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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  December 4, 2021 12:00am-2:00am PST

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i miss her smile and her laughter. i miss everything about her. >> it's more difficult to speak in public about it now. >> reporter: the news swept the nation when she vanished, laci peterson, the beaming young mom-to-be. >> please, please let her come home to us! >> reporter: prosecutors speak out in an in-depth television interview. >> you put so much of your life into it, it stays with you. >> reporter: laci's husband finally hear the story he told.
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>> grabbed some pizza from the fridge. then jumped in the shower -- >> reporter: his rarely seen police interrogation! >> you have no idea where laci is. >> i do not. >> we couldn't find anything wrong with this guy. >> he was that charming. >> reporter: and surprising details from the other woman, who helped uncover the truth. >> it still affects me emotionally. >> did scott peterson kill his wife? >> i don't believe he did. >> i mean, really. who else could have done it? >> i'm glad you asked that question. >> reporter: once upon a time, in a small california city, lived a sweet, pregnant woman, with a radiant smile and outside of friends and family, hardly anyone knew her name. >> can i help you? >> my son-in-law called. he was playing golf. my daughter's been missing since this morning. she's eight months pregnant. >> reporter: she would never know, of course, how famous that name of hers was about to become. >> we have no indication, no significant leads at this point. >> reporter: would never know
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that a curious, sympathetic, puzzled nation had cast an eye her way. laci peterson. she was 27 years old. and, on the night before christmas, she was gone. >> laci, if you're out there and can hear us and see us, we love you and we're searching, we're looking. >> reporter: it hit something. something in the air. the zeitgeist, that name, that smile, that mystery, impossible to put down. >> whoever has her, please, please, please let her go. bring her back to us. >> we love her so much, and we want her back. please let us have her back. >> reporter: and then there was him. the husband. the inscrutable scott peterson. >> i really don't care what people think of me as long as it continues to keep laci's picture, description, tipline in the media.
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>> reporter: before our very eyes he would morph from a faithful husband who loved his wife to an object of suspicion and outrage. such a circus the whole sad thing sometimes seemed to be. >> scott, hey, why don't you come and talk to us and tell us the truth? >> reporter: but for all the noise, all the breathless coverage, the hours of tv, the acres of tabloid, there was a story never completely told. a story the prosecutors told "dateline" first. what do you think of scott peterson, his personality? >> he's a very unusual person, he's clearly very -- he's -- i think he's very smart, i think he thinks he's very smart. >> reporter: the story the detectives saw firsthand. >> when somebody's in a position like him, and they didn't do it, usually they'll say, "take blood. take a polygraph, i don't care." but scott wouldn't do that. he'd only go to a point. >> he's just cool as a moose. >> he was steve mcqueen cool. >> reporter: the story of what
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happened to her, too, the other woman whose name was also thrust into a cultural moment, amber frey. what does a saga like that do to a person's life? >> well, i'd say -- i mean, from day one it completely changed my life. >> reporter: and the story told by a frustrated ex-journalist, convinced that the cops, the prosecutors, the public, got it all wrong. >> did scott peterson kill his wife? >> i don't believe that. i do not believe he did. >> reporter: and a video we found buried in the court archives. >> so what you're telling me, scott, is there's no -- you have no idea where laci is? >> i do not. >> reporter: scott peterson talking to a detective just hours after sounding the alarm. laci was missing. but before we get there, we'll begin here with laci peterson's mother sharon rocha surrounded,
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fortified really by laci's best friends, stacey boyers, lori ellsworth, and renee tomlinson. >> they seem to make you feel cheerful -- >> they do. they help a lot. i'm glad they're here. >> but it's tough still, huh? >> it is tough. >> reporter: perhaps harder than ever to talk about it, she said, to talk about her long dead daughter, whose case so captivated the country. there are people growing up who probably either don't remember or never knew about laci peterson. tell me about laci. >> i moved to modesto in the third grade. and i knew nobody. and she was one of the first people i met. and there was no not meeting her. >> reporter: you get the idea. big personality. >> it just makes you want to whistle. >> she made everybody laugh and welcome and just with a smile. she could smile and you would
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know that that is the girl that you're going to be probably spending the rest of the night talking to or -- >> or listening to. >> maybe not talking so much. she was a hard to get a word in edgewise. >> reporter: talkative, smart, tenacious. >> "you have us?" >> "i have you." >> "is it working?" >> reporter: a person who went for what she wanted the way she did for scott peterson. how did laci meet scott? >> at a café where scott worked. >> reporter: or at least saw him there. and just like that gave a waiter her phone number to pass on to scott. >> she wasn't bashful. >> reporter: and laci's mother liked scott, liked him a lot. >> very charming, very polite, perfect gentleman. >> bring you roses, that sorta thing? >> yes. he'd had a dozen roses for laci and then a dozen roses for me. so, of course, i was impressed. >> reporter: the courtship was like that, old fashioned. in what seemed like a good way. >> he actually asked our permission to marry laci.
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and we gave him our permission. >> reporter: there was a big wedding in the summer of '97. and by the turn of the millenium scott was a fertilizer salesman in modesto. laci a substitute teacher. his job took him on the road a lot, but they were happy. >> did the three of you get to know the two of 'em together much before -- >> uh-huh. i thought he was a great guy. >> we thought they were great together. >> she was always happy. it was almost a joke of, "gosh, does he have a brother?" >> reporter: though laci struggled to get pregnant, after nearly five years of marriage that came too. >> the day after my baby shower that she threw for me, she took a pregnancy test and called everybody very early. >> very early the next morning. >> reporter: soon enough the petersons learned they were having a boy. they readied the nursery and decided to name him conner. laci was nearly 8 months pregnant by christmas, the last christmas before little conner was due. you were supposed to have --
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christmas eve dinner. is that right? >> yes. i was. she was having christmas day. and i was having christmas eve dinner. that was when he called. it was close to 6:15. he called and asked if laci was with me. and i said, no, she's not here. well, she's missing. >> reporter: and that was the beginning, christmas eve 2002. laci peterson with her bright smile was nowhere to be found. coming up -- the missing mom becomes national news. >> there's a $500,000 reward. >> i thought somebody kidnapped her. >> i was absolutely panicked. >> the first clues -- her dog dragging its leash, her neighbors robbed. her husband, asking for help. did he seem frantic or worried? >> a little bit. >> when "dateline" continues. i'm dara brown. we have some breaking news at this hour. we are waiting on a press
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conference out of detroit. police in detroit have put an end to a massive manhunt. the parents of the alleged oxford school shooter have been apprehended in the east end of the city. james and jennifer crombley were taken in. those rewards were up to $10,000. four students were killed, several others hurt, and the shooting suspect 15-year-old ethan crombley is charged. police will be holding the press krchts in just a few moments. in the meantime we have msnbc legal analyst joyce vance here to join us. and thank you so much for being here this evening. can you tell us what are the time constraints that were in place for these parents to actually turn themselves in when this indictment happened earlier this afternoon?
