December 06, 2004 12:00 PM

As Sharon Rocha, Laci Peterson’s mother, rode up in a green SUV, the crowd erupted in cheers. Smiling, Rocha waved to the more than 1,000 motorcyclists who had assembled in Modesto, Calif., on Nov. 20 to take part in the second annual memorial ride for her daughter Laci and unborn grandson Conner. Then she climbed on a bike driven by Laci’s cousin Shawn Rocha—who organized the event—and led the pack on a 20-mile excursion to the town of Escalon, where Laci was born. There the group dedicated a park bench in the name of Laci and Conner. Earlier, Laci’s brother Brent had recalled how much had changed since last year’s gathering. “We’re all here and we have a verdict,” he said, couldn’t have worked out better.”

Scott Peterson, for one, might dispute that. On Nov. 22, the first day of what was to be the start of testimony over whether or not he should be put to death, Peterson sat solemnly at the defense table, occasionally glaring over at prosecutors. Judge Al Delucchi delayed the penalty phase for a week to allow further preparation, but it appeared that nothing would dampen the sense of satisfaction the Rochas were feeling. As Laci’s father, Dennis Rocha, told people at the memorial ride, the show of support would surely make Laci happy. Added Dennis: “She’s probably watching over us right now.”

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