The Early Years:  1939-1989

9 May 1939 Lee Peterson's birth, childhood, and 1st marriage

Lee Peterson was born to Arthur and Marie Peterson in the small southwest Minnesota farming community of Worthington. "My mother was the eighth daughter of a family who emigrated from one of the Baltic countries, I believe Lithuania. My grandmother actually made the trip over here from Lithuania on her own, all by herself, at age 15. She came because she had had the promise of a job when she got to Minneapolis, and that's why she came." His mother grew up in a lower middle-class immigrant neighborhood on Milwaukee's northside. She was a factory worker in the Munsingwear plant before marrying. Lee's father grew up in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, famed for the Little House on the Prairie series. He was the youngest of 12 children. His great grandfather immigrated from Norway. His grandfather gave up farming and moved to the St. Paul area, where his Dad's first job was to deliver Western Union telegrams. Lee had an older brother, Joel, two years his senior. The family remained in St. Paul until Lee was about 8 years old, then moved ten miles north to White Bear Lake, where they ran a dairy convenience store. When his father went broke after an unwise investment, the family had to live in an old tourist resort that had fallen into disrepair. His father returned to the typewriter repair business, and his mother did housekeeping for wealthy families. Lee joined the Navy Reserves while in high school, and then served 2 years of active duty after graduation.

5 months before his enlistment was up, Lee married his high school sweetheart, Mary, who immigrated with her family from Sicily at the age of 11. Lee enrolled in a 2-year electronics course at Northwestern University in Minneapolis. At age 25, Lee started playing golf, and later used the sport to promote business for the trucking company he worked with. Susan was born in 1960, Mark in 1962, and Joe in 1963. In 1967 Lee and Mary decided to move from Minnesota to San Diego CA, where Lee had a job with the same trucking firm. For the next 7-9 years, Lee was involved in sales for trucking companies. In the meantime, Lee and Mary divorced, and Lee used the GI bill to attend Mesa College, for a degree in transportation management. Mesa College was only 3 blocks from where Mary lived with the kids, and Lee would stop by just about every night, take them out for hamburgers, or just throw the football around with them.

Lee's mother died in 1970. His father moved to San Diego and lived in Lee's home at times.


Jackie's Childhood

Jackie's father was murdered when she was 3, and she spent the next 10 years in Nazareth House, a Catholic orphanage. Her mother, Helen, was an invalid and hospitalized for quite a while and unable to care for her four children. Jackie's health problems, bronchitis, began about age 7. She had to begin using oxygen in the mid-late 1990s.

Joanne Farmer met Jackie when they attended the same Catholic School. They lived on opposite sides of town and would take the bus to school. Their bus routes converged at Horton Plaza, downtown San Diego, and the two girls would get hot chocolate and donuts, and feed the pigeons while waiting for their bus. Joanne said Jackie and Helen were very close, that Helen was "a dear, dear woman. Jackie is a lot like her, just sweet. Just the nicest person you ever want to meet." When Jackie's mother died, Joanne's mother took her under her wing.


1971 Lee and Jackie married

Jackie and Lee met when they were in the same history class at Mesa College. Lee and Jackie bought a little dress shop in La Jolla, and every two weeks would drive up to the garment district in Los Angeles and load the car with designer dresses to sell in the shop. After a couple of years, she sold the dress shop and worked with Lee at San Diego Crating, doing the bookkeeping and insurance.


24 Oct 1972 Scott's birth & pneumonia

Scott Peterson born to Lee and Jackie Peterson, in San Diego, CA. Jackie had a c-section. During the penalty phase of the trial, Lee described bringing the older children to see Scott. I went and got the other kids and came back to show them their baby brother. And I remember he was right in the middle of all the other babies and he had a lot of hair, he was very distinctive looking. And my second son, Joe, who didn't talk a whole lot at the time was so proud of Scott that anybody would come by to, to look at their babies, you know, parents and grandparents, Joe would point out Scott and say, "That's my baby brother." And he must have said that, I don't know, three or four times to people. And it was just, it was so amazing to me that Joe was that excited about having a baby brother. All the other kids were too, but Joe in particular. At 2 weeks, Scott developed pneumonia and had to be hospitalized and placed in a plastic chamber that controlled humidity and air pressure.

At the time of Scott's birth, Jackie and Lee were living in a 900 sq. foot apartment, with two little bedrooms, a kitchen, and living room. Lee worked for REA, a trucking company. Lee said Jackie would bathe Scott in the kitchen sink, then dance around the apartment with him. Jackie would bring Scott to the dress shop with her. She had an area sectioned off with a crib in it. When he started to crawl, he had the run of the shop, and one day bit a woman's toe. He was under a round dress carousel and the woman had open-toe shoes.

Scott received special attention from his paternal grandfather. He bought Scott special toys and seemed to thrive on Scott's love. He had just lost his wife months earlier and he and Scott became good buddies.


1975 San Diego Crating

Lee started San Diego Crating, specializing in custom-built wooden shipping crates. Lee continued to work at another trucking business job during the day until the start-up produced enough income to support his family, about two and a half years.


1975-1976 Scott's first golf club

Following the pattern set with his older children to find inexpensive golf clubs and cut them to size, Lee got a treewood for Scott, sawed it off to just his size. It's called a slugger, and Lee testified in the penalty phase of the trial that it has a special place in his den.


4 May 1975 Laci's birth

Laci Denise Rocha born to Dennis and Sharon Rocha. Laci weighed 6 lbs. According to Sharon's trial testimony, Laci was only one when Sharon and Dennis divorced, and two when Sharon and Ron began living together.


1980s Comfortable life for the Peterson family

Lee and Jackie were successfully moving up the economic ladder. They lived in several homes, each one a little nicer than the previous one. In the 80s, San Diego Crating was doing well enough for them to buy a home in Rancho Santa Fe, which Lee describes as "the very pinnacle. You have made it once you got there."


1980s Scott's interest in golf

Scott was enrolled in Junior Golf, a program that divided kids by their age groups and taught them the sport on appropriately sized short courses with 80, 90, and 100 yard holes. His first tournament was at Presidio Hills in Old Town, San Diego. He got thrashed, but he loved it. Even if there was a tournament every week, Lee and Jackie would drive him there. They got Scott into lessons about the 6th or 7th grade.

Golf bonded Lee and Scott. Lee would leave San Diego Crating in the hands of his capable manager about 3 pm each day and head to the golf course. Scott's school was just across the street, and he would join his Dad and play a round of 9 holes, or practice, or both.

Scott attended University of San Diego High School, and made the golf varsity team as a freshman. Phil Nicholson was team captain for Scott's freshman and sophomore years, and then Scott was team captain for his final two years.


In 1986, Lee's father came to live with them in Rancho Santa Fe. They moved him into a guest house on Saturday afternoon, took him to his favorite place for dinner, and he died that night in his sleep.