Janine DeFao, Meredith May, Henry K. Lee, The San Francisco Chronicle
Modesto, Calif., police investigating the disappearance of Laci Peterson were
summoned to the East Bay on Monday after the badly decomposed body of
a woman washed ashore in Richmond a day after the discovery of a male
fetus a mile away.
Authorities began an autopsy Monday night but were unable to
immediately determine whether the woman's body is that of the
27-year-old pregnant Modesto woman, who was reported missing by her
husband on Christmas Eve. Scott Peterson, a 30-year-old fertilizer
salesman, has told police that he last saw Laci when he left for the
Berkeley Marina for a day fishing trip.
"There's still a lot of unknowns here," Contra Costa sheriff and
coroner's spokesman Jimmy Lee said Monday night when the coroner's
office closed for the day after conducting autopsies on both bodies.
Without explaining, Lee said it most likely would take several days
to identify the bodies.
The deteriorating body of the fetus was discovered at 4 p.m. Sunday
by a dog walker on the Richmond shoreline. At 11:45 a.m. Monday,
another dog walker found a decomposed body on the rocky shore of the
Point Isabel Regional Shoreline, a popular park in Richmond for
walking dogs. The bodies were discovered about a mile apart at
opposite ends of an inlet along the Richmond shoreline.
East Bay Regional Park District Police Chief Norman Lapera said it
was apparent that the woman's body had been in the water for some
FETUS REVEALED TO BE BOY
An autopsy on the fetus Monday revealed that it was a boy at full
term or near full term. The coroner did not determine the cause of
death, and the body was too decomposed to determine the fetus' race
or to tell how long it had been in the water, authorities said.
Authorities revealed little after the autopsy on the woman later in the
A police source told The Chronicle that the woman was wearing a
nursing bra, a fuller-fitting bra preferred by some pregnant women.
Authorities would not confirm a report that the woman's body had been
found clad in maternity wear and that the head and legs were missing.
Authorities said they did not yet have enough information to say
whether there was a link between the two bodies.
"It could be a coincidence," Richmond police spokesman Enos Johnson
said, adding that the close proximity, the time and the fact that
both bodies were decomposed and found in the water suggest there
could be a link.
Johnson said it was likely that recent storms had caused the bodies
to wash ashore.
Meanwhile, Modesto police stressed that they still had no suspects in
"We have no indication that this is related to the Laci Peterson
case," detective Doug Ridenour, Modesto Police Department spokesman,
said in a statement.
The area where the two bodies were found is about 2 miles north of
the Berkeley Marina, the area Scott Peterson says he spent the day of
Dec. 24 fishing and an area that has been repeatedly searched by
police and divers.
Almost from the very start, Modesto police questioned Peterson's
truthfulness. They have not called him a suspect, but they have asked
the public for help in confirming Peterson's account that he spent
the day fishing off the Berkeley Marina. They also repeatedly
searched the waters off the marina and spent three days looking in
the waters around Point Richmond.
A FAMILY'S ANGUISH
Ron Grantski, Laci Peterson's stepfather, told The Chronicle from his
Modesto home that the family was going through a full range of
emotions as they awaited official identification of the bodies.
"It's hard to explain," Grantski said. "You want it to be, you don't
want it to be. We gotta have closure, but this isn't the closure we
At the home of Laci and Scott Peterson, a "Missing" sign offering a
$500, 000 reward stood in the yard. Candles were lit, surrounded by
stuffed animals. Neighbors said they hadn't seen Scott Peterson for
Laci Peterson, whose case has drawn national interest, was eight
months pregnant at the time she went missing. Scott and Laci
Peterson's son, already named Conner, was due Feb. 10.
Authorities were being cautious until the Contra Costa coroner's
office completes its autopsy of the woman's body in the presence of
Modesto investigators, who were flown by helicopter to the site
Police continued searching the shoreline around where the bodies were
found for more clues.
Modesto police, using high-tech sonar devices, had searched the
waters off the East Bay shoreline from Berkeley to Point Richmond as
recently as March. Investigators treated the case as one of a missing
person until last month, when they reclassified it as a homicide.
Scott Peterson has come under increasing public scrutiny since the
revelation in January that he had been having an affair, prior to
Laci Peterson's disappearance, with a Fresno woman who worked as a
Scott Peterson has told police he launched his aluminum boat from the
Berkeley Marina for a solo fishing trip on Dec. 24. He said when he
returned home, his wife was gone.