Detective Grogan outlined his theory. 

Evidence at the scene suggested that Laci Peterson was the victim of 'soft kill' where there would be limited blood evidence at the scene. The small amount of blood recovered in their bed could indicate a location where Laci Peterson had been assaulted.
 
The fact that Scott Peterson had no significant injuries aside from a scuffed knuckle indicates the victim did not likely have the ability to take defensive action. Laci may have been drugged prior to suffocation or poisoning or otherwise incapacitated without a struggle. The cleanup by mopping the floor and vacuuming may be a result of wrapping Laci in a tarp inside the home and pulling her out the door causing the throw rug to be wadded beneath the doorway. Scott could have carried Laci Peterson's body wrapped in a tarp to his vehicle and then transported her to his shop after releasing their dog with the leash attached.
 
The motive of that crime could be linked to Scott's failing business in addition to pressures of becoming a parent when having no desire to have a child and the expensive desires of his wife Laci Peterson including Laci's want of a new vehicle and home. Scott's continued desire to have a relationship with Amber Frey may add to the motive.

Grogan listed 24 items he was looking for, including any poisons or injectable drugs or fluids that could cause death and any syringes or items used for injection of drugs. He also wanted to take a sample of McKenzie's hair so it could be compared to dog hairs found on a blue tarp recovered in the Bay. When Grogan asked Scott where McKenzie was, he asked if they were going to impound his dog, too.

Another purpose for the search warrant was to have Amy Rocha determine if the clothing Laci wore to the Salon Salon on December 23, 2002, was present in the house. 
Laci's Clothes  

The media had extensive coverage of this search, with cameras catching every evidence bag carried from the house, with some media reporting that close to 100 bags of evidence were removed.

Results: No evidence found to validate Grogan's theory.

 

Details of the Search Warrant execution.

Assignments

Evidence Examined and/or collected

 

218- indicates items were examined/collected on February 18, and 219- on February 19.

Exhibits