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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Rocha Family News Conference

Aired April 21, 2003 - 19:02   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We go straight to Modesto, California, where we're about to hear Laci Peterson's family speak out after their son-in-law was arraigned today.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

KIM PETERSEN, FAMILY SPOKESPERSON: Also, we have had many, many inquiries as to where people can send cards and letters. I do want to give you an address for that right now. They can send cards and letters for the family in care of the fund, Carrington Foundation. It is 1508 Coffee Road. Coffee like the drink. Suite H. In Modesto. 95355.

I'll give that to you one more time: 1508 Coffee Road, Suite H, Modesto, 95355.

First will be Dennis Rocha, Laci's father. Then Ron Grantski, Laci's stepfather, then Renee Tomlinson and then Sharon Rocha. Again, thank you all for being here and thank you for your support throughout this difficult time.

DENNIS ROCHA, LACI PETERSON'S FATHER: I would like to start by saying thank you for the Modesto Police Department, the attorney general and Department of Justice and the sheriff's department for your continuing efforts in finding my daughter. Now we can move forward. And now justice can be done.

And now I would also like to thank my friends -- my family and my friends and the thousands of people I don't even know. Thank you for searching and praying for my daughter and grandson. Your support has been overwhelming. Thank you.

RON GRANTSKI, LACI PETERSON'S STEPFATHER: The last four months have been the worst times of our lives. I've watched our family and friends change both physically and mentally.

But one thing that has never changed was that we would do anything to get Laci back. Hundreds of people worked day and night, Christmas, New Year's, Easter, whatever it took -- weekends, holidays, to find Laci. Our local businesswomen and men donated lodging, food, posters, whatever was needed to help find Laci. The local police as well as law enforcement throughout the state worked day and night to find Laci.

The press got the word out to the whole nation. People everywhere got involved through the prayer, cards, e-mail, donations. Our family wants to thank you so much. Without all of you, who knows?

We would like to thank all of the people who helped us with our extensive search efforts, those who searched by plane, on horseback, boat, divers and cars, on foot. They searched lakes, rivers, all over the valley and different counties everywhere. We tried to find Laci. We did our best.

Kim Petersen and the Sundh Carrington Foundation has been a godsend to us. She was able to provide advice, guidance, support on so many things. She's now a big part of our lives.

I know all of you would like for to us say something about Scott. But we're not going to do that. We owe to it Laci to let the courts bring the facts out. I am not going to say anything that's going to jeopardize all the hard work that so many young men and women. I hope I don't have to say that too many times.

We started this nightmare with one purpose in mind: to find Laci and bring her home. While this was not the way we wanted to bring her home, it will help to us begin the long process of healing.

While we understand there are many people who would like to hear from us in the very near future, we have two very tough days ahead of us. Laci's birthday is May 4 and we have to start thinking about funeral services.

We realize that we have a very long and difficult road ahead of us, and our primary concern is working and helping each other in this family. All of the cards, flowers, candles, stuffed animals and pictures left at Laci's house mean so much to us. We spent time each day reading the notes and cards left at the house, as well as the guest book entries. We have seen video and pictures of many of you stopping by Laci's house to show your support for our family and your love for our Laci and Connor.

Our family has chosen to donate the stuffed animals to the Children's Crisis Center and the MDIC program for abused children in Laci's name.

I feel sorry for Jackie and Lee and their family. They don't deserve this. But Laci and our family didn't either. Thank you.

RENEE TOMLINSON, LACI PETERSON'S FRIEND: On behalf of Laci and Connor's friends, we would like to thank the volunteers, the community, and the entire nation for your continued thoughts and prayers. Please know that we read your postings, especially when we need encouragement. It is comforting to know that so many people have come to love that same smile that we will miss each and every day.

We have so many memories of Laci that we will cherish and hold very close to our hearts. Laci brought so much to each of us: her love of good food, fine wine, and gardening, entertaining, and always to have a good time in any situation. Laci not only taught us proper etiquette, but how to laugh. And not just giggle, but to laugh loud and often. For every one of our birthdays, she made sure to make it special, whether it was a beautifully baked cake, a few hours of pampering, or a special gift waiting on your porch. She wanted to be sure each and every time we were all together that we would have fun. And unfortunately, it is now that we realize how incredibly blessed we are to have those memories of her.

Laci's most recent passion was her baby boy. We all know how much she wanted a baby. She was so excited, nervous and anxious to be having Connor. As any new mom, she had lots of questions and we all reassured her that we would be there to help.

Now we will never know his face, never see his smile and never hear his cry. We will miss the chance for our children to grow up together. We can only find comfort, knowing that they will always be together and that Laci is with her son that she loves so much.

We feel we will never truly have closure, because each day there will always be one phone call that we can't make, one funny story untold, one conversation unspoken with our best friend.

SHARON ROCHA, LACI PETERSON'S MOTHER: Words alone are not enough to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation to every person and entity that helped in our search for Laci and Connor. We're very fortunate to live in a community that has come together and supported us from the very beginning of our nightmare and continues to do so.

We thank the media for your help and your support. Through you, we have been given an opportunity to share Laci and Connor with people all around the world.

We want to give thanks to all the law enforcement agencies, the fire departments and Coast Guard involved in the search for Laci, the Red Lion Hotel in Bensalem (ph) for donating the rooms for a volunteer center, the volunteers who donated their personal time and spent many, many hours helping at the center, those who helped with the search, the people who came to the center to pick up fliers to post in various locations all over the state, the businesses that donated supplies and food, Jonathan Smith who established and continues to oversee the Laci Peterson Web site, the thousand and thousands of people who have posted their message on the Web site. And to all those who prayed for us for the safe return of Laci and Connor.

