Missing Modesto Woman May Not Have Left on Foot

AP Wire Service

MODESTO (AP) – A Modesto woman missing since the day before Christmas left her home in a car, not by foot, the handler of a bloodhound used in the search told police.

Hundreds of volunteers and police officers continued to search Monday for Laci Peterson, 27, who is 8 months pregnant. A reward for her safe return has grown to $500,000.

Her husband, Scott Peterson, reported her missing Dec. 24 after he returned home from a solo fishing trip to the Berkeley Marina. She had stayed home to walk the dog and get ready for a family dinner.

He told police he last saw her at 9:30 a.m. as she prepared to take the walk the family’s dog in East La Loma Park and he was leaving on a daylong fishing trip.

A candlelight vigil was planned for Tuesday evening at the park.

Peterson’s family planned to meet Tuesday with Susan Levy, the mother of Chandra Levy, another Modesto woman who disappeared, the San Jose Mercury News reported. Levy, living in Washington, D.C., when she disappeared in May 2001, was later found dead a year later.

Police brought a bloodhound in last week to help with the search for Laci Peterson. The dog didn’t head to the park, but instead led investigators to a boulevard.

On Monday, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Underwater Search and Rescue Team inspected a section of the San Joaquin River. The divers were there because the bloodhound had made a beeline in that direction, Deputy Mark Cardoza, a member of the dive team, told The Modesto Bee.

Detectives also examined videotape from a sporting goods store’s security cameras, where Laci Peterson may have been seen shopping on Christmas Eve, said Modesto Police Detective Doug Ridenour said.

Modesto police say they have no suspects. They have scoured parks and abandoned buildings, questioned registered sex offenders and parolees, and asked residents to search rural areas where Laci Peterson may have walked before disappearing.

Detectives said Scott Peterson gave investigators a receipt Monday from the Berkeley Marina where he said he went fishing.

When asked during Monday’s news conference if that eliminates him as a suspect, Ridenour said, “At this point, we are not ruling him or anybody out.”