The search for Laci began with the 911 call made by Ron Grantski. Numerous family members went to the park to search for Laci, and the MPD conducted extensive searches the night of December 22 and in the next few days. The search in the first few days also included the neighborhood, and eventually fanned out to rural areas and other waterways, besides the San Francisco Bay.
People's 58 1-2: Maps of Modesto and the Modesto Irrigation District
People's 59 1-2: Maps of Madera and Mariposa Counties
People's 60 1-2: Maps of Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties
People's 61 1-3: Large Map with colored pins indicating Search areas, and legend
Click to enlarge
About 8 pm, Sgt. Duerfeldt gave the order to clear the park of all humans to prepare for the helicopter search. The helicopter using FLIR, which detects human presence, made about an hour and 15-20 minute search, but found no signs of human life. They went past Claus Road, where the creek just keeps winding up through some orchards and stuff, and at least a mile past Claus Road, if not even farther. Their instructions were to search the Dry Creek area and the surrounding parks; parks within that Dry Creek area. They weren't directed to search into the neighborhoods--their specific task was to search Dry Creek.
December 24 - Continued search of the Park, Covena neighborhood
3:45 am When he finished his regular shift (4 p.m. to 3:30 a.m.), Officer John Hodson was asked to work overtime and dispatched to the Dry Creek Park to continue the search for Laci. He, CSO Hodson, and Officer David Mullens went down into the Park at the pumphouse and started searching from the pumphouse west along the path. Hodson took the river side, and Mullens took the other side, and the CSO drove the police car with the lights on so they could see. They met Lt. Bruce Able and Sgt. Scott Heller, who were working their way towards them. They then worked eastward from the pumphouse to the end of La Loma Park, where there is a public restroom, and where the tennis courts are. Hodson checked the restrooms, but found nothing. They also searched the pumpstation. Along the riverbank, Hodson encountered some homeless shelters. He announced himself and the people came out to greet him. He searched their encampments and their property. They did complain that it was the third time that night they had been turned over by people looking for Laci. The encampments were within a quarter to a third of a mile west of the path that leads into the Park from Covena. The encampments are just about four or five hundred yards from the hospital on Scenic Drive, where Diane Campos worked. Hodson pointed out the route from the Covena path into the park, over the footbridge, down along Scenic, back across another footbridge into Kewin Park, up the stairs to Edgebrook, and then to Covena.
When Officer David Corder, a member of the K-9 dog unit, came on duty at 6 am, he was told they had been searching the park through the night, and asked to use his K-9 to search the park and surrounding areas. Officer Gonzalez had been in the park all night with his K-9 and told Corder what areas had already been searched. He (without the dog), Officer Fisher, and several other officers searched some of the streets and alleyways around 500 Covena. They started at intersection of Covena and Edgebrook and walked the front yards all the way down Highland. They actually walked back into some of the yards to see if someone had gone back there and was injured, but did not go into any of the houses or backyards. They came back and went through the alley, which runs behind Highland, came back out Santa Barbara, down Encina, and then one block north on Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Rowland and Covena, and down one block, which is Roble, in that area. They went back to area where Covena meets the park and searched areas difficult for people to get into. He took the dog along the southern edge of the park, that joins backyards with lots of shrubbery and bushes. The dog is trained to search out human scent. They searched eastbound all along the southern edge to where El Vista crosses the park. He worked the dog along the southern edge of the creek bed, whatever brush was safe to work, all the way to Kewin Park. He noticed quite a bit of water in the creek, and some deep spots, so he requested Sgt. Beffa to have the fire department search with their raft or zodiac. Beffa and his team entered the creek near the tennis courts and searched all the way to Kewin park. Corder then resumed his dog search along the southern edge of the park in Kewin Park back to the foot path at Covena.
During his search, Corder saw some officers talking to some transients in the hospital area, below Scenic a little west of where it intersects with Coffee. There is a path that leads from the foot bridge in the park to Scenic, and itís 50-75 yards from the bridge to Scenic.
