Principal Financial Group Binder (Life Insurance policies)
Collected on: December 27, 2002
Collected by: Rudy Skultety, Crime Scene Manager
Collected from: 2nd bedroom used as home office
Item No.: 29
Defense 4R shows the location where the binder was found in the home office.
The Truth about the Life Insurance policy
The binder contained the two life insurance policies, which were part of a long-term financial plan. According to Detective Phil Owens, (who also testified in the Preliminary Hearing), on January 7, 2003, he was contacted by Jon Buehler and asked to assist FBI agent Terry Scott regarding life insurance for Scott and Laci. Armed with federal subpoenas, they met with Brian Ullrich to determine what policies Scott had on Laci. That same day, January 7, 2003, Ullrich told Owens about the policies taken out in June 2001, and confirmed that Scott had not taken out another policy on Laci since then. He also gave Owens the details of the insurance policies:
Q. And that they were also used for a -- what he called an investment vehicle; isn't that what he told you?
Q. Okay. And that they were connected to their IRA or retirement accounts; isn't that correct?
This is exactly what Scott Peterson told Diane Sawyer during the interview on Good Morning America.
The Lies about the Life Insurance Policy
by Nadia Taze
Many press reports during the investigation into Laci Peterson's disappearance claimed that Scott Peterson had taken out an insurance policy on Laci just after she became pregnant.
"Modesto police told Laci Peterson's family that her husband was having an affair and recently took out a $250,000 life insurance policy on her, a family member said Thursday. Detectives met with Laci Peterson's side of the family Wednesday night to tell them why they believe Scott Peterson is responsible for the disappearance of his 27-year-old pregnant wife, the family member said."
From Modesto Bee online Edition January 17, 2003
The implied accusation was that this was a financial motive for her murder. However, the truth is that Brian Ullrich called Peterson to suggest making an investment, with a life insurance policy as part of that investment, 20 months before Laci disappeared, well before she became pregnant and it was Laci who decided on the amount of coverage for herself.
Testimony of Brian Ullrich, friend and insurance salesman, July 26, 2004:
GERAGOS: You understood that at the housewarming party they had just bought the house?
GERAGOS: Shortly after that at some point you enter this new career?
GERAGOS: You call Scott, say financial planning, and then he comes in with Laci?
GERAGOS: You originally suggest that Scott should get 250 worth of life insurance?
GERAGOS: And that Laci should get a hundred?
GERAGOS: And Laci said No, I want more?
GERAGOS: Okay. It wasn't Scott who said I want more life insurance, was it?
ULLRICH: Laci said I believe they both should be equal.
GERAGOS: Right. She wanted it equal. It wasn't Scott who said Give me some more life insurance on Laci?
GERAGOS: In fact, at no time was it Scott's idea to get life insurance, it was your idea?
ULLRICH: It was my recommendation.
GERAGOS: Right. Because it was, as far as I understand with life insurance salesmen, and I don't mean that in the derogatory sense, you know that old Woody Allen joke about hell is being stuck in a hole with a life insurance salesman? The way you make your money is, when the premiums come in, you get a percentage, correct?
GERAGOS: So the more insurance you sell, the more premium gets paid? I mean if there's a hundred thousand dollar policy is cheaper than two fifty?
GERAGOS: Okay. So you specifically recommend that they get these policies, correct? And that Scott's be larger than Laci's? That was your original plan?
GERAGOS: Okay. And it was Laci, not Scott, who said I want to be equal with him?
GERAGOS: And Scott said Fine, honey, whatever you want?
ULLRICH: He said that's, that's fine.
The knowledge of an existing insurance document was used by Law Enforcement in two ways. It was firstly applied to create suspicion in the minds of family, friends and the media; and secondly to put added pressure on Peterson. In order for it to achieve maximum impact, Brocchini delivered news of the policy to the family on January 16, 2003 at the same time as presenting evidence of Peterson's mistress, Amber Frey - an emotional double whammy! He didn't give anyone the full and true details of the policy, not the family and certainly not the media.
