09/06/2004

Police: 'We Were Made - Scott Peterson Tried To Shake Undercover Agents On Stakeout

By Lisa Sweetingham, Court TV

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — Scott Peterson's strange driving patterns dominated testimony at his double-murder trial Thursday as prosecutors questioned seven undercover agents who tracked the fertilizer salesman after his wife disappeared.

"It just got pretty busy there for a while," said Christopher Perry, who was part of the 15-man surveillance team that kept tabs on Peterson's whereabouts from Jan. 3 to Jan. 11, 2003.

Perry, sporting a dark suit, long black ponytail and goatee, described a period of about two hours on Jan. 9 in which the agents followed Peterson from the Berkeley Marina to Bakersfield, Calif.

The witness suggested that Peterson was trying to lose the agents with his "odd driving" — getting on and off the freeway, making random U-turns, heading into parking lots, circling and then exiting.

Police used five or six unmarked cars during the nine-day surveillance, and Peterson's car was secretly fitted with a GPS tracking device.

According to agent Brian Cardwell of the California Department of Justice, one vehicle was always in the lead, keeping close to Peterson, while the others trailed him by about a quarter-mile. The agents maintained constant radio communication.

But the jig was up for the plainclothes crew on Jan. 11, when Peterson appeared to be following them.

"We're operating under a 'lose it before you burn it' capacity," said Thomas Chaplin, another agent. "At that point, we'd essentially been burned."

Agent Tera Faris, witness number 119 in the state's case, was among the officers following the defendant that morning.

At about 8:15 a.m., Peterson entered the 99 freeway going southbound and then quickly pulled over to the right-hand shoulder. Faris attempted to pull up behind him in her Mustang, but passed him instead, taking the off-ramp and pulling into a business parking lot.

Peterson immediately followed her, and pulled up to her passenger side. According to Faris, the two made eye contact before she drove off.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Mark Geragos asked Chaplin if he was aware of a wiretap intercept in which Peterson said he thought the woman in the Mustang was a National Enquirer reporter.

Chaplin said he did not, and allowed that the cars were not marked in any way that the defendant would know that he was being trailed by authorities.

Geragos also went through each agent's report, underlining the many hours that Peterson was seen going to the volunteer command post, putting up missing person's fliers and generally taking part in the search for his missing pregnant wife, Laci Peterson.

Judge Alfred Delucchi excused jurors early at 11:22 a.m. on Thursday.

"Just for your information, we went through 17 witnesses this week," Delucchi told the panel. "So, it wasn't a total loss."

Court resumes on Tuesday.

Peterson, 31, is accused of the December 2002 murder of his 27-year-old wife and unborn son. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

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