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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Family Reacts

Aired April 21, 2003 - 09:05   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Northern California, later today, Scott Peterson is scheduled to make his first court appearance, could be arraigned later today or tomorrow on capital murder charges in the deaths of his wife Laci and her unborn son. Prosecutors now building a case against him. Peterson's parents, meanwhile, launched a preemptive strike, telling "Time" magazine that police bungled the investigation into her disappearance from the very beginning.
Let's get to Modesto and Mike Brooks who is watching the latest from northern California.

Mike, good morning there.

MIKE BROOKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.

As Scott Peterson awaits arraignment in his 6x9 foot jail cell, here in the maximum security tier of the Stanislaus County Jail. Yesterday, Scott's parents came out, as you said, Bill, talking about the Modesto police and their bungling of the case, they had other things to say. The family made a statement.

Here's what they had to say, "Our time of mourning and grief is compounded by the accusations made against Scott. We believe in his innocence, and he has our total and unwavering support."

Now, earlier this morning, Bill, we spoke with Kelly Houston. He is a spokesperson for the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department. They're the ones who are actually keeping Scott here in a jail, will make sure he gets safely over to court. He was talking about exactly how much stress a case like this can put on both families.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY HOUSTON: This is difficult time not on for Laci Peterson's family, but Scott Peterson's family. As you can imagine, having your son facing capital murder charges is quite a shock, especially a shock to Scott. In this particular case, he's not been in a custody facility. This is a really difficult tragedy for both these families to be dealing with. And they're going to be in for the long haul through the process of the court system here in California.

And our hearts go out to both families, despite any personal feelings anybody may have about the guilt or innocence of anybody, this is a real tragic event for both families.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROOKS: Now, Scott may appear this afternoon at about 1:30 Pacific Time in Judge Nancy Ashley's courtroom to face the two murder charges against him for the alleged murder of Laci and their unborn son, Connor.

Now, we've heard from the Peterson family. And later on today, here in Modesto, Laci's parents will hold a news conference at 4:00 Pacific, 7:00 Eastern, and we'll carry that live here on CNN -- Bill.

HEMMER: Mike, quickly, between the identification through DNA of the bodies at the end of last week and the apprehension of Scott Peterson, what was the change, what was the shift in the investigation that told police to pick him up on Friday?

BROOKS: Law enforcement thought, Bill, that he may try to flee to Mexico. Now, when he was picked up, we've seen pictures of Scott. We saw him earlier on, clean shaven, dark hair. And when he was arrested, he had lightened his hair, he had grown a beard, appeared to have lightened his beard, lost some weight, and they thought that he was a flight risk. They have said, though, however, that even if they had not recovered the bodies of Laci and her unborn son, Connor, that they had enough, and they feel they have a pretty locked -- rock- solid, tight case against Scott, and they plan to proceed with that case -- Bill.

HEMMER: Mike Brooks live in Modesto, thanks -- Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: The Modesto community is trying to make some sense of Laci's murder and her husband's arrest. Reporter Chris Filippi has been covering the Peterson case for KFBK Radio in Sacramento. He is in Modesto this morning and joins us now.

Hi, Kris.

We're wondering mostly about what the people of Modesto are thinking at this time. We know the bodies of Laci and her unborn son were found a few miles from where Scott said he was fishing. What do they make of that?

CHRIS FILIPPI, KFBK RADIO: Well, certainly a lot of sadness this weekend here in Modesto. I think the reality of everything really came crashing home for folks on Friday. But as this case has progressed and as we've learned more about the investigation and about Scott's actions throughout this case, I think you're seeing a little bit of a diminishment gradually over time of a belief of giving him the benefit of the doubt. A lot of folks here really are convinced that Scott is responsible for the murder of his wife and his unborn son, and it's really hitting hard for a lot of folks.

COLLINS: He is a citizen, though, of Modesto. Does he have any support whatsoever?

FILIPPI: He has a little bit of support. I think the strongest support you're seeing is actually coming from San Diego, where his family lives. You heard about the statement that they had made earlier. They still stand behind him 100 percent. For the early stages of this case, there was a lot of support for Scott, a lot of the benefit of the doubt. I think what really happened, though, once word of the affair came out, he had been denying that affair. Then once that happened, he really started to lose some credibility, and it's kind of sloped downhill from there.

COLLINS: You mentioned Scott's parents. Now, they did an interview with "Time" magazine's Web site yesterday, saying that their son is innocent, and really standing by his side. They also accused the Modesto Police Department of bungling the case, saying -- quote -- "They worked strictly on the theory that was dreamt up by this lead detective within the first eight hours, and they pursued it backward from there, and they have neglected so many good leads."

Have you seen any evidence of mistakes by the Modesto Police Department?

FILIPPI: You know, they are really hesitant about telling us anything about the investigation, and I think in that sense, they are avoiding the mistake we've seen with other high-profile cases. In fact, here in Modesto, there's still a lot of anger about the way the Chandra Levy case was handled in Washington D.C. They felt they were too public with their case there. That's something the Modesto Police have certainly tried to learn.

I've spoken to Jackie Peterson before. She said they feel like they've narrowed in on Scott from the beginning, and to the point where they have ignored other potential leads in the case. Now, of course Modesto Police say they've been thorough with this, and they've looked into all the tips. So there's really a difference of opinion there.

COLLINS: All right, thanks so much, Chris Filippi from KFBK Radio, coming to us from Modesto this morning.

FILIPPI: You bet.

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