The discovery of the bodies of Laci and Conner Peterson in April 2003 became a turning point in the investigation of Laci’s husband, Scott Peterson, for their murders. He was arrested days later and was convicted the following year, after which he was sentenced to die.
But, as with so much else about the Laci Peterson case, what authorities say happened and how Scott continues to describe it sharply conflict — a divide that is detailed in the ongoing A&E docuseries The Murder of Laci Peterson.
In an exclusive clip from the third episode, airing Tuesday night, both Scott and a detective on the case at the time recall how he reacted to learning that his wife and unborn son were found dead months after Laci vanished in December 2002 in Modesto, California.
“We told Scott. [There was] very little reaction on Scott’s part,” retired Modesto detective Jon Buehler recalls in the clip, adding, “In my view, because he was the one who killed Laci, there’s no reason for him to have a lot of emotion because he knew what the results were gonna be.”
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Buehler’s memory echoes what he previously told PEOPLE in 2005 about informing Scott of the bodies.
“He was not angry. He didn’t ask a whole bunch of questions,” he said then. “The only thing he said was, ‘Is that my wife and son?’ At that point it was sort of like, ‘Come on, Scott.’ So I said, ‘You know the answer to that question.’ Then he did fake sniffles [Buehler wiped his eyes and puts his head down to imitate Scott.] He said, ‘You told me what I needed to know.’ ”
Scott — a man once described as a “manipulator” by one of the jurors who put him to death — remembers this pivotal moment in his life differently.
As he explains in a call earlier this year from death row with his sister-in-law Janey Peterson, audio of which is in the clip above: “When they told me, I had just a terrible physical reaction. I mean it was a really emotional, physical reaction.”
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“But I was in the car with those two detectives and I just stopped that,” Scott continues. “I wasn’t gonna let them see the emotions I was going through.”
Despite a successful — if largely circumstantial — argument by prosecutors that Scott murdered his pregnant wife while he carried on an affair with unwitting lover Amber Frey, who later testified against him at trial, he and his family have always maintained his innocence.
Not so, Laci’s mother told the Modesto Bee in April 2016: “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that justice was served. Scott Peterson is guilty.”
His case is still being appealed.
The Murder of Laci Peterson continues Tuesday (10 p.m. ET) on A&E.