Scott Peterson returns to court 20 years after pregnant wife’s murder (2024)

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A man convicted of killing his wife and unborn child twenty years ago in California is back in court today, after claims that new evidence proves his innocence.

Scott Peterson’s lawyers from the Los Angeles Innocence Project are asking a judge in San Mateo County to look at the fresh evidence and grant a new trial.

Mr Peterson, who is now 51, was convicted in 2004 of the murder of his pregnant wife Laci Peterson just before Christmas 2002. Her body, and that of their unborn son, washed up on the shore of the San Francisco Bay a few months later.

Scott Peterson returns to court 20 years after pregnant wife’s murder (2)

He is currently serving life in prison without parole after his previous death sentence was overturned.

Now the LAIP has filed more than 1,000 pages of court documents, which it says sheds new light on the timeline surrounding the deaths.

Mr Peterson is expected to appear at the status hearing in Redwood City via video link at 9am local time.

What happened to Laci Peterson?

Scott Peterson returns to court 20 years after pregnant wife’s murder (3)

Laci Peterson was 27 when she was reported missing on 24 December 2002. She was eight months pregnant with their son, who was going to be called Conner.

Mr Peterson told police that he was fishing alone in the San Francisco Bay and when he got home to Modesto, around 90 miles away, his wife of five years was gone.

After nearly four months of searching, Laci and Conner’s bodies washed up on the shore of the Bay in April 2003.

Why is Scott Peterson’s conviction being questioned?

LAIP argues that Mr Peterson was only convicted in 2004 on a large amount of circ*mstantial evidence and a small amount of physical evidence.

He has repeatedly argued his innocence over the years, with a previous attempt at a retrial in 2021 tossed out.

Scott Peterson returns to court 20 years after pregnant wife’s murder (4)

Now, LAIP claims to have evidence that burglars, who were targeting a house across the street from the Petersons’ home, may have kidnapped Laci to keep her quiet after she witnessed the crime.

The theory is that they then killed her and dumped her body, rather than Mr Peterson.

Attorneys also want DNA evidence to be retested. They say that a van that was set on fire close to the couple’s home, with a bloodstained mattress in the back, should be reexamined using new testing techniques over allegations the evidence was mishandled.

The filing, seen by The Independent, also calls into question other items of evidence, including interviews conducted with key witnesses and police reports.

Much of that new or questionable evidence has come from Mr Peterson himself, who asked the LAIP to get involved in his case last year.

"I believe this additional information will assist in determining what happened to my family and prove that I am innocent and had nothing to do with these horrible crimes that were committed against my wife and son," Peterson wrote in a letter to LAIP, included with the filing.

"In 2004, I was wrongfully convicted of murdering my wife, Laci, … and our unborn son, Conner. I have discovered that critical exculpatory evidence was ignored, overlooked, or never investigated at all, and in other instances was suppressed at the time of my trial."

Laci Peterson’s family believes Scott is guilty

If the judge grants a new trial, it would mean a complete re-examination of a case that gripped the US 20 years ago.

As media attention grew around the missing persons case, evidence emerged of an affair with massage therapist Amber Frey. He had told her that Laci was dead even though she was still alive at the time, while also frequently lying about his whereabouts.

A few days after Laci and Conner’s bodies were found, Mr Peterson was arrested in Southern California having dyed his hair and appearing to have packed to flee across the border into Mexico.

It later emerged that in early December 2002, he had researched boat launch ramps in the San Francisco Bay and then bought a boat shortly after, which Laci’s family believes shows he was planning her murder for some time.

Scott Peterson returns to court 20 years after pregnant wife’s murder (5)

Mr Peterson’s repeated claims of innocence and his apparent lack of remorse during previous court appearances will not be forgotten by Laci’s family, even if his character isn’t taken into account by the judge during this latest development.

Following his resentencing to life without parole in 2021, Laci’s mother said she saw no sorrow or remorse from him.

“Laci’s dead, Scott, because she loved you and trusted you. You betrayed her. Your evil, selfish act ended two beautiful souls. You just didn’t want them any more,” Sharon Rocha said in court.

“You chose to get rid of her. You didn’t want a baby, nor the responsibility of being a father. You were afraid of being looked on as a failure. It’s unbelievable that you thought you’d get away with it.”

Scott Peterson returns to court 20 years after pregnant wife’s murder (2024)
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