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>> so these parents were supposed to appear in court on friday to be arraigned on the involuntary manslaughter charges that have been brought against them. they were in fugitive status. they failed to show up. they had agreed with their attorney they would surrender after they were charged, and of course they didn't. >> and now that they are in custody, could they possibly be facing any other charges? >> i suspect we'll learn that at the press conference or in the next day or two. they could be charged, for instance, with something related to being a fugitive. it will depend upon the facts surrounding their disappearance but also facts like these can be used to enhance a sentence following a conviction. >> and joyce, this has been a very interesting situation here because the attorney actually -- the prosecutor charged the parents. and this normally doesn't happen in this situation. the shooter was 15 years old, so
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how is this going to potentially play out? how hard is it to prove they are actually going to be responsible for manslaughter charges? >> this was a strong case against the parents because the facts here are very unique. the difference between different types of homicide, murder and manslaughter, is the mens rea or the state of mind of the person charged. here the parents were aware of two important facts. they had been advised by the school that their child was a risk, that he was having this ideation about killing people, there were specific and immediate concerns. and they also knew and failed to disclose to the school he had access to a firearm. so it's the nexus of those two facts that led to them being charged here. >> and because of that there's a lot of what they're considering premeditation in this because of his drawings, because the
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parents had been warned actually at the school that he was a problem. we're now actually going to go to the presser in detroit by the detroit police. let's listen in. okay, we're waiting to just get our sound up here. the detroit police have been holding a presser. they're just starting it now. the parents james and jennifer crombley have been apprehended in detroit. they were discovered this evening at an art studio. all departments in michigan have been involved in this. we do know it happened in oakland county. the u.s. marshals have been involved, michigan state police, u.s. border control, detroit police stations -- here's the presser. let's listen. >> -- also have to respect the
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fact this is -- >> were they armed, chief? >> they were not armed. >> are they in dp custody and then going to be transferred to oakland county? >> they were transferred over to the oakland county sheriff's department who were on the scene. >> chief, can you say what their state of mind appeared to be? >> they certainly appeared to be distressed, as you can imagine. and as i indicated they were in oa commercial building in a room. we were able to take them into custody without incident. >> we've been watching a presser out of detroit -- >> well, the officers arrived around 10:00, 10:30. i don't know how long they were here prior to that. >> chief, how much man power went behind this search right here? i know u.s. marshals, fbi were
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out looking for them. >> so this portion of it, there were other agencies that we contacted, and as i indicated u.s. marshals were here and the oakland county sheriff's department was here. that's who we turned them over to. regarding man power, we've got a number of victims in oxford. it takes as much man power as it takes. the personnel and resources to bring the families closure. we're going to use as much man power as necessary to bring the families the closure they need. it's a tragic incident that's touched not just the community, not just the state but the country. we're tired of it. it's not an abandoned building. it's a commercial building. i believe they do a lot of art and artwork in this building. >> it just seems -- were you surprised that they were here? >> certainly. i mean, i'm surprised that they're here. but i'm not surprised that the
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work the main unit did to get them in custody. >> can you talk about your officers and they did so many amazing things recently, and this is just another thing you guys are really doing. >> our policing is excellent. i could not be prouder. i've been back as chief now and they never fail to amaze me. the professionalism they exhibit on a day in and day out basis, recent excellence. and what they did here tonight is just an example of that. >> when you say they were in distress, without getting into what they said, can you describe were they crying? was there some -- what was going on? >> one of them, head down and just very upset, as you can imagine. it's hard to paint a picture. just very distressed and getting taken into custody.
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>> is there any indication they were aided in getting into the building? >> yes, in fact, they were aided. and we're looking at that portion of the investigation. our metro division has information they're sharing with the u.s. marshals. >> do you expect there to be further charges? >> there's likely to be charges, but, again, we've got two prosecutors now going to be involved in that part of it as well as of our own prosecutor. so they'll be working together. we'll be turning over that information. >> when you say aided, did someone let them in? >> they did not break in. >> so someone let them in? >> yes, yes. >> any relationship they had with the crombleys? >> we don't know yet. we're unpacking that information. oh, absolutely they could be facing charges. >> were they were trying to escape to canada? >> we're still looking into
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that, very likely but we're turning over all that we have and all the information here tonight. >> was there any reason to believe -- >> was there any reason to believe that they were intending to turn themselves in or do you guys believe they're fleeing here? >> i don't know, but this isn't indicative of turning themselves in, hiding in a warehouse. see something, say something. again, our community has been amazing. and thank you, community. thank you for working with us, partnering with this police agency. there's been a number of cases recently that we could not have gotten where we are without our community. tonight, again, our community came through for us. so thank you very much. >> so was someone else taken into custody besides the two -- >> just the two tonight. >> a couple more questions. >> where they were hiding, chief, was that owned by the person who let them in? >> don't know. don't know. we did speak with the owners of the building. i don't know if that particular space was owned or leased.
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>> is there anyone else being questioned at this time actively or in police custody? >> no one is in custody yet, but we're working on an angle of one other person that may have been assisting them. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, chief. >> that was chief james white from the detroit police department. that was chief james white from the detroit police department giving a press conference on the apprehension of james and jennifer crombley who were taken into custody earlier this evening. joyce, i know you were listening to this press conference along. a lot of things going on here specifically unpacking this as it envelopes. could you add a little more to that? >> the most important thing we've heard here from the chief, this confirms the notion that
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the crombleys were in fact attempting to flee from charges. they withdrew $4,000 from bank accounts using atms. and we heard the chief say there may be others, they may have been assisted by people who could likely face charges by harboring a fugitive or some form of an accessory after the fact charge. >> the chief was also thanking the community. because we do know this was taken off of a tip called in earlier because someone had seen their car in this building. the indictment came down earlier on them calling for their arrest on these manslaughter charges, but that was earlier this afternoon. there's a lot of time that has gone through before they've been apprehended. so what happens with the police department as they're going through this? do they just start calling in the u.s. marshals? because i know there's a lot of people involved here. can you walk us through that? >> sure, the marshal service which is a federal agency under
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doj runs fugitive task forces all across the country. these are highly trained individuals in the marshal services who work with state and local officers but also with other federal agencies. we're in proximity to the canadian border in michigan, so for instance, there's special agents from i.c.e. who work with the task force. and they were very experienced at using for instance as they did here a tip-line type process in order to develop leads. they will meticiously track down all of those leads, and here that paid off when they got a license plate number and were able to use that to ultimately find the location where the crombleys were hiding. the reporting at the press conference was they identified them around 10:00 p.m. last night. so as you could imagine they would have been very careful in this approach bringing in people and resources to make sure there wasn't a threat to the public. >> and joyce, the police chief also said now that the wayne
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county prosecutor's office is going to be involved in this along with oakland county where the shooting had actually happened. what would the wayne county prosecutor's office be charging in this? >> i think it's premature to know whether they're part of the ongoing investigation or whether the charges actually happen there. there will need to be very specific charges tied to the locations where crime occurred. we're talking here about state court and state jurisdiction, which is by county. so, for instance, you can't charge something that happens in oakland county in wayne county. the prosecutors will have to sort out those details and bring charges in the proper venues. >> and -- and now that they are in custody, the police chief was talking about other people possibly being involved, other investigations ongoing like who had this building that they were found in. what would be the process for that now? how could you charge somebody in
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that? aiding and abetting? >> so what they'll need to understand is how the crombleys got into this building they were found in. there was some suggestion they had been involved in artwork that was ongoing in this process. did the owner of the building or someone else with access let them in? and was that person aware that they were fleeing charges against them? all of that investigation is still ongoing and will determine whether and what charges additional individuals might face. >> and joyce, we're actually having pictures show up right now. those are pictures of the building of where james and jennifer had been taken from by the detroit police roughly at 10:30 when the police went in to get them. he did say also that with the this investigation there might be other people involved. and this goes back to something. with this charge we know that the son, the 15-year-old shooter, is being charged. now the parents, james and
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jennifer crombley, are being charged. what other extensive charges could be in this investigation? >> well, they'll look to see whether the gun sale was legal. but i think frankly when you've got these serious homicide charges, the son faces terrorist and intentional homicide charges. those charges are serious. for instance, even the parents here face 15-year sentences. and that's the risk to public safety here. what's so unusual in this setting is that the people who made it possible for this young man to access a firearm, that they, too, will face accountability. hopefully that will send a message to other people and will make them think twice before they give juveniles access to a firearm. >> and to that point, in michigan juveniles are not supposed to have guns until they're 18 or older unless they are being supervised.
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and obviously there had been a time when the mother had taken him shooting. she had posted it on social media, that she had taken him out for shooting with his christmas gun. so the parents obviously knew that he had the gun. would there be any way that the school would have known he would have had a gun in his possession? >> it doesn't look like from what we know here. but, you know, the one fact in this entire situation that sticks out is why was the child returned to the school? you'll recall that the fact pattern here is that after a teacher finds this very alarming drawing in his possession, the parents are summoned to the school. they have a meeting. they're ordered to find counseling for their child within 48 hours, and the parents refuse to take him out of school. the school doesn't want him to return to the classroom. the parents resist that, and he is ultimately returned to the classroom. the parents leave, and that's when the shooting takes place. he had a backpack, and that
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backpack wasn't searched. one of the questions we still need to know the answer to is why wasn't the backpack searched? and is part of the problem here the parents failed to tell the school he technically had access to a firearm? so you would expect to search him in that setting to be quite honest. but perhaps they weren't on notice. and the final detail here is the parents didn't lock up the firearm. now, you're not required to do that under michigan law, but they had reportedly kept that gun in an unlocked drawer in their bedroom. obviously ethan had access to that firearm. they never told the school how easy it would have been for him to access it as far as we know at this point. >> and to that point, james crombley called 911 and said that the gun was missing after the shooting had happened, after he had already been in the school and had this conversation with the school about his son.
