This week in crime history - May 27-June 1; Explorer Jedediah Smith was murdered by Comanche’s on the Santa Fe Trail (May 27, 1831); Writer R. Foster Winans’ conviction for securities fraud was upheld on appeal (May 28, 1986); Actor Woody Harrelson’s father arrested for murder (May 29, 1979); The son of Time Warner Chairman Gerald Levin was murdered in New York City (May 30, 1997); W. Mark Felt was revealed as being the Watergate Scandal’s “Deep Throat” informant (May31, 2005); Benedict Arnold was court martialed (June 1, 1779); Scott Peterson’s murder trial began (June 1, 2004).
Highlighted Crime of the week –
On June 1, 2004, Scott Peterson’s murder trial began. He was accused of murdering his wife Laci and the couple's unborn son. On Christmas Eve 2002, Peterson’s pregnant wife Laci, disappeared from Modesto, California. The case captivated millions across America and saturated national media coverage for nearly two years. When initially questioned about his wife's whereabouts, Peterson claimed that Laci had disappeared sometime after leaving the house to walk their dog and after he left on a fishing trip to nearby San Francisco Bay. About one month later, Amber Frey, a 28-year-old massage therapist from Fresno, California, came forward to tell police that she'd had an affair with Scott Peterson, shattering his image as a devoted husband to his pretty and pregnant wife. As police continued to search for Laci and clues that might explain her disappearance, Scott Peterson sold her sports-utility vehicle, leading to suspicions that he might be trying to get rid of evidence.
On April 13 and 14, 2003, the bodies of Laci and her baby were found near the marina where Scott Peterson kept his boat. Within a week, Peterson was charged with two counts of murder, with the special circumstances, which opened the door for prosecutors to seek the death penalty. He was arrested in San Diego carrying large amounts of cash and his brother's passport, and with a new hair color and cut, seemingly on the verge of running from police. Soon after pleading not guilty to the charges, Peterson retained the legal services of well-known celebrity attorney Mark Geragos. His trial began on June 1, 2004. Over the course of the next 19 weeks, prosecutors introduced 174 witnesses and hundreds of pieces of evidence designed to paint Scott Peterson as a cold and heartless man who continued to lie and cheat on his wife even as he appeared on television feigning despair over her disappearance. The prosecution's case was hampered, however, by the fact that they had no eyewitness to the crime and had not found a weapon. Meanwhile, Geragos worked to convince the jury of an alternate scenario in which someone else had murdered Laci while she was walking the dog, then framed Scott after learning of his alibi from the news. Peterson did not take the stand in his own defense. On November 12, 2004, after seven days of deliberation, Peterson was convicted of the first-degree murder of his wife and the second-degree murder of his unborn son. On March 16, 2005, he was formally sentenced to death by lethal injection. He remains on death row in California's San Quentin prison.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that include the award winning, Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949 (2012, Schiffer Publishing). The WINNER of the 2012 International Book Awards and a FINALIST in the 2012 Indie Excellence Book Awards for True Crime. Visit the author's website for more information: www.michaelthomasbarry.com
His book can be purchased at Amazon through the following link: