Picking up from yesterday’s blog, I’ll now review the evidence of the burglary that occurred across the street from Laci and Scott Peterson’s home on Covena Avenue in Modesto, California in late December 2002. Laci disappeared on Christmas Eve. Her husband is now on death row, having been convicted of killing her and their unborn son, Conner. He is appealing his conviction and sentence, and hopes for a new trial.
The appellate briefs filed by Peterson’s attorneys take issue with the State’s timeline of Scott’s conduct on Christmas Eve. The State believes Scott killed Laci either in the evening of December 23 or early morning of December 24, 2002, and that, when he drove away from his home at 10:08 a.m., he had her dead body in the back of his truck.
The defense believes that Laci was alive and at home when Scott left at 10:08 a.m. and when neighbor Karen Servas put McKenzie in the backyard at 10:18 a.m..
The Medinas, who lived directly across the street from the Petersons, left home at 10:33 a.m. for a two-day trip to Los Angeles. (They returned home on December 26, sometime after 4:00 p.m., and found their home had been burglarized.)
Mail carrier Russell Graybill testified at trial that he was on Covena Avenue between 10:35 and 10:50 a.m. on December 24. He left a package for the Petersons and noticed nothing unusual on the street. Karen Servas returned home from her errands at 11:45 a.m. and also noticed nothing unusual. She did notice the package left for the Petersons.
A witness, Diane Jackson, claims to have seen a tan or brown van across the street from the Peterson home at about 11:40 a.m. on December 24, 2002. She said three men, dark-skinned but not African-American, were outside the van and watched her pass. The prosecution had Jackson hypnotized during the investigation in order to get more details. She never mentioned seeing a burglary or a safe being loaded into the van but she got a bad feeling from the men. Peterson’s defense team assumes she witnessed the end of the burglary. (The trial judge would not allow Jackson’s testimony at trial because she had been hypnotized.)
The defense also seems to credit a questionable, triple hearsay statement that Laci confronted burglars at the Medina home that morning. If that were true, then the Medina home was burglarized between 10:50 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. on December 24. (That tip came from a jail guard on January 22, 2003. He said he overheard a conversation between two inmates where one mentioned that the Medina home burglar told him that Laci confronted him. Neither of the two inmates in the overheard conversation was the actual burglar.)
The burglars were arrested on January 2, 2003 and told police what they did–and it doesn’t add up to a December 24 burglary.
Steven Todd, who broke into the Medina home, gave a detailed statement of how he arrived by bicycle after 3:00 a.m. He originally told the police it was December 27 but the Medinas were home by then. In all likelihood he meant the day before, December 26. He certainly didn’t mean the day before Christmas, as explained below. By the way, co-defendant Donald Pearce told police the burglary was on December 26.
Todd was at the Medina home twice in those early morning hours. The first time, he stuffed his backpack with tools from the Medinas’ shed then pedaled home. He said he returned to the Medinas’ home between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. He left his bicycle against a fence, hopped the fence again into the Medinas’ yard, then broke into the house via the back door. He rummaged through the house and found a safe which he rolled out to the front porch.
Todd then told police that he pedaled home and got his friend, Donald Pearce (the other burglar). They drove Pearce’s mother’s four-door white vehicle back to Covena Avenue. Using a hand truck (or dolly) they got the 250-pound safe (that contained cash, jewelry, and guns) from the front porch and put it on the front seat of the car. They left the dolly on the grass by the curb in front of the Medina home. Todd told an investigator that when they were at the Medina home in the car, they noticed TV trucks at the end of the street.
There were no TV trucks on December 24 at the time the defense claims Laci “confronted” the burglars. Also, no one who was searching frantically for Laci–police or family and friends–mentions a dolly in front of the Medinas’ home. The area was canvassed thoroughly. In fact, an investigator told me that Laci’s stepfather ran into the Medinas’s backyard and saw nothing amiss. If the back door had been smashed open, surely he would have noticed.
The burglary happened on December 25 into December 26–actually,the early morning hours of the 26th. Later that day, the media had taken over Covena, essentially blocking it off.
I’m sure there will be other points I’ll want to blog about as the Scott Peterson specials start to air. Let me know if you have any questions!