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would there be any additional charges possibly coming down the line other than the manslaughter charges? >> so this phone call that he makes -- and we know, of course, that the mother also after there's news that there's a school shooting, she texts her son and she says words to the effect of, ethan, don't do it. which means as soon as they heard there was a school shooting and realized that the gun was missing they knew that there was a problem. prosecutors will likely use that as key pieces of evidence in the prosecution against them, not clear at all to me they'll face any additional charges as a result of that. >> and we are now getting pictures in. this is live video coming from michigan where the parents, james and jennifer crombley have been taken into police custody. they were discovered in a room in an art studio in a commercial building in detroit. again, detroit police have
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apprehended jennifer and james crombley. they are now in police custody. joyce vance, thank you so much for joining us this evening. so appreciate your input on this. and we'll have more updates on this at 7:00 a.m. when we are live, and we'll have updates throughout the night. again, james and jennifer crombley are now in police custody. and we are going to go back to our program. we are joining it in progress. scott, said he had proof, a parking receipt from the marina. >> just to prove i was there. that's just -- he was ready. prepared. >> reporter: scott said the pish weren't biting that christmas
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eve afternoon. so he headed back to modesto and he found the dog with the leash attached, an unlocked back door but no laci. >> took the box out. >> yeah, put it on the counter like it was, glass of milk. then jumped in the shower. >> reporter: he was calm as he spoke. calm, matter of fact, helpful. >> were you calling for laci or -- >> of course i did. >> but she wasn't home. >> no. >> you called her mom's. >> reporter: he answers your questions but he doesn't do anymore than that, right? is that fair to say? >> he has an answer. and he doesn't elaborate, doesn't get emotional. >> reporter: which the investigators thought at the time wasn't necessarily a good thing. >> he told me, oh, that's
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concerning. i get home and her car is there and the dog is running around on a leash and, you know, the door's unlocked and her purse is here. and that's really concerning me, but let me take all my clothes off and wash them. and let me eat some pizza and take a shower before i even try to figure out what's going on here. that's concerning. that was concerning to me. >> and then the detective asked the question that soon everyone would be asking. >> so what you're telling me, scott, is there's no -- you have no idea where laci is? >> i do not. >> most people in that situation they're going to have a lot of questions for you. are you guys doing this? i've heard of this? why don't you do this? oh, we got that from sharon, we got that from ron, we got that from laci's friends. everybody had an interest in trying to get us to go faster. >> everybody that is but scott. now, why, they wondered, would
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that be? coming up -- >> hey, beautiful. i just left you a message at home. >> when i listened to that i thought he was leaving this recording for us to hear. >> scott under scrutiny. >> i was afraid to say it out loud, that he'd be involved in her disappearance. >> when "dateline" continues. di. >> when "dateline" continues
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hello. i'm dara brown. we're tracking breaking news. the parents of the alleged oxford school shooter have been apprehended. they were found in a commercial building in detroit. the crombley's will be arraigned later this morning. this is in connection to the school shooting in suburban detroit on tuesday. four students were killed, several others hurt. the shooting suspect 15-year-old ethan is charged as an adult. with seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm. now back to "dateline."
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>> reporter: a week after laci peterson disappeared, they had a vigil. everyone coming together and praying just helps, helps you feel like you're doing something. candles and prayers and tears and though much of modesto was here, in body or spirit, not a single person understood not yet, not for a while, why this gathering would become a defining moment. especially, perhaps, scott peterson. because, though it looked as if he might have shed a tear or two, he seemed to be avoiding laci's family and friends. what about the vigil? >> he wasn't -- >> he wasn't on the stage. >> no, he wasn't on the stage. >> no, he was on the phone. >> reporter: sharon wouldn't know for a long time the truth about scott's phone call that night, but it was that night after the vigil that privately sharon first allowed her mind to
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go to that very dark place. >> i remember it was new year's eve when i started going back and forth, but just to myself. i wouldn't say it out loud. i was afraid to say it out loud. but i started just kind of thinking, "could he be involved with her disappearance?" >> reporter: sharon was a frantic mess and she'd look at him, and he just seemed so detached somehow. >> never once did he say, "oh, my god. where is laci?" >> no. >> where could she be? i hope she's okay. i hope, you know, she's not harmed. never, ever -- >> you were feeling that panic. even as you talk about it, you can see a little bit of it left. he did not seem to have that sense? >> he did not have it. and i actually made out a list of, "did he or didn't he?" i had a list. and there was a lot more on the did than didn't. and that's what really scared me. >> reporter: it scared her. she didn't want to believe it. didn't want to go there. so she didn't, put that thought out of her mind. but the detectives were trained
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to go there. they turned over everything scott said and did and didn't do and wondered why. there was a slickness, somehow, a fake feeling from the very beginning. like the voicemail he left laci while he drove home from the berkeley marina. >> hey, beautiful. i just left you a message at home. >> when i listened to that, i thought, "nah, this doesn't sound right." been married five years, she's pregnant. and he's talking to her like they're on their third date. >> i'm leaving berkeley. i'll see you in a bit, sweetie. love you. bye. >> the tone to it that he was leaving this recording for us to hear so that he would appear to us as this devoted husband and not somebody that was involved in foul play. >> reporter: of course it could also be that he was just a romantic guy. >> we couldn't rule that out at all. >> reporter: and there was this, under the circumstances, the very day laci disappeared, why was he almost obsessively fastidious when they searched his pickup truck?
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>> he was worried about the wrong things. i'm searching his truck. and i open the door, and it bangs into the land rover. he was right up there, he goes, "al," and he has a glove, i'll hold this or i'll move my truck. but you know, i wrote it in my police report, because i'm like, "that's weird." >> reporter: these weren't hard facts of evidence of course. just a rising damp of suspicion. things like when did scott get a boat? >> the detective said that -- he said that he had taken his boat out. and i said, "what boat?" "scott doesn't have a boat." until -- >> reporter: turned out. >> he did have a boat. yes. >> reporter: scott had told brocchini that laci knew about the boat. how could it be that sharon had no idea that scott had recently bought a used 14-foot gamefisher? >> the light didn't just go on in my head and say, "oh, he killed her." no, it didn't. i treated him like a husband and the husband of a missing person, but i had suspicions. and i asked him to take me to
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the boat. show me the boat. >> reporter: very late that first night, the detective and scott went to scott's warehouse, where he worked and kept his boat. you came here that night, right? >> christmas eve night, yeah. >> reporter: what did he tell you when you came here and you wanted to look inside and you had your flashlight out and stuff? >> he said, "there's no electricity." >> reporter: no lights, which was a lie. >> so i just said, "open the door, and i'll put my headlights in there." >> reporter: to the detectives it all smelled bad. so they did the things detectives do. they got a wiretap on scott's phone, hid a gps under his car, and they watched him constantly. sometimes they noticed he watched them, too. >> i was surveilling him and i'm in an unmarked car. i'm parked three blocks away in a high school parking lot full of cars, and i'm watching this place with binoculars. and all of a sudden, i look in my side view mirror, and scott. so i got out of the car. and he -- he says, hey, al.
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>> reporter: it was just odd. as was this 16 days after laci disappeared when searchers in the bay found something. >> sonar detected an object under water that could be a body. >> sharon froze terrified. she was still hoping laci was alive. listen to this recording. you could hear sharon's relief when she called to tell him it wasn't laci. >> i just wanted you to know. >> you could interpret that different ways. but for us with all the things that led up to this point it felt lucky it wasn't really her. suggesting to us we were looking in the right spot. >> and yet he seemed like such a
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boy scout. he had no secret criminal past, no history of being abusive. >> you guy ever have problem? >> no. >> everything is good? >> mm-hmm. >> so they stewed in their suspicion, aware they really had nothing on him. >> we couldn't find anything wrong with this guy. i don't think he ever had a traffic ticket. he really was the guy you want to marry your sister. we were waiting for that one thing that showed he wasn't this perfect guy. >> reporter: in one remarkable moment they'd get that and more because of her. coming up -- >> he was single and looking for the one. >> reporter: enter amber. >> hey, sweetheart. >> it was going really good. >> reporter: did you start to think about, wait a minute, i could actually make a life with this man? >> you know, i did. >> when "dateline" continues. dd >> when "dateline" continues
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gordan ramsey this is a cold call! nfl teams are turning to cold with tide. will you? that will never work! if it works on nfl jerseys it'll work for you. and it's cold. so you will turn to cold? fine! that guy needs to chill out!
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>> reporter: october 2002. months before laci peterson disappeared and a hundred miles away in fresno, california, something happened that would make all the difference in the case. a young woman named amber frey got a phone call from a friend about a guy. >> i was doing really well in getting my career started in massage therapy and a single
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mother. and was told about this great guy that -- that my friend wanted me to meet. >> reporter: so set you up on a date. >> yeah, a blind date. >> reporter: he sounded perfect. >> she said he had a good sense of humor, good-looking, had a career. he was single and looking for the one, like soul mate. >> he was serious about this. >> yeah. >> reporter: his name -- scott peterson. it was late november when they met in person. and it was electric. >> i mean, we just had a really great first date. like really good. >> reporter: sometimes you meet somebody, it's very easy to talk to them. you feel as if there's no wall between the two of you. >> right.
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>> reporter: it was like that? >> yeah. >> i would say there was a mutual attraction. >> what did he tell you about himself? >> so on our first date he was telling a bit about his family and plans he had upcoming, like thanksgiving and fishing trips and going to maine with his family and the cabin. and he was planning to go to europe with some friends. >> reporter: he wooed her, fast, with strawberries and champagne. it was early, bright, and exciting. >> absolutely. >> reporter: he was eager to bond with amber's little girl. >> he was really sweet with her. she was excited. we had planned a picnic and a little hike. she held both of our hands as we walked and was comfortable with him. >> reporter: that must've been very sweet at the time. >> it was. >> reporter: and it's not always you find a man who is comfortable with the idea that you have a child or children. >> right. >> reporter: he bought them both gifts.
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he brought groceries to their house, he made dinner. he was considerate, caring. even in voicemail. >> hey, sweetheart. scott here. i'm on my way driving to the gym here to do my weekly five-minute workout. see how you're doing. i'll try to give you a call tomorrow. bye. >> it was going really good. i was really excited. he was always complimenting. you know, like, "you leave the best messages." and, you know, "looking forward to seeing you." >> reporter: all so perfect. what scott never mentioned, of course, was that he was married. his wife was laci, and he and laci were readying a nursery for their first born, who was on his way. no, amber knew nothing of that, and yet something wasn't sitting right with her, she thought. why, when he called her, was there so often the sound of running water in the background, as if he was masking the sound of their conversation? >> it was just odd. like, why are you talking to me in the shower? you know, he kind of blew it off. like it wasn't a big deal. >> reporter: but then early
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december -- >> he had called me one day saying he really needed to talk to me and i could hear in his voice he was worried or concerned or something was going on. >> reporter: scott was contrite. said he had a confession to make. >> he apologized because he wasn't honest with me, that i'd asked if he had ever been married and that, in fact, he had lost his wife and this would be the first holidays without her. >> reporter: and that's the expression he used? "i lost my wife." >> yes. and he was crying and just, you know, like, very emotional. >> reporter: it was a tender moment, said amber. and she felt compassion for him. >> i thought, "well, maybe she died of, you know, cancer or in an accident," or, i mean, because obvious -- his -- his words were obviously, you know, something recent or more recent. >> reporter: yeah. sure. did you ask? >> i didn't ask. i didn't wanna pry because he was so emotional. >> reporter: with that secret
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off his chest, scott gave her a new cell phone number where she could reach him when he took a long planned trip to europe over christmas. that is -- >> if you still wanna talk to me after," you know, because -- >> reporter: after i've told you this. >> right. and so i was like, "yes. of course." >> reporter: did you start to think about, "wait a minute. i could actually make a life with this man"? >> you know, i -- i did. >> reporter: and yet even here, december 14, as they got ready for a christmas party with amber's friends, the little beast of doubt was worming its way into her mind. >> i was starting to feel that woman's intuition. something just wasn't right. >> reporter: really? >> yes. >> reporter: while he was in europe, he told her, she should write to him at a post office box in modesto. but he had told her he lived in sacramento so why modesto? why these odd questions she couldn't answer? she had a cop friend. she called him. could he check up on
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scott peterson from sacramento? a few days later, her friend called back. >> he said that he found an article and that he was gonna print it and bring it to me. i said, "okay." >> reporter: that was december 29th. scott had left for europe two days earlier or so he said. and then amber read the article. >> i was in disbelief of what i'm reading because i -- it sounds like him. fertilizer salesman. modesto. i don't think there was a full picture of him, but there was -- his truck was in this article. >> reporter: so were these words -- "pregnant and "missing." >> i need this confirmed. i don't wanna believe what i just read. >> reporter: kind of turning your world upside down. >> oh, yeah. absolutely. >> reporter: and that's when amber called the modesto police. >> i reach a dispatcher, and i said, "i've been dating this person. i just wanna know if this is the same person." >> reporter: sure.
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>> and she just kept saying, "okay. okay." okay, it is? or okay, what? i gave his birth date. i gave his full name and -- and then -- she says, "okay." i said, "okay, yes?" she goes, "yes." >> reporter: yes, amber's scott peterson and the scott peterson with the missing wife were one and the same. >> and i just remember crying. like, i don't know for how long. i was shaking. like, the adrenaline and just -- i was in shock. >> reporter: amber frey, who thought maybe she'd met "the one," was in the middle of something terrible. coming up -- >> amber. >> we wanted to start recording calls. >> reporter: hushed conversations, hidden recordings. amber goes under cover. >> as soon as i plug in the little recorder the phone rings. >> he called. i was shaking uncontrollably.
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>> reporter: in all fairness to the modesto police department, scrambling to manage that flood of tips about laci peterson, amber's phone call was a barely discernible ripple. >> did they call you back right away? >> no. >> reporter: so the next day she called again and, looking over the dispatcher's shoulder at just the right moment, was detective brocchini. >> i just happened to be standing behind one of them. and bev was typing. and i could see the name amber frey. and then -- she's -- "and scott peterson's my boyfriend." >> so you're seeing all this. >> i'm seeing this, so i said, "bev, are you talking to her?" and "yeah." i said, "okay, let me talk to her." >> reporter: and before long, the two detectives were in fresno listening, in person, to amber's story of scott's amorous courtship.
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>> it was almost like a scriptwriter was writing this. very talented with the romance he was. >> i basically just told them our whole relationship that we had been having and what our conversation was currently at the moment. >> and that he was over in europe somewhere. >> right and -- and they -- you know, i think they too were just a little, like, in disbelief shaking their head. "no, he's definitely in modesto." >> reporter: scott had been lying the whole time. elaborately. he'd even called amber from a pay phone at the airport to say good-bye when he supposedly left for europe -- so she'd see the caller i.d. but if amber hadn't known where scott really was, she sure knew a lot. >> and she had a mental recall that was punctuated with wine corks and all sorts of memorabilia -- >> that she had saved? >> that she'd saved from their romance. >> reporter: so then the detectives asked, could she help them in their investigation?
