Undercover officers say the suspected wife killer discovered they were following him

By Lyndon Stambler and Stephen M. Silverman
Updated September 03, 2004 08:00 AM

Undercover officers testified in the double-murder trial of Scott Peterson on Thursday that they abruptly ended their Jan. 3-11, 2003, surveillance of the accused wife killer once they felt that their efforts had been compromised by Peterson’s discovery that he was being tracked by authorities.

“We were operating under a ‘lose-it-before-you-burn-it’ capacity,” state Special Agent Thomas Chaplin testified. “We didn’t want to let Scott Peterson know we were following him. At that point it had essentially been burned.”

Peterson, 31, has been on trial for 49 days and is accused of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, on Christmas Eve 2002 and then dumping her remains into the San Francisco Bay. He has pleaded not guilty.

Special agent Tera Faris, of the California Department of Justice, testified that on Jan. 11, 2003, Peterson was driving southbound on Highway 99 when he pulled over to the shoulder. Faris, driving an unmarked Mustang, drove past him and pulled off the highway. Peterson followed. A message was broadcast on the police radio that he had made the same turn that she had.

On Jan. 9, Peterson had made one of several trips to the Berkeley Marina before heading south along Highway 99, stopping at a reservoir, then continuing on to Bakersfield, where he spent the night in a hotel, said Modesto Officer Christopher Perry, pointing out that Peterson was driving erratically.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos, explaining his client’s behavior and the route he drove, said Peterson was visiting the bay and the reservoir after reading reports about Laci’s possible whereabouts in the Modesto Bee newspaper.

The attorney noted that Peterson was getting off the freeway to visit a greenhouse company he was in business with, and that he went to a Sears and a Kmart and made purchases, something that was not mentioned in the officers’ reports.