Blue Tarp from large shed
Collected on: December 27, 2002
Collected by: Detective Rudy Skultety, Crime Scene Manager
Item No.: 41
Reason: Suspected of being used to conceal Laci's body
Received by: California Department of Justice crime laboratory, Ripon, CA
Received on: December 30, 2003
Case No: CV-02-010941
Request No: 01
Tested by: Pin Kyo
Tested on: January 9, 2003
Bates No. for Report:
In his Closing Argument, Rick Distaso said Scott wrapped Laci in this blue tarp when he removed her from the house to the pickup.
The defendant strangled or smothered Laci Peterson the night of February, January, December 23rd, or in the morning while she was getting dressed on the 24th. . . . When he was ready to leave the house, he wrapped her up in that blue tarp.
The blue tarp was collected as evidence during the search warrant executed on December 27, 2002. It was in the pickup on the night of the 24th. On the 27th, the 68"x91" blue tarp was found by Detective Ray Coyle, folded up in the large shed housing home garden fertilizers (People's 1M, Defense 6L-5).
The cadaver dog had difficulty with the shed where the tarp was found, and Scott was suspected of intentionally contaminating it with home fertilizer in order to destroy trace evidence.
The Weight of the Market Umbrellas
According to Prosecutor Rick Distaso’s opening statement,
Peterson put Laci’s body in the bed of his truck and then covered her with three
large patio/market umbrellas. The assertion was that he’d done this as the
umbrellas, when closed, were approximately the same height as Laci and would
explain away anyone having seen him loading something into the back of the
From Distaso’s closing statement:
“He said he was going to take them to the warehouse and, because it was starting to rain. That's what he told the detectives. The real reason why he said that was because he wanted to have a reason why they were still in his truck all day. He loads Laci into his truck. He puts these patio umbrellas on top of her. She's got the tarp on her. No one is ever going to know what's going on. It's not that difficult to do. This is not some big mystery.”
Based on Distaso’s description of them as “three large patio umbrellas; the kind people have you put them in your backyard. Sometimes you have seen these at farmers markets, big canvas kind of patio umbrellas.” in his opening statement to: “full-size patio umbrellas” in his closing, we can conclude that they were the largest commercially available - those of 11’ diameter.
As you will see by following this link http://www.umbrellatime.com/market-umbrellas/market-umbrellas-c.php# and then clicking on the “Height & Weight Chart”, on average an 11’ diameter umbrella, minus the stand, ranges in weight from 26lbs to 36lbs. For the sake of argument, we can take a middle figure of 31 lbs. as their weight. Three umbrellas, in total weighing approximately 93 lbs.
Prosecution were, therefore, stating that Scott Peterson placed just under 100 lbs. of weight on top of Laci’s dead body, and this weight remained on her for a couple hours over a long drive. Each time Scott hit a bump in the road, the umbrellas would come down with renewed force on the body. It is difficult to believe that this sort of pressure put upon a pregnant corpse with no muscular resistance, would not:
a) rupture Laci’s amniotic membrane causing her to lose amniotic fluid (an amount totalling one quart at her term of pregnancy)
b) force out bodily secretions from any of her orifices. Blood, bodily fluids or sputum from mouth, nose and ears, stools and urine.
If she was wrapped in that blue tarp, as Distaso argued that she was, certainly the weight of the umbrellas would have caused bodily fluids to stain it.
Cadaver Dog Results
Eloise Anderson used her cadaver dog Twist to examine the shed the tarp was found in. This is the summary of her testimony, as given in the Pre-Trial hearings on February 25, 2004.
Twist crawled over a blue tarp on the lawnmower and alerted.
She then hit a container that appeared to have fertilizer in it.
Anderson removed the container because fertilizer is outside Trimble's training parameters.
Twist went back and alerted on the blue tarp over the lawnmower.
The tarp had a brown liquid on it, so Anderson removed it from the shed.
Anderson did not check to see if the brown liquid on the tarp was of the same type in the fertilizer container, but she did assume it was liquid fertilizer.
Twist went back into the shed, went up on her hind legs and sniffed along some shelves, and alerted.
On the shelves were a chain saw, pruning shears, and other gardening materials.
Anderson could not confirm to the Detectives that she was not alerting to the fertilizer in the shed.
Anderson did not request to return to the shed after a few days of having the tarp/container out of it.
Pin Kyo did the analysis and testing. Her pictures are People's 240 A and the detail of the tarp is Defense 6M-5. She described the blue tarp as having a mildew smell and observed sawdust, dirt, and pollen, like a part of flowers, and greenish stain which she concluded was a grass stain. She also found two long blond hairs, some shorter hairs that were possibly animal hairs, and fibers. The tarp had two stains which tested negative for blood. She also confirmed that the tarp had no tissue or other trace evidence. She sent the hairs to criminalist Rodney Oswalt for examination, but Oswalt did not report on the tests in his testimony. Kyo said nothing about any indication that the tarp had been contaminated or any trace evidence damaged or destroyed by being in the shed with home garden fertilizer products. Click pictures to enlarge.
Had the blue tarp been used to wrap Laci's dead body for transport, it would have been laden with trace evidence, especially if Laci had already been dead for 12 hours or so and nearly 100 lbs. of umbrellas placed on top of her. But, the tests performed by Kyo found no trace evidence whatsoever, and Kyo offered no expert testimony that its presence in the shed would have removed such trace evidence. The State of California provided no expert witness to make such a claim. Twist obviously was alerting to the chemicals in the shed, not to any scent from Laci, for if there had been scent on the tarp, there would have been trace evidence.