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>> so at that point i said whatever was needed i would cooperate with them because it wasn't about me at that point. there was a missing pregnant woman. >> true. >> and i'd been having a relationship with her husband, unknowingly. he was married. >> well, we wanted to start recording calls. >> reporter: amber agreed. so, they went right out and bought a portable recorder, and what do you know -- >> as soon as i plug in her little recorder and i'm showing her push the red button and the black button, the phone rings. >> he called. >> oh, boy. >> amber? hey. are you there? >> i'm here. >> i can barely hear you. >> and their expression. they -- they were just like, "well, i can't believe he's calling you right now." >> hey, i'll be in paris tomorrow. i'm flying to normandy right now, and hopefully the phone works better. >> i was shaking uncontrollably. my fingers were, like, just sweaty, palmy mess. and i was fumbling because i was
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so just nervous and scared. >> reporter: and so it began. for the next eight days scott peterson pretended he was traveling in europe. amber frey, pretending she was still his girlfriend. the cops, they kept looking bringing scent dogs to berkeley, divers to the bay. laci's friends held that vigil and prayed. all the while amber secretly recorded her conversations with scott, inwardly trembling. >> i was shaking and trying to catch my breath and calm down. there was just too much nerves there. and i would pace back and forth. >> reporter: one of those calls, of course she didn't know it at the time, was going to be notorious. >> new year's eve. >> that was the big one. >> yeah. >> reporter: coming up -- >> first of all, i met scott peterson november 20th, 2002.
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>> revealing the truth the world. amber frey's fire storm. >> we believe the thought was probably best to get her up there, almost like exploding your own bomb. >> i was introduced to him. i was told he was unmarried. scott told me he was not married. we did have a romantic relationship. i had a panic attack. i couldn't breathe. i literally could not catch my breath. >> when "dateline" continues. breath >> when "dateline" continues (s♪ ♪ are the stars out tonight? (sha bop sha bop) ♪ ♪ ♪ alexa, play our favorite song again. ok. ♪ i only have eyes for you ♪ nurse mariyam sabo knows a moment this pure...
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arrest and prosecutors speak out in a rare television interview. >> there's something underneath the surface that is truly evil. >> amber had been working with detectives covertly recording her conversations with scott peterson. in this one, scott told amber he was calling from a continent away, having a ball in paris. of course, it was a big lie. >> amber, if you can hear me, it's new year's. >> i know. i can hear you. >> amber? >> i wish you could hear me. >> i'm near the eiffel tower. the new year's celebration is unreal. the crowd is huge. >> reporter: in fact, the crowd was huge. it just wasn't in paris, it was in modesto. and they weren't celebrating. scott called amber from the vigil for laci. the one where he made himself scarce while sharon and laci's friends pleaded for help.
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and scott called amber, inventing fine details of his trip. like jogging on the cobblestones of europe. >> i think i should just run on the street, because these cobblestones are so pretty. >> reporter: he worked out the time difference for his phone calls. >> if you go to bed at 9:00, that's 6:00 my time. >> reporter: and he kept on wooing her, unaware of who was listening. >> can i tell you how wonderful you are? that's pretty easy to do. how thoughtful you are and amazing. you know, i always call you and i tell you you're special. and that's just not a big enough word for it. >> reporter: all very interesting, but -- what were you hoping for from those recorded conversations that you didn't get? >> well, of course ideally i was hoping that he would say, "no, i murdered my wife. i dumped her in the bay. and let's run off to europe." but that wasn't going to happen. >> reporter: so detectives went right at him. they asked scott to come down to
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the police department again. and without telling him where they got it, they showed him a fax of a photo of himself with amber frey at the christmas party. >> and of course he lies when he's confronted. >> reporter: prosecutor birgit fladager. >> he sees the picture of himself with amber and he says, "that's not me." >> was it clearly him? >> it was. >> reporter: if scott suspected the detectives had somehow found out about amber, he didn't let on. and he kept calling her, and she kept recording. but he started testing her with questions. >> did you see that news on paris? >> no, i didn't actually. >> there was a bomb that exploded. >> and i was like, what bombing? there was another time he had asked if i had seen the article on the monarch butterflies that are in pismo, and i said, "no." i gathered right away he was
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asking because these were in fact something that was in the paper possibly. >> right. >> if i was looking at the news then. >> so often out, in other words, if she knew about lici. and then on january 6th, thirteen days after laci disappeared, scott told amber himself. >> you haven't been watching the news, obviously. >> no. >> i have not been traveling during the last couple weeks. my -- i've -- i've lied to you, that i've been traveling. >> okay. >> the girl i'm -- i'm married to, her name is laci. >> mm-hmm. >> she disappeared just before christmas. >> mm-hmm. >> for the past two weeks, i've been in modesto with her family and mine searching for her. >> okay. >> she just disappeared.
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and no one knows. >> reporter: scott had no idea, of course, that amber happened to be in the police station when he offered that big admission. or that amber's responding question was a huge deal to both her and the cops. >> you came to me earlier in december and told me that you lost your wife. what was that about? >> she -- honey, she's alive. >> what? >> she's alive. >> where? she's alive? where? >> in modesto. >> and you came and told me this elaborate lie about her missing, and this tragedy and that -- >> no. >> and that, that this will be the first holidays without her? >> sweetie, i never said, amber, i -- >> yes. >> i -- i -- god, i don't want to fight with you. you know that i -- i never said tragedy or missing. >> oh, yes, you said you've lost your wife. >> no.
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that -- that -- yes. >> you said obviously without me saying much, but we were -- >> i said that i lost my wife. >> yes, you did. >> i did. and yes. >> how did you lose her then -- before she was lost? explain that. >> there are different kinds of loss, amber. >> reporter: different kinds of loss. now what did that mean? while investigators built their case against scott, laci's family was in a world of pain. sharon was gripping on to a slipping remnant of hope that her lici was still alive, was barely hanging on. the day soon after that new year's eve vigil when scott walked into the house. and i asked him, how are you doing? and he said, you know, i'm doing okay. and i just remember it was almost like i was pulling back
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from him thinking, you're doing okay? what do you mean you're doing okay? sharon definitely wasn't doing okay. while the cops, moving forward incrementally needed more. >> police looking for lici peterson in modesto, california, want to verify her husband's alibi. >> reporter: modesto pd put out a bulletin, had anyone seen this truck, this boat on christmas eve? they expanded their ground search to the foothills, the reservoirs, even mine shafts. and by mid-january, police decided they needed to tell sharon about scott's affair. >> we said, "hey, we -- we've got some information we gotta let you know about on this. and the best thing we can do is just give it to you." >> reporter: they showed her the photo at amber's christmas party, the one scott said wasn't him. >> i literally thought i was going to throw up. i stood up real fast because i wanted to get out of there. wanted to get outta there, i wanted to get away from them. i didn't wanna hear what they were saying. >> reporter: what mother would? >> i just remember my stomach just turning. and i -- just saying -- just
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crying, "he didn't have to kill her." >> and that changed everything you'd ever thought about him? >> it did. >> reporter: detective buehler had told sharon about amber because rumors were in the air. the media was sniffing about and getting close. >> i get to the office, a reporter was right there. >> oh, boy. >> yeah. >> reporter: january 24th, local news showed up at amber's workplace. the national tabloids were not far behind. >> did you talk to them? >> no. i refused to talk to anybody. >> reporter: trapped in her office, she called detective buehler. that's when the modesto pd decided, that if amber's story was going to break anyway, they'd break it on their terms. >> we believed at the time it was probably best to get her up there, almost like exploding your own bomb. >> reporter: buehler sent two colleagues to fetch her with a statement all prepared. >> we were speeding back, in a sense, getting there. and you know, having this statement written out, you know, trying to read it a few times, so it's not too foreign.
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>> reporter: as they drove to modesto, headquarters gathered the media. big news a-coming. >> we are waiting for modesto police to come out any moment and speak on developments in the laci peterson investigation. >> reporter: and this is the moment when amber frey burst, like a deer in headlights, onto the public stage. >> okay, first of all, i met scott peterson, november 20th 2002. i was introduced to him. i was told he was unmarried. scott told me he was not married. we did have a romantic relationship. >> i had a panic attack. i couldn't breathe. i literally could not catch my breath. >> when i discovered he was involved in the disappear -- the laci peterson disappearance case, i immediately contacted the modesto police department. >> reporter: she spoke for just over a minute. >> i am very sorry for laci's family and the pain that this
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has caused them, and i pray for her safe return as well. >> reporter: and now everyone knew. and scott knew everyone knew. so, did he stop calling amber frey? no. listen to this. >> i meant to say how brave you are. i'm really glad that you -- you did that. >> it wasn't a matter of choice. >> what's that? >> it really wasn't a matter of choice. i was -- they were staked out at my work all day. >> i know, but still, it -- it was incredibly brave. it just shows what amazing character you have. >> reporter: scott called to congratulate her, to thank her. very strange. the police were thanking amber, too. now they had new clues. like the day scott told amber he lost his wife. it was the very same day he bought the boat. coincidence? no, thought the police, had to be evidence of premeditation.