In the Preliminary hearing of November 12, 2003 Brocchini agreed that he had known the policy was not a recent purchase and during the trial testified on June 24, 2004, that he had first spoken to Brian Ullrich regarding the policies early in the investigation, on January 4, 2003. Therefore, he was aware of all the above facts, including that the policy was agreed upon in April 2001, nearly 20 months before Laci's disappearance.
And yet, on January 17 2003, ModBee, SacBee, ABC, CNN news, and San Francisco Chronicle were just some of the media that reported that Peterson had taken out a $250 000 insurance policy on Laci the summer of 2002 soon after she became pregnant and just a few months before she went missing.
Despite the fact that Brocchini knew these facts to be incorrect, Investigators refused to confirm or deny the reports and the misreporting surrounding the policy continued despite Peterson describing them as "a bunch of lies".
Brocchini, also admitted under oath that he told Laci Peterson's family that the policy had "recently been taken out". Even Kim Peterson of the Sund Carrington Foundation fell foul of the lie. She verified to ABC the existence of a policy, again telling them that it had been taken out the summer after Laci fell pregnant.
Not only this, but Brocchini positively went out of his way to point out these erroneous news articles to friends of Scott Peterson, omitting that they were inaccurate. He confirmed that it had been his intent to "plant the seeds of suspicion" in the mind of Peterson's friend Aaron Fritz:
Testimony of Detective Brocchini, Modesto Police Department, June 24, 2004:
GERAGOS: Now, some time on January 4th, you went to go talk to a Brian Ulrich; is that correct?
BROCCHINI: I spoke to him on the phone, I think.
GERAGOS: Okay. And you told him that you recently received a tip that Scott had recently taken out a life insurance policy on Laci; is that correct?
BROCCHINI: A second life insurance policy.
GERAGOS: And you tried to substantiate that, and you were checking into it; is that correct?
GERAGOS: Now, there was, as you determined, only one life insurance policy, correct?
BROCCHINI: No, I never determined that.
GERAGOS: You never determined that?
BROCCHINI: I didn't. And,
GERAGOS: Somebody during the investigation determine that?
BROCCHINI: I think so.
GERAGOS: Okay. And, at some point, the family, meaning Laci's family, Sharon and Ron, were told that a $250,000 life insurance policy had recently been taken out; isn't that correct?
BROCCHINI: I don't know.
GERAGOS: Wasn't, there was an article in the Modesto Bee about January 17th; isn't that correct?
BROCCHINI: I imagine there was an article in the Bee on January 17th. Probably a whole bunch of articles.
GERAGOS: You wouldn't know, you would know about that. You remember specifically that article, don't you?
BROCCHINI: I do.
GERAGOS: And the reason you specifically remember that article is because you got up at 6:40 in the morning, and you called some of Scott's friends and told them to take a look at that article, right?
GERAGOS: So when you got up, you saw that article about the recent taking out of a life insurance policy, and the first person you called was who? Regarding Scott's friends, who did you call?
BROCCHINI: I called Mike Richardson.
GERAGOS: Okay. Did you also call at any point an Aaron Fritz?
BROCCHINI: I have spoken to Aaron Fritz before.
GERAGOS: Did you write in a report that you were attempting to plant the seeds of suspicion in Aaron's head?
BROCCHINI: I was.
GERAGOS: Okay. And that's what, you have testified to that as well. I was attempting to plant the seeds of suspicion in Aaron's head, correct?
BROCCHINI: I was.
GERAGOS: Who was Aaron Fritz?
BROCCHINI: Good friend of Scott's.
BROCCHINI: Let me correct that. I'm sorry. Aaron Fritz was a good friend, and his wife were good friends of Laci that they met Scott through.
GERAGOS: Did he consider him himself to be a friend of Scott, as far as you know?
BROCCHINI: I did.
GERAGOS: As you were trying to plant, as you say, the seeds of suspicion; is that correct?
BROCCHINI: I was.
GERAGOS: You were trying to get him to call Scott and question him about various things that you wanted answered; is that correct?
BROCCHINI: That's correct.
GERAGOS: Then you asked Fritz to call you back when he got the answers; is that correct?
BROCCHINI: That's correct.
