Collected on: December 27, 2002
Collected by: Detective Rudy Skultety, Crime Scene Manager
Item No.: 43
Reason: Suspected of being used to conceal Laci's body in the boat
Received by: California Department of Justice crime laboratory, Ripon, CA
Received on: December 30, 2002
Case No: CV-02-010941
Request No: 01
Tested by: Pin Kyo
Results: Negative, nothing of evidentiary value
The boat cover was collected as evidence during the search warrant executed on December 27, 2002. Detective Ray Coyle found it "laying on top of some of the items that were on the floor of the shed and underneath the yard blower." Coyle said "it had a strong odor of gasoline coming off of it, and obvious stain that was wet at the time." The cover was draped over the fence to air out before being packaged and transported as evidence. (People's 1-AA).
Brocchini wrote in his report: "It's also unusual that this brand new boat tarp that was in the back of Scott's truck on 12/24/02 was now placed in a shed under a leaking gas motor. This appeared completely out of character since most of Scott's things are in very good condition and well cared for" (Catherine Crier, A Deadly Game, p. 92).
Rick Distaso, in Closing Arguments, said the boat cover was put onto the boat to conceal Laci during the drive to the Berkeley Marina.
After he gets the weights attached, he puts the cover on the boat. Here's what it looks like. You can't see into the boat with the cover on. Straps it down, just like Bruce Peterson said you can do.
He backs his boat down in the trailer. He's got the cover on. He goes and puts the truck away. And then how hard is this? He takes the cover off the boat and stuffs it around her body. So he uses the cover to cover up. Who is going to see that? Who is even going to suspect it? Who cares if somebody is driving out in the Bay with the cover stuffed in the boat?
This means that the boat cover came into direct contact with Laci's dead body for a period of at least a couple of hours.
The cadaver dog results
The dog testimony that was not admitted into trial was given during the February 2004 Pre-Trial hearings. None of the witnesses called (Cindy Valentin, Eloise Anderson, and Christopher Boyer) testified that their cadaver dogs were used to search this shed. However, Detective Rick House wrote in his report that "the interior of the shed reeked of gasoline even after the tarp had been removed," and that Eloise Anderson said "absent a significant body part, the source of the odor would have to be removed and the shed would need to sit open for at least two days before the cadaver dog, Twist, would be effective in a search" (Catherine Crier, The Deadly Game, pp. 92-93).
House does not give any reason for not following through with having Twist search the shed after being aired out a few days. However, it's obvious from the picture of the shed above that no body parts could have been successfully hid from view, nor the shed used to store her entire body. Therefore, the only interest would be to collect the boat cover and have it tested for trace evidence. The boat cover was draped across the fence to air out before being collected.
The test results
People's 240 B-D provide Kyo's pictures of the boat cover. Kyo noticed a gasoline smell on the boat cover, and collected some concrete debris from it. Her presumptive tests for blood on the discolored areas were negative. A second request was made by the MPD for further testing of the boat cover. This test was performed by Nancy Seger, who specifically looked for evidence of biological stains -- blood, urine, feces. The tests were negative. Detective Grogan confirmed that there was no blood, no urine, no feces, no tissue, nothing on the boat cover except miscellaneous debris -- in fact, the boat cover had nothing of evidentiary value.
Kyo said nothing about the gasoline having the capability to destroy or damage trace evidence. In fact, Mark Geragos specifically asked Kyo if she tested any specific area that looked to like it was discolored with gasoline or anything else, and she replied that she only tested the general area.
Kyo repeatedly referred to the "chunks" of concrete debris collected from the boat cover and preserved for future testing, if such was desired. Geragos, on cross examination, removed the concrete debris from the baggie and put it onto graph paper to give the Jury a proper visual concept of how big the chunks were (People's 240E). Kyo did not compare the concrete debris from the boat cover with the anchor to see if they were the same or similar, and no mention was made in testimony that anyone else made that comparison. Kyo did admit that the concrete debris from the boat cover looked similar to the concrete debris from the anchor Scott had in the boat.
According to the State's theory, the boat cover did come into direct contact with Laci's dead body when Scott "stuffs it around her body." Therefore, it would have had trace evidence. But, the tests performed by Kyo found no trace evidence whatsoever, and Kyo offered no expert testimony that the leaked gasoline would have removed such trace evidence. The State of California provided no expert witness to make such a claim.