Scott Peterson criminal probe: A timeline of events

Laci Peterson and her unborn son were found dead in 2003.

ByIvan Pereira ABCNews logo
Friday, January 19, 2024
TIMELINE: How the Laci Peterson case unfolded
Laci Peterson, who was 8 months pregnant, went missing from her Modesto home in 2002.

SAN FRANCISCO -- For more than 20 years, the investigation into the murders of Laci Peterson and her unborn son has been lingering in the courts.

The bodies of Laci Peterson and her son's fetus were found more than four months after their disappearance in the San Francisco Bay in 2003. She was 27.

Police soon arrested her husband Scott Peterson following months of probing which uncovered he was having an affair before Laci Peterson's death. Scott Peterson, who was convicted in their deaths, has maintained his innocence and has been appealing the decision.

Here is a timeline of the events surrounding the investigation.

In this April 21, 2003 file photo Sarah Kellison stands in front of a memorial for Laci Peterson outside the house Laci shared with her husband Scott Peterson in Modesto, Calif.
In this April 21, 2003 file photo Sarah Kellison stands in front of a memorial for Laci Peterson outside the house Laci shared with her husband Scott Peterson in Modesto, Calif.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

Dec. 24, 2002

Laci Peterson's stepfather and Scott Peterson both filed reports with the police that she was missing. Laci Peterson was eight months pregnant at the time with the couple's son, Connor.

Late December 2002 to March 2003

Scott Peterson, who was 30 at the time, is eyed as a suspect after it was revealed he was having an affair with Amber Frey, a massage therapist, at the time of his wife's disappearance.

Scott Peterson admitted to the affair and said he and his wife were having marital problems but he denied harming her or killing her.

He and Laci Peterson's family drift apart as the community continues to search for her.

Scott Peterson stands in a command center where volunteers pick up leaflets as the search for his wife, Laci Peterson, continues Sunday, Jan. 19, 2003, in Los Angeles.
Scott Peterson stands in a command center where volunteers pick up leaflets as the search for his wife, Laci Peterson, continues Sunday, Jan. 19, 2003, in Los Angeles.
AP Photo/Ann Johansson

April 14, 2003

The decomposed body of a woman that had a missing head and limbs was found washed ashore in San Francisco Bay, one day after the decomposed body of a fetus was found nearby.

April 18, 2003

DNA from the corpses matched Laci Peterson and her unborn son. Police arrested Scott Peterson, the same day.

Investigators allege he had dyed his hair, and had $15,000 in cash, his brother's ID card and multiple cell phones.

Defense attorney Mark J. Geragos is seen with client Scott Peterson in Stanislaus Superior Court during a hearing Friday, May 2, 2003, in Modesto, Calif.
Defense attorney Mark J. Geragos is seen with client Scott Peterson in Stanislaus Superior Court during a hearing Friday, May 2, 2003, in Modesto, Calif.
AP Photo/Al Golub, pool

April 21, 2003

Scott Peterson was arraigned on first-degree murder in the death of his wife and second-degree murder in the death of their unborn son. He pleads not guilty.

Dec. 19, 2003

Sharon and Dennis Rocha, Laci Peterson's parents, filed a wrongful death suit against Scott Peterson.

June 1, 2004- Nov. 3, 2004

Scott Peterson's criminal trial lasts for five months and includes numerous witnesses including Frey, who testified that he told her he wasn't married. Peterson's defense team contended prosecutors are using circumstantial evidence and their client is innocent.

Nov. 12, 2004

The jury found Scott Peterson guilty on both of his murder charges. Deliberations were delayed after one of the jurors, Fran Gorman, was dismissed when it was discovered she was doing research into the case. She is replaced by an alternative juror, Richelle Nice.

Dec. 13, 2004

The jury unanimously recommended that Scott Peterson be sentenced to death.

Scott Peterson is seen during a hearing, Wednesday morning, Jan. 14, 2004, at the Stanislaus County Superior Court in Modesto, Calif.
Scott Peterson is seen during a hearing, Wednesday morning, Jan. 14, 2004, at the Stanislaus County Superior Court in Modesto, Calif.
AP Photo/Bart Ah You, Pool

March 16, 2005

Judge Alfred Delucchi sentenced Scott Peterson to death via lethal injection. During the hearing, Laci Peterson's family members delivered emotional victim-impact statements berating Scott Peterson. He does not give any statement.

April 30, 2009

Laci Peterson's family dropped their wrongful death suit.

July 15, 2012

Scott Peterson's attorneys filed an appeal of his conviction with a 423-page brief that makes several arguments that their client did not have a fair trial. Among the contentions was the attention, a lack of direct evidence of the crime and the judge's exclusion of prospective jurors who opposed the death penalty affected the trial.

Nov. 24, 2015

Scott Peterson files a second appeal which includes the same allegations as the previous filing but also contended that Richelle Nice failed to disclose that she was once allegedly threatened by her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend while pregnant.

Scott Peterson, (right) with a fellow inmate is seen during a tour of North Segregation of death row at San Quentin State Prison on December 29, 2015, in San Quentin, Calif.
Scott Peterson, (right) with a fellow inmate is seen during a tour of North Segregation of death row at San Quentin State Prison on December 29, 2015, in San Quentin, Calif.
Photo By Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Aug. 24, 2020

The California Supreme Court overturned the death penalty sentence.

The court noted, "The trial court made a series of clear and significant errors in jury selection that, under long-standing United States Supreme Court precedent, undermined Peterson's right to an impartial jury at the penalty phase."

However, the court upheld the conviction.

Oct. 14, 2020

The California Supreme Court ordered a review of Scott Peterson's conviction and sent the case back to San Mateo County Superior Court to reexamine and determine if it should be overturned.

Dec. 8, 2021

Scott Peterson was resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Scott Peterson is seen during a hearing at the San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021.
Scott Peterson is seen during a hearing at the San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021.
Andy Alfaro/The Modesto Bee via AP, Pool

Dec. 20, 2022

Following months of hearings, arguments and briefs, Judge Anne-Christine Massullo denied Scott Peterson's request for a new trial.

The judge concluded that Nice's "responses were not motivated by pre-existing or improper bias against Petitioner, but instead were the result of a combination of good faith misunderstanding of the questions and sloppiness in answering."

Jan. 18, 2024

The LA Innocence Project took up the case. In a court filing, the group says it seeks new evidence from the case.

Take a look at the latest stories and videos about Scott Peterson here.