During the trial Mike Richardson confirmed that Brocchini had contacted him to point out the story in the Modesto Bee, this despite Richardson not even living in Modesto:
Testimony of Mike Richardson, friend October 4, 2004:
HARRIS: You also, I think Mr. Distaso mentioned, you interviewed, had an interview with Detective Brocchini. Do you recall that?
HARRIS: You recall, I believe, it was a phone call?
HARRIS: And during that phone call, he called you approximately January 17th. Does that sound about right?
RICHARDSON: I'm not sure.
HARRIS: Just have you take a quick look, refresh your recollection. Just kind of read that to yourself. Does that refresh your recollection, it was around January 17th?
HARRIS: He called you and asked if you had read the Modesto Bee, had spoken with Sharon Rocha or any of Laci's family in Modesto, is that right?
HARRIS: He asked you if you had. You replied that you had seen the 11:00 o'clock news in which reported that Scott had a girlfriend and had recently taken out a $250,000 insurance policy on Laci, is that right?
HARRIS: Detective then told you to go online and review the Modesto Bee article. And he encouraged you or your wife Heather to call Sharon Rocha for further information, is that right?
HARRIS: You, according to Detective Brocchini, he told you that Scott is no longer welcome in any of Laci's friends or families' homes right now, and they are suspicious of him. And he asked you, after saying that, to keep an open mind, is that correct?
RICHARDSON: I believe so, yes.
Brocchini's attitude towards the truth is described quite well in this exchange during his testimony at the Preliminary hearing:
Q. You knew from documents that have already been received that the policy had been taken out with an effective date of January 25th, 2001, a year and a half before that.
A. I knew it was taken out a while back before. I didn't know it was January 2001, and I really didn't care when I was telling him to read the article.
On January 29, 12 days after the first media reports regarding the policy, Scott Peterson spoke out about the insurance issue during a recorded interview with ABC's "Good Morning America".
Despite this public statement, which was both accurate and truthful, the flawed reports continued with the document still being cited as a motive for murder even after Peterson's arrest in April.
So here with have the timeline, in black and white:
November 2000: Brian Ullrich meets Scott and Laci at their Covena housewarming
April 2001: Brian Ullrich approaches Scott to suggest they discuss financial planning. An meeting is arranged which Laci also attended, resulting in their purchase of the life insurance policies (one each.
May 2001: The papers are signed.
June 9, 2002: Laci announces to family that she is pregnant.
December 24, 2002: Laci goes missing.
January 4, 2003: Brocchini speaks to Brian Ullrich regarding insurance policies Laci and Scott took out with him.
January 7, 2003: MPD Detective Phil Owen and FBI Agent Terry Scott, armed with federal subpoenas, met with Brian Ullrich to determine what policies Scott had on Laci.
January 16, 2003: Laci's family are told by Law Enforcement/Modesto Police Department that Scott took out an insurance policy on Laci's life, just after she became pregnant. At the same time, they are told about Amber Frey.
January 17, 2003: Media (including the Modesto Bee) report that Scott Peterson took out an insurance policy just after Laci became pregnant. Investigators refuse to confirm or deny the details.
January 17, 2003: Brocchini calls Mike Richardson and tells him to read the Modesto Bee article.
January 17, 2003 onwards: LE continue to refuse to comment on the insurance policies and media reports with regard to it continue.
January 29, 2003: Scott Peterson appears in a television interview and tries to put the lies about the policies to rest by confirming what Brocchini has already known for 25 days - the policy on Laci had been in existence for nearly 2 years.
Brocchini kept the truth about the insurance policy hidden from everyone outside of Law Enforcement/Modesto Police Department. The objective was to place suspicion on Scott Peterson from family, friends and media, and in turn, place him under even more stress. No doubt this strategy was with the intent of exacting a breakdown and confession from Peterson - it didn't succeed.
Unfortunately, for Peterson the press and media never retracted their stories or pointed out their errors so the misconception that he had taken out a policy on Laci just previous to her disappearance stayed in people's minds, helping to convict him in the public eye before he'd even stepped into the court room.
Hundreds of newspapers, internet news sites, television stations etc. covered the lies about the insurance policy filling airtime and column space for months, but uncovering the truth in the court room was momentary and not enough to stamp out the fallacy. Still the lies live on...