7:20 pm Scott called Brocchini to ask him if they were using cadaver dogs to look for Laci in Dry Creek Park. Brocchini told Scott he hadn't considered her being dead yet, so they hadn't used cadaver dogs. They talked for 5 minutes.
December 26 - Command Post in LaLoma Park
The Command Center for the investigation was at the MPD. A Command Post was also setup in the Park, to organize the search and accommodate individuals who would come and give tips personally. Ronald Cloward was put in charge of the Command Post. The CP consisted of a trailer with computer and communications equipment. It was located near the tennis courts. The search on the 26th included the City of Modesto checking the manhole covers, the pond in the park searched by divers, and the Fire Dept. running a boat along the creek, working from the bridge to fisherman's club.
December 26 - Bloodhound used
When officers released a bloodhound (scent dog) in front of the Peterson home, the dog did not go to the dirt path that leads to La Loma Park. Instead, the hound led police to houses around the corner, then south to Yosemite Boulevard and eventually to Santa Rosa Avenue near E.&J. Gallo Winery. Contra Costa County sheriff's deputies, who supplied the bloodhound, concluded the search when the dog began nosing around some Dumpsters. Police searched with flashlights and climbed in, but it was not known what, if anything, they found. Other sources say that several bloodhounds were used and the dogs "went in a multitude of directions." In mid-October, the prosecution revealed that "two dogs followed a track that led from a "known location" -- apparently the Petersons' Covena Avenue home -- to San Francisco Bay. "According to scent dog experts, the dogs can track a scent even if the person is in a moving vehicle. The scent falls off the person onto the ground and can be traced by dogs in a process called "leapfrogging"--where one dog goes miles ahead on the last known trajectory and tries to pick up the scent. (See "Dogs Used in the Investigation" for more details)
Chris Boyer, Captain of the Search and Rescue team, conducted a standard missing person's interview with Scott. Grogan was present. Scott told Boyer McKenzie was clean, but his leash was dirty, like it was dragged through mud; he didn't know where Laci walked, but she would have been wearing one of his jackets; he gave a description of what Laci would wear when she went walking; he said Laci would not typically wear anything in her hair, and wasn't that morning. Grogan was writing down notes and Scott said he was happy Grogan was documenting the interview and what was taken. Boyer volunteered to give Scott a receipt, and Scott said yes, he would like one.
December 27 - Search vacant house on Covena
Officer Corder was dispatched to 344 Covena, which is one block down from Encina. A person passing out fliers walked up to the house and thought they saw someone run to the back of the house. It was a vacant house under renovation. Corder peered through the windows on all sides. A van was parked outside that looked like it hadnít been driven for some time. Buehler asked about it, and so Corder went back to the house on February 27, 2003, and the house was in the same condition.
December 28, 2002 - Modesto wetlands searched
The search moved to 4,000 acres of wetlands along the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers, 10 miles west of Modesto.
December 30, 2002 - Waterways searched
Air 101, which was the Stanislaus Sheriff's Department helicopter was up, and they were flying the California Aqueduct. And they actually, that from 580 all to the San Luis Reservoir. Then we had 30 police, citizen volunteers that day, that we continued to assign areas within the City of Modesto to go out and search. And it was just another day of continuing to try to complete all the searches in this area in the City of Modesto.
January 5 - Other waterways searched
Search teams were sent to Merced, Tuolumne, Calaveras, San Joaquin, Alameda and Mariposa counties. Besides scouring new areas outside Stanislaus County, approximately 16 officers and five dogs took a second look Sunday at several areas within the county that previously had been searched.
January 6 - Mines near LaGrange searched
At the request of Officer Matt Ponce, Officer David Corder took his all-terrain vehicle to LaGrange, to the old bridge, to assist in the search of some mines. He saw the sand disturbed and some footprints at a mine shaft going into the mountain and crawled inside the mine shaft, but nothing found.
January 7 - River in Calaveras County search
Divers were back in the water, searching a river in Calaveras County for clues to Laci's disappearance.
January 9 - Divers used in San Luis Forebay
Divers were doing searches in both the Bay and the San Luis Forebay.