We especially want to thank the Modesto Police Department and everyone affiliated with them. We cannot thank you enough for giving up your personal lives, for all the long hours and days and weeks you have spent searching for answers to Laci's disappearance. For your kindness and patience with us. for your understanding of our desperation to find Laci.

We also want to thank your families, many of whom may have spent the Christmas holidays without you because of your dedication to your department and your tireless efforts to find Laci and Connor. We are grateful to you for sharing your loved ones with us during our time of need. We want to thank Kim Petersen and the entire staff of the Carol Sundh Carrington Foundation. They worked diligently to help us inform the public, both locally and nationally, of Laci's disappearance in order to solicit their help in locating her.

Due to Kim's experience with situations such as ours, she's familiar with the ups and downs and the highs and the lows and the many different emotions we are experiencing. She has made herself available to us and provided guidance and support to help us get through some of our darkest hours. I consider her a very dear friend and offer my sincere gratitude. I highly recommend the Carol Sundh Carrington Foundation to anyone seeking help in finding missing loved ones.

We are so grateful for the thoughtfulness and amazing generosity of all the donors who donated to the reward and to the search fund established to help bring Laci home. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

To our family and our friends and to all of Laci's friends, you've been with us from the beginning of our long walk down this devastating road. You offered yourselves to us, to lean on and help carry the weight of our burden. You've been here to support us, give us strength, and help ease our pain. You gave up your own personal lives to be here with us because you know we need you. Without your love and devotion, we would never be able to faces what lies ahead. We are eternally grateful to all of you and we thank you.

If Laci were here now, she would be absolutely amazed at the outpouring of love and concern for her and Connor, and I know in my heart, that she is fully aware of the love we have for her.

On December 24, 2002, shortly after 5:15 p.m., I received a phone call and heard the devastating words that forever changed my life. Laci is missing. I knew in my heart that something terrible had happened to my daughter and my grandson. My world collapsed around me.

Since receiving that phone call, we've been living a terrible nightmare. The search for Laci began that night. The questions were always there. What happened to Laci? Where is she? Is she safe? And who took her from me? I made a plea to the person or persons who took her to please, please let her go and send her home to us. We heard nothing.

As the days passed, I made more pleas to take her to a hospital or a fire police station, or tell us where she is so that we could come to her and bring her and her baby home safely. But still, we heard nothing.

We searched and searched and searched and still, no Laci.

I love my daughter so much. I miss her every minute of every day. My heart aches for her and Connor. Without them, there's a huge void in my life. I literally get sick to my stomach when I allow myself to think about what may have happened to them. No parent should ever have to think about the way their child was murdered.

In my mind, I keep hearing Laci say to me, Mom, please find me and Connor and bring us home. I'm scared. Please don't leave us out here all alone. I want to come home. Please don't stop looking for us.

I feel that Laci and Connor could no longer wait to be found. The last week they came to us. Laci and Connor left us on Christmas Eve. I know that God has been watching over them. He sent them back to us on Good Friday. Now we can bring them home where they belong.

Laci and her unborn child did not deserve to die. They certainly did not deserve to be dumped in the bay and sent to a watery grave as though their lives were meaningless.

Laci meant the world to me. She was my only daughter. She was my best friend. We miss her beautiful smile, her laughter, her love, and her kind and loving ways. I miss seeing her, talking to her, and hugging her. We've been deprived of meeting and knowing Laci's son, our grandson and nephew. We will miss them and mourn them for the rest of our lives.

Soon after Laci went missing, I made a promise to her, that if she has been harmed, we will seek justice for her and Connor and make sure that that person responsible for their deaths will be punished. I can only hope that the sound of Laci's voice begging for her life and begging for the life of her unborn child is heard over and over and over again in the mind of that person every day for the rest of his life. The person responsible should be held accountable and punished for the tragedy and devastation forced upon so many of us.

PETERSEN: Due to the difficulty right now for the family and also, having to now start with the funeral arrangements, et cetera, the family will not be conducting any interviews until further notice. It will probably be quite awhile, as you can see what this has done to their lives.

And so we would ask that you would be respectful of that, that you would honor their wishes to again not be called at home. They are being inundated with calls from family and friends right now who want to be with them and support them.

And as I stated earlier, this last week, we will take all of your requests. Please make them through myself. We will take all of them...

ZAHN: A heartbreaking and terribly emotional news conference with the family of Laci Peterson showing gratitude for the support of the community, showing gratitude to law enforcement, even thanking the media for their help in bringing attention to the case.

It's interesting to note that many hours after Scott Peterson was arraigned and charged with double murder -- he pleaded not guilty, by the way -- the family chose not to talk about Scott by name, but certainly you could understand when you heard Laci Peterson's mother talk -- and she talked about -- my daughter did not be deserve to be thrown into a watery grave -- exactly who she was talking about.

Jeffrey Toobin, our legal analyst, is here to help us better understand how all of thise might play in court, ultimately. First of all, after any potential jury member would hear what we've just heard, they'dbe wiped out emoitonally.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, it was really incredible. I mean, unfortunately, you and I have -- any one in the news business has heard a lot of news conferences of grieving relatives. But I've never heard anything like that. I mean, that was just so emotionally wrenching and devastating.

And though she never used Scott's name, specifically, I don't think any one could be in much doubt about who she thinks killed -- killed her daughter and grandson.

ZAHN: And she basically said, Laci, if you're hearing me right now, we will seek justice and we will hold accountable the person responsible for your death.

TOOBIN: And -- and certainly you could see that they had been advised that it would be -- it would be hurtful to the government's case to be -- use his name and to say that they believe Scott did it, because that would make it harder to get a fair trial.

ZAHN: Jeff, we're going to dip out of this conversationand quickly go back to Modesto.

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