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the very existence of amber frey changed everything. and revealed that many little beasts of doubt had been churning about in the minds of even scott's die-hard supporters. >> after amber came forward, that's when they started to open up about the things that they had been kind of hiding and holding back. >> reporter: people remembered things like how scott once told someone he "was hoping for infertility." that he seemed uncomfortable holding babies. that he didn't want to touch laci's pregnant stomach. that he complained he was having a midlife crisis at age 30. now, when people thought about his story that laci walked their dog, they remembered she'd been too tired to do that. and they remembered too the peculiar way he acted the night laci disappeared. >> we were standing in the driveway. i asked if he had called his parents. he said, "no." i was trying to have a conversation with him. and he continued to just turn away from me. he would never look me in the eye. i had to keep following him around, trying to have visual contact with him.
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>> reporter: because scott peterson had something to hide. >> coming up -- >> i had a romantic relationship that was inappropriate. >> reporter: scott peterson goes public. public se when caught in early stages, it's more treatable. hey, cologuard! hi. i'm noninvasive and i detect altered dna in your stool to find 92% of colon cancers, even in early stages. early stages! yep, it's for people 45 plus at average risk for colon cancer, not high risk. false positive and negative results may occur. ask your provider if cologuard is right for you. count me in! me too!
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since christmas eve, our one and only focus is to find laci and to bring her home to us. i love my daughter so much. i miss her every minute of every day. >> reporter: on the same day that amber frey told the world about her relationship with scott peterson -- >> scott told me he was not married. >> reporter: laci's mother stood before the cameras too. it was exactly a month since laci disappeared. >> i miss sharing her thoughts and our lives together. i miss her smile and her laughter and her sense of humor. and i miss everything about her. >> reporter: sharon who kept trying to keep hope alive found
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it slipping away. >> someone has taken all of this away from me and everyone else who loves her. >> reporter: any thoughts that scott had nothing to do with it, gone too, even though sharon would not mention him by name. >> i know that someone knows where laci is and i am pleading with you, please, please let her come home to us. >> reporter: unbeknownst to them, scott was thinking about going public too. and he discussed it with, who else, amber. >> i am going to speak to the press this coming week. >> when? >> during this coming week. >> do you have a date? >> well, i'm debating on when it should be done. >> okay. >> because tuesday is the state of the union address. >> okay. >> so that will take up, you know, a lot of time. i'm sure it will.
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and i want maximum coverage. >> reporter: he got it, all right. a sudden whirl of interviews. a few days after his affair with amber was revealed, scott talked about it on nbc's bay area station. >> obviously, yes, i had a romantic relationship that was inappropriate and unfair to a lot of people. >>er and now many of the people who knew scott, who loved scott, no longer believed anything he said. for the police, who'd never believed him, amber frey was just one part of an intricate and entirely circumstantial case against scott. it relied on the smallest of details. strands of evidence they tried to weave into a rope with which to hang scott. another strand, scott's sudden desire to sell his and laci's home just weeks after she went missing. >> he said, "i think we should get the house up on the market." and my mom said, "this isn't the time to be discussing this, scott." >> reporter: but he did sell laci's car, another strand. and then there was the cement dust at scott's warehouse. >> a lot of people use concrete anchors for small, aluminum
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boats. and it looked like five of these little coffee can anchors had been made there on that trailer. >> reporter: but only this one anchor was found. >> it's clear there was more than one. now, where are those? nobody knows. >> reporter: were the other four used to weigh down laci's body? and though scott said going fishing was a last-minute decision, there were sea charts and maps of the berkeley marina on his computer from early december. and scott told police he spent time at his warehouse office on the day laci disappeared. they couldn't help but notice how secluded the place was. >> this is very isolated back here, and especially on a christmas eve. >> if you wanted to get away with something, this is a place you could do it. >> yeah. >> reporter: like move a body into a boat, thought the detective. >> we have a window here in the
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front and note that the screen is ajar. >> reporter: so police gathered the strands, spun the rope, and everything that happened happened with a lot of people watching. >> where does scott peterson stand in all of this? >> he's not been eliminated from the investigation nor identify the as a suspect. >> reporter: not identified as a suspect officially yet clearly the only person of interest for the cops and the media -- >> what have you got in the bags there? >> evidence. >> evidence? >> reporter: and sharon kept grappling with the depressing truth that she just didn't want to believe. >> i felt that i should have felt her leave this earth. i brought her into this world. i should have felt when she left so that i would've known whether she was gone or not. so, at that time i still had hope that she was coming home. >> it's a strange and powerful thing, though, isn't it? >> it is. >> you give birth to a person, and you bring them up, and you
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feed them, and you care for them and -- >> and we were very, very, very close. >> yes. >> reporter: and scott? he soon faded from public view. didn't stay much in modesto. and amber finally told him to stop calling her. >> i think right now for me, scott, and really everything that has happened in the last 50-plus days, for myself, and the family, and you -- and everything that's going in right now, i think it'd be best if you and i didn't talk anymore until there's resolution in this whole -- >> yeah, i agree with that. >> good, good. >> you're right. >> reporter: and everyone just waited. until the sea finally revealed what everybody had been waiting for. >> coming up -- >> i felt something that day. i just knew. >> reporter: a devastating discovery and a ride into danger.
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>> this was completely off the charts, nobody's ever acted this way. >> when "dateline" continues. dog barks you're right bunker, the medicare enrollment deadline is almost here. if you're on medicare and you want to explore your options, the deadline to enroll is december 7th. so, you should act now. where do i find the right medicare plan? at healthmarkets, they search many of the nation's most recognized carriers so they can help you find the right plan, at the right price that's the right fit for you. how long does it take? you could find a medicare plan in just minutes. my current plan only covers 80% of my costs. well, healthmarkets may find plans that cover the rest ... let you keep your doctor with benefits like zero dollar copays, zero dollar deductibles and zero dollar monthly premiums. they'll even search plans with prescription drug coverage, vision, dental and hearing aids. you may even qualify for free gym memberships!
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hello. i'm dar a brown. the parents of alleged oxford school shoot anterior have been apprehended. they were found in a commercial building in detroit. the crumblies will be arraigned later this morning. this is in connection to the school shooting on tuesday. four students were killed and several others were hurt. the suspect is charged as an adult with four counts of first degree murder, one count of terrorism causing death, seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm. now back to dateline. >> reporter: april 13th, 2003.
