On the anniversary of Laci Peterson's disappearance, the family is concerned that her husband will eventually be freed from prison

By Steve Helling
December 24, 2020 02:00 PM
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Laci Peterson, Scott Peterson
| Credit: ZUMA Press

Eighteen years after Laci Peterson was last seen alive before being killed by husband Scott Peterson, her family is concerned that he will be freed from prison.

Peterson, now 47, scored two major legal victories this year. The first victory was in August, when his death penalty sentence was overturned, meaning that he would face a new penalty phase trial. The second victory came in October, when the California Supreme Court ruled that a lower court should take a second look at his case to determine whether his guilty verdict should be overturned.

Laci's family is still struggling with this year's developments.

"This Christmas is different than last Christmas," says a source close to Laci's family. "The holidays are always hard for them because Laci was taken from them on Christmas Eve. But now, with the thought that Scott could eventually go free? That's devastating. The family is really worried."

Peterson, now 47, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the 2002 death of wife Laci and their unborn son, Conner. He was sentenced to death in 2005.

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Scott Peterson

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Laci was eight months pregnant when she disappeared from her Modesto home during the day of Christmas Eve, 2002. Her body was found in April 2003 in the San Francisco Bay. Peterson claimed that Laci was killed as she walked the couple’s dog after Peterson left to go on a solo fishing trip on Christmas Eve morning.

But as the case moved forward, jurors heard about Peterson's dark secrets, including a months-long affair with a woman named Amber Frey, who was unaware that Peterson was married when she started dating him.

Frey later worked with prosecutors, taping damning phone calls with Peterson. During the trial, she testified for several days about her relationship with Peterson, her realization that he was still married and that Laci had vanished. Frey first called police in Modesto in late December 2002 to disclose the affair.

Frey's testimony proved crucial in the court proceedings. Peterson was convicted by a Redwood City jury in 2004 and in 2005 was sentenced to death. He has remained on death row while his appeal worked its way through the courts.

Both the Los Angeles Times and CBS News reported in October that the California Supreme Court ruled that a lower court should take a second look at Peterson's case to determine whether his convictions should be overturned.

The court ruled that a juror committed "prejudicial misconduct" by failing to disclose that she had previously been involved with other, unrelated legal proceedings. According to CBS News, the juror filed a lawsuit in 2000 to obtain a restraining order after her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend allegedly harassed her while she was pregnant.

Peterson's attorney told the Los Angeles Times that the juror had been asked whether she was ever a crime victim or involved in a lawsuit. She allegedly said no at the time, despite the lawsuit, which had been filed four years before the Peterson trial.

Now as Peterson's future is uncertain, Laci's family is figuring out how to get through the holidays. "They're sad and concerned," says the family source. "This is the nightmare without end."