Cops: ‘Significant’ Change in Laci Case

AP Wire Service

MODESTO, Calif. – Police announced a “significant change” Friday in the search for missing Laci Peterson, whose case returned to the spotlight this week after the remains of a woman and baby washed ashore.

Modesto police said they would hold a news conference Friday night on the development, which they would not immediately disclose.

The state’s DNA laboratory in Richmond has been “working 24-seven” to determine if the remains are those of Laci Peterson and the son she was due to bear in February, said Hallye Jordan, a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s office.

The two bodies were about a mile apart on Sunday and Monday by people walking the San Francisco Bay shoreline.

Crime lab technicians were comparing DNA swabbed from the mouths of Laci Peterson’s parents and taken from Laci Peterson’s hairbrush with samples from the two corpses.

Meanwhile, the attorney for her husband, Scott Peterson, says his client still hopes his missing wife and son will be found alive.

Attorney Kirk McAllister refused to disclose the whereabouts of Peterson, who has not been seen publicly since the remains were found in Richmond, about 90 miles away. But McAllister told the Modesto Bee he has spoken regularly with Peterson this week.

“His thought is that certainly, for somebody, this represents a tragedy,” McAllister said. “He is hoping this doesn’t mean that his search for Laci and the baby is over.”

His comments came as speculation increased that Scott Peterson would be arrested if lab tests show the woman’s body belonged to his 27-year-old wife, who was eight months pregnant when she vanished from her Modesto home on Christmas eve.

Her husband told police he last saw her that morning as he left to go fishing in Berkeley, three miles south of where the bodies surfaced. Modesto police have said that Scott Peterson is not a suspect in his wife’s disappearance, but that they have not ruled him out either.

Laci Peterson’s biological father, Dennis Rocha, told a Boston television station that he thinks it’s only a matter of time before his son-in-law is charged in the case.

“I just can’t see Scott being out there free,” Rocha said. “That would just eat me up.” He predicted that an arrest “will happen very soon.”

But most of Laci Peterson’s family members remained sequestered Thursday in the Modesto area and avoided making predictions.

“We’re just waiting,” said Ron Grantski, the stepfather who raised her. “Until they confirm, there really isn’t anything.”

Scott Peterson’s father, Lee, said he didn’t want to comment on the suspicion swirling around his son, but acknowledged that the last few days had been difficult for his family.

If the woman’s body is not identified as Peterson, the lab will begin comparing the samples with likely matches in a database of 100 DNA samples of other missing people or their relatives. The state has more than 25,000 active missing person cases.