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it was a cool day in northern california. sharon rocha was hiding from the world. >> it was one of those days. i just buried myself in the couch with a blanket over my head. >> she had so locked herself away that day. friends had to come to her house to tell her there was news. >> they're knocking on my back door on the slider in the backyard. and it's like, how did they even get into the backyard? well, they were trying to, of course, reach me to tell me. >> reporter: it had been nearly four months since laci disappeared yet somehow sharon felt more bad news was coming. early that morning when the tides were low, the body of a baby had been found on the shoreline north of berkeley, the next day another body, a torso, badly decomposed was found nearby. >> the contra costa county coroner has arrived at the scene and has now recovered the remains of the victim, who at this time we are letting people know that we believe the gender of the victim is female. >> reporter: but even without positive identification, everyone knew. even sharon, who despite everything kept trying to hold
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onto a shred of hope that she'd wake from a nightmare. from scott there was not a peep. >> the fact that he didn't pick up the phone and call anybody to find out if that was his wife and his baby left no doubt in my mind. >> reporter: her daughter was dead. her grandson would never be born. detective jon buehler had known that for a while and now he was nearly ready to arrest scott. just not quite. >> we were going to wait to serve the warrant until after the dna results were released, to confirm the bodies were laci and conner. >> reporter: by that april scott peterson was living in san diego near his parents. so, tick, tick, tick. detectives waited for lab results. police kept an eye on scott. >> they had the surveillance going on him for quite some time before that. >> reporter: then april 18, 2003, 7:00 am. the lab results were still
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pending when scott peterson decided to play cat and mouse with whomever was after him. >> he's a pretty good driver, at least he was. he knew we were behind him. >> reporter: scott started driving erratically very fast. >> and we were trying to keep this rolling surveillance on him. we had a helicopter for part of the time. >> reporter: he stopped and started. >> he'd cross over three lanes of traffic and take an exit ramp. and of course we couldn't do that. we'd end up missing him. >> reporter: driving evasively at times, giving one cop the finger. how long did he lead you on this merry chase? >> oh, gosh. this was -- it seemed like it might have been a couple hours or so. maybe longer. >> reporter: scott, with police trailing, traveled 160 miles that morning until law enforcement decided it was just too dangerous. >> we have to arrest him. and they put the lights on him and he pulled off into the entrance to torrey pines golf course. and they made contact with him as we pulled up, came out of the car, put the handcuffs on him. no hysterics, no profanity, typical, you know, scott, you
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know, his controlled, you know, demeanor. >> reporter: what they found in the car with scott was fascinating. camping gear, four cell phones, his sister's credit card. his brother's driver's license and cash. >> almost $15,000 in cash -- >> reporter: in cash. he also looked different. way different. by intent, clearly. when you arrested him, did he express anything that would suggest he understood that that was it, he was going away? >> i went to search his car, he said -- "jon, can you tell me if those bodies were my wife and son?" and i just told him. i said, "scott, you already know the answer to that." >> reporter: as they drove north to modesto with their prisoner in the back seat, buehler got confirmation that the dna was in, the bodies were connor and laci. they told scott. >> now he's wearing sunglasses at the time. i look and i can't -- he doesn't make hardly any reaction whatsoever. >> reporter: and just a few minutes later they stopped by a roadside burger place to get
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something to eat. given the news he'd just received, buehler assumed scott wouldn't have much of an appetite. he was wrong. >> and he goes, i'll have a double double with cheese, a small fry and a vanilla shake," like we were coming back from fishing. >> reporter: cold? that's what buehler thought. >> i've run into people that have had grief before many, many times. and this was completely off the charts. nobody's ever reacted this way in my presence when it came to something like that. >> reporter: when they got back to modesto, scott was booked into jail. it seemed like the end of the road for scott peterson. but the circus wasn't leaving. it was just moving up the road a bit. >> coming up -- prosecutors speak out in an indechth television interview.
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>> is that correct, mr. peterson, you're pleading not guilty to two charges of murder plus denying the special allegations? >> that is correct, your honor. i'm innocent. >> as the case against scott peterson slowly made its way from arrest to trial, what really happened to lici peterson became a televised courtroom theater. >> the defense is asking that the jury be sequestered for up to five months. >> the jury is gonna hear a lot of theories and they simply must latch on to the one which is most reasonable. >> scott looks forward to finding out who did this to his wife and to his child, conner. >> reporter: and women's advocate. >> thank you for coming today. i'm attorney gloria allred. to my right is amber frey. >> reporter: gloria allred, who erected a protective wall around
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the story's wild card, amber frey. >> amber was not gonna be doing any interviews during the course of the case even though so many people wanted to interview her. >> sure. wasn't she offered immense amounts of money to do covers and things like that? >> there were many offers to amber if she would only provide an interview. but she needed to protect her testimony for the actual case. >> reporter: but altogether missing in the legal cacaphony, were the prosecutors, birgit fladager and dave harris. this, all these years later, was their first and only in-depth television interview about the peterson case. during the trail, they often had to bite their tongues. >> your radio would go off in the morning, the radio alarm and the little news blurb that you would hear on the pop. >> first thing you -- >> radio station, whatever, would -- would reference the case, they -- they could say whatever they wanted, right? and it wasn't always necessarily true.
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>> good morning. >> good morning, your honor. >> reporter: in court, geragos won a change of venue, though, just 90 miles or so from modesto, did anyone not know about the peterson case? >> how is scott feeling about the move? >> he just wants the trial to take place so that people will be able to see what really took place. >> reporter: scott's mom assured reporters her son was innocent. but she couldn't have been very happy when everyone decamped to the new courthouse and saw this billboard a local radio station bought across the street. >> "man or monster?" what'd you think when you saw that? >> well, that was when we were about to start -- >> jury selection-- >> first day of jury selection. >> so i, i think we were worried we were going to have another change of venue. >> reporter: but here it stayed. june 1st, 2004, her husband scott went on trial for her murder. and right off the bat, the prosecution told the jury about scott and amber. he winced as they showed these photos of the two of them from the night of the party, the same
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photos that helped him get caught. and then they showed the jury this picture of laci, same night different party, she went alone. then they showed the jury this picture of laci, same night. different party. >> the reason for the murder was he didn't wanna be married anymore and he didn't want to have a child. he wanted a different life. and amber was just a symptom of that. he didn't want what he had. >> and he wanted to be rid of what he had? >> he did. >> one way or another. >> uh-huh. laci and conner were -- were responsibilities, and he didn't want that. >> he doesn't care about anyone but himself, he can be very smooth, but there's something underneath the surface that is truly evil. >> reporter: so, said the prosecutors, scott strangled or suffocated laci on christmas eve early in the morning or possibly the night before. and then after that, after he had done that? >> dragged her from the bedroom, out to the carport, pickup truck
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backed into the carport. take her out the side door, wrapped up most likely. load her into the bed of the truck, drive over to the warehouse, move her to the boat, cover the boat. >> reporter: then after sending an email and putting together a woodworking tool, law enforcement believed, he headed to the bay. but evidence of murder, that was all circumstantial, they had no incriminating dna, few or minimal forensics, just all those little strands. and in fact it didn't always go well for the prosecution as geragos worked to keep them off balance. >> we would try and present witnesses in a chronological order, in a way that made sense to our theory of the case. and they were very good at disrupting that and saying, "we're not ready for that witness." >> just trying to throw a monkey wrench into your smooth telling of the story? >> yeah. >> if it happened once maybe it was just coincidence. if it happened every single week at some point in time, it's a plan. >> reporter: it got worse for
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the prosecution. geragos, who believed the modesto pd had it out for his client, tried to make it look like al brocchini had hidden evidence. he asked him on the stand. "did you delete information from a police report about laci visiting scott's warehouse december 23rd?" >> the answer was, "i did." and then, "okay, we're done for the day." and it's like, you know, can i answer? >> and that was a very good point for him to make, because it would create the impression that, in fact, laci did know about the boat as scott said she did, and it lent credibility to the rest of his story as a result. >> well, maybe, maybe not. but he could have got the whole story. >> reporter: of course, the whole story wasn't what the defense attorney wanted, that the information was in another cop's report. that nothing had been hidden. but what did the jury think? what was your sense of how well that prosecution was going? >> i was a bit concerned. i felt that their burden of
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proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt had not yet been met. >> reporter: but the big change, the sea change, was the day she walked in. >> walking in the courtroom, you could hear bodies shifting towards the door, a lot of pressure. >> reporter: as scott watched, amber frey told the jury everything from strawberries and champagne on their first date to his tearful confession of losing his wife weeks before she went missing. >> how did you lose her then, before she was lost? explain that. >> there are different kinds of loss, amber. >> reporter: and all those phone calls were played for the jury. >> the jury could hear his words, of course, not his words under oath but his words on the phone call to amber and how he lied and lied and lied and even lied about lying. >> reporter: mark geragos did what he could. he went after amber repeatedly questioned her about how much she had to drink on her dates with scott and about how often
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she and scott had sex and how soon. >> did the defense rattle you? >> no, he tried. >> reporter: amber didn't buckle, and the prosecution hit its stride. an expert told the jury that the baby died between december 23rd and december 25th. another expert told the jury that laci's decomposition was consistent with three to six months in the water. and a search dog handler testified her dog picked up laci's scent at the berkeley marina and said the prosecutors it was obvious scott peterson knew laci and he'd even turned connor's nursery into a storage room. >> put office furniture and pillows and a locking device form a car in there. scott wasn't expecting conner to ever come home. >> coming up --
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a cheater, a liar, but a killer? i mean really, who else could have done it? >> i'm glad you asked that question. >> when "dateline" continues. ♪ [band plays] ♪ a place where everyone lives life well-protected. ♪♪ and even when things go a bit wrong, we've got your back. here, things work the way you wish they would. and better protection costs a whole lot less. you're in good hands with allstate. click or call for a lower auto rate today. wet dishes? you're in good hands with allstate. residue? spots? it's not your dishwasher's fault. simply add finish jetdry 3in1 to rinse, dry and shine your dishes. solve 3 problems at once with finish jetdry 3in1.
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prosecution theory. we wanted to talk to attorney mark geragos about the trial. he didn't respond to our request. we wanted to talk to scott peterson, but he wasn't interested. turned us down, said his family, because he didn't like my coverage of the case back in 2003. scott's frantic story, simple yet utterly baffling was this -- his family still insists he's an innocent man. and we wanted to hear that from them. they turned us down, too and suggested we talk to a retired journalist named richard cole who shares their point of view, and said the prosecution theory of the case makes no sense. >> because it was so ridiculous. scott peterson kills his 160-pound wife. puts her body in the back of his truck. he then drives it to his office to pick up the boat. and then what does he do with
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the dead body of his wife in a parking lot? he goes back into the office, spends an hour on the internet sending christmas email to his boss. and then he said, "oh, well, i guess i better get rid of the body now." >> reporter: cole believes that media coverage, biased against the defendant, somehow seeped inside the courtroom. >> this gigantic tsunami of media coverage, much of it false, much of it totally distorted, concentrating on things that had nothing to do with the evidence. and that basically, i think, consumed that little fact trial inside the courthouse. >> reporter: the most damaging witness against scott, he said, didn't see anything really related to a murder. but nonetheless forever tainted scott in the eyes of the public.
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and the jury. >> once you started looking at that case through an amber lens, everything he did was wrong. >> because he's a lying cheat. >> yes, he was. >> reporter: the affair with amber, said cole, made everything scott did look sinister, but didn't prove he killed laci. scott peterson was behaving pretty oddly? >> his behavior does look odd. he backed in -- himself into a horrible position. >> sure. >> he's thinking if anyone ever finds out about this woman, not only will it look bad for me, but that will become what this story is about, and he was exactly right. so he, very foolishly, and not very well, tried to keep her at bay with lies, thinking laci will be home next week. >> reporter: and that would explain why scott hid from tv cameras. not guilt about laci, guilt
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about amber. in cole's mind, scott acted like a man who'd expected his wife to come home. so that, said cole, is why scott didn't want a ding on the car door when the cops were searching his truck. sold laci's car, though? >> he did sell the car because, you know, he was not rich. the peterson family isn't rich. >> reporter: and scott hemmed and hawwed about what he was fishing for, said cole, because the whole point of the trip was not so much to catch something as it was to test the boat, before giving it to laci's stepdad ron grantski as a christmas present. >> the boat was basically a -- kind of a gift, and that's why it was kept a secret from the granskis because it was a christmas thing. >> reporter: all innocent, said cole. but why did scott tell amber, before laci vanished, "i lost my wife." >> amber confronts scott about having a wife and he says, "i lost her and this will be my
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first christmas without her"? >> yeah. scott had had that line used on him by a woman who was married. and he asked her if she was married. and she said, "i lost my husband." and scott decided that he liked that and that was a really good line. >> reporter: in other words, scott was a cad. not a killer. so said cole, anyway. but then how to explain the strange similarities between scott's fishing story and the circumstances of the murder? but you know, he went fishing in the bay? >> yeah. >> they found the bodies in the bay? >> yes. >> i mean, really. who else could have done it? >> i'm glad you asked that question. let's remember the scene. she disappears. within a few days, scott's "i went fishing in berkeley" story is all over the media. >> reporter: so the real bad guys, maybe local sex offenders, or the two men arrested for the burglary across the street, took their victim to the bay. and framed scott that way. that's cole's theory, anyway. made more sense he said than the case against scott. so, what really happened on that cold december morning?
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twelve people would decide. >> members of the jury, you have heard all of the evidence and the arguments of the attorneys. and now it is my duty to instruct you on the law that applies to this case. >> reporter: after five months of trial, the jury went off to deliberate. one day, two, a week they stayed out, and nobody knew, what were they thinking? >> coming up, a legacy. kwha is it like for your level of anxiety? >> a life in the jury's hands. >> i burst into tears. >> i burst into tears.
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>> reporter: nearly two years after laci disappeared, after nine days of deliberation, the jury in the scott peterson trial finally announced they had a verdict. >> so it's pretty exciting and terrifying. >> reporter: as the crowds gathered out front, the reporters got into position, and everyone flooded back into the courtroom. >> what is it like for your level of anxiety? >> i felt like i was going to explode. >> a verdict is being read right now in a california courtroom in the double murder case against scott peterson. there is no camera in the courtroom, but an audio, live audio feed is being provided. >> we, the jury in the above entitled cause find the defendant, scott lee peterson, guilty of the crime of murder of laci denise peterson. >> reporter: finally the words sharon and all those who loved laci had been waiting for: guilty of laci's murder. and -- >> guilty of the crime of murder of baby conner peterson. [ cheering ]
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>> reporter: outside the courthouse, crowds cheered. inside -- >> i remember i just burst into tears. everything just comes gushing out. it's just -- >> two years of -- >> anxiety. of waiting. >> reporter: a month later the jury decided scott's fate. >> we the jury in the above entitled cause fix the penalty at death. >> reporter: for 15 years, scott expediterson sat on death row, a condemned man. then in june of 2020 via video conference, the california state supreme court heard his appeal, which focused in part on how the trial jury was chosen. >> what happened here was the systemic exclusion of those jurors who were opposed to the death penalty, but could consider death. >> the state countered. >> there is no credible claim in this appeal that any one of the 12 jurors that heard that evidence was anything other than
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fair and impartial. >> in a written ruling issued nearly three months later, the court sided with peterson on the jury question and overturned his death sentence. but the court also affirmed his murder conviction. meanwhile, the california supreme court delivered another ruling. the very same justices who overturned peterson's sentence now say they wanted his conviction re-examined, order ago lower court to determine whether he should get a new trial. at issue, whether a juror committed prejudicial misconduction. prosecutors say they expect the process to take years before this case is fully resolved, and in the meantime, scott peterson remains in prison. no one has survived untouched. amber frey's life certainly never returned to what it was.
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but if anything, she told us, the whole strange experience made her stronger, her beliefs stronger. >> i'm a christian. i'm a true believer in jesus christ. and i believe truly in my heart that god prepared my life for this. >> and she's determined to teach her own daughter something she wished she had understood better when she met scott. >> we all have heard the expression women's intuition. that gut feeling. i think more women need to listen to that. because it's so easy for -- i will say a man to say you're crazy. like you're being paranoid. >> sharon wishes she had had some sort of gut feeling in late december 2002 when she and laci were looking forward to the new baby, the lives full of hope back then, back in those innocent days before the rest of
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us heard the name laci peterson or saw that smile. >> it does make you question yourself. you no longer trust your instinct or what you think you know about people or who you know or how you know them. >> laci's mother, her friends, their lives never turned to normal, how could they? stacey, lori and renee now have their own children. and those children who never met lici know her in a way. >> she is a part of our lives. that means our children need to know about that part of our lives. >> she's special and she had a baby. >> so the cemetery isn't a place of sadness for them. usually. >> i love it because my boys get to hear about her and they always bring cars out for conner or i think they brought a baseball out this time. >> it's a place where they can
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celebrate a life, someone they loved. >> she's in heaven. and she's in our hearts. >> their laci. >> oh, how pretty. i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." >> i texted him. he wasn't answering. i arrived at the office. i could see that something was really, really wrong. i called somebody that steve worked with, and he said, steve's been shot. and i said, did he survive? and he said, no. >> steve pitt was unforgettable. >> i think he's one of a kind. he just completely broke the mold. >> he was the first to die that week. hunted down by a man with a gun and a grudge.

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