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Search Under Way in S.F. Bay For Possible Clues In Peterson Case

Aired May 16, 2003 - 19:59   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Authorities today started another search of San Francisco Bay looking for more possible clues into the Laci Peterson case. It has been more than a month since the bodies of Peterson and her unborn son washed ashore. Still a lot of questions out there.
Our Rusty Dornin is in Richmond, California and she joins with the latest on the search.

Rusty, hello.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, divers packed up their tanks and their side-scanning sonar equipment about two hours ago after searching for about five hours.

This has been an operation that has been highly anticipated, ever since Laci Peterson and Connor's bodies washed ashore April 14.


DORNIN (voice-over): A search not yet over. The answers to what happened may still lie at the bottom of San Francisco Bay. Laci Peterson and the body of her baby, Connor, washed up in mid-April, along this beach in Richmond, California.

Today, divers were back in the bay, looking for what may have been left behind. Divers, boats, and equipment from police agencies throughout Northern California joined the coast guard and a special FBI dive team from New York. The team specializes in underwater evidence retrieval using remote devices.

Scott Peterson told police he went fishing here, a place known as Brooks Island, the day his wife disappeared. In mid-March, sonar experts discovered an object in the shipping channel just north of Brooks Island. Then the weather turned bad. When they returned a few days later, the object was gone. A few weeks after that, the bodies floated ashore.

So where are the anchors or weights? A source close to the investigation told CNN the makings of concrete anchors were found in Scott Peterson's warehouse.

(on camera): If those makings are made from the same batch of cement with evidence of Laci Peterson's remains attached, it could be the smoking gun in this case.

(voice-over): This search was conducted a few miles south of the island after a USGS scientist calculated the spot by looking at the direction of the wind in the weeks before the body was discovered, and worked backwards.

Search crews say they have committed boats and manpower to continue the operation for at least the next three days.


DORNIN: Now the results of the autopsy were released to the defense and the prosecution, but the results of that have been sealed. However, CNN has learned from a source close to the investigation, part of the results showed that Connor was delivered not through the birth canal, but when the body rose to the surface, apparently the gases and changes in pressure caused it to burst through Laci Peterson's womb. And that's why the bodies were separated at some time before they did float to shore.

Meantime, the divers will be back looking for more evidence tomorrow -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Rusty, it's details like that they're so gruesome, but they do answer questions that people have out there. Thank you for the latest on that. Appreciate it.

Well it was just yesterday that a judge ordered the autopsy reports of Laci Peterson and her unborn son, Connor, to be sealed. That decision was agreed upon by both the defense and prosecution, which brings up the question: who exactly is benefiting from this decision?

I'm joined now in the studio by Court TV's Lisa Bloom to talk a little about that, as well as today's search.

Hello. Good to have you here with us.


KAGAN: What about the sealing of the autopsy report? Also, there's so many search warrant -- I think there's eight or nine search warrants in this case, that have all been sealed. Who does that serve?

BLOOM: Well, on the autopsy, you can look at it idealistically and say, Look, both sides are working together to bring about justice, a fair trial for Scott Peterson and they don't want people in the media all over the story.

Or, you could be cynical and say each side wants those records sealed because there's something bad in there for each side. For the prosecution, maybe no cause of death. It's very possible that's the autopsy result. For the defense, possible forensic evidence linking her to Scott Peterson. I mean, I'm just speculating. But that's a possibility. As for everything else, they just don't want the press all over the story, as much as we want to be all over it.

KAGAN: Yes. What about the news of the day, and that is going back to this place, back to the place where the bodies washed ashore, back to the place very close to where Scott Peterson says he was fishing on Christmas Eve?

BLOOM: Right.

KAGAN: The timing of it kind of makes you wonder. Why now? Why go back now?

BLOOM: Well, it sure does, Daryn.

And you're right. Him putting himself at the scene of the crime is the best evidence the prosecution has. His story that he was fishing there on Christmas Eve three miles from where we know the bodies ultimately washed up. But the prosecution has to have forensics -- forensic evidence to put this case away.

So far, there's rumors that they have single hair of Laci Peterson's in some pliers in his boat. Other than that, not a lot of forensic evidence that we know about. Again, most of the records are sealed so we don't know for sure. There are all kinds of rumors, but the prosecution needs hair, blood, semen, saliva, whatever they can get their hands on. If they can get more body parts, as gruesome as it is, they may be able to close some of those gaps.

KAGAN: Well, and also I had what they might be looking for at the bottom there -- perhaps something that was weighting down the bodies?

BLOOM: Right.

KAGAN: Perhaps that could be a big clue.

BLOOM: Cement anchors, that's the prosecution theory -- that Laci was cemented down, actually anchored down by her arms, her legs, possibly her head. There's also rumors of carving, rumors that have leaked from the autopsy about her internal organs being carved out. Were her body parts carved up?

Again, it is so gruesome. That may help the defense. The defense is leaking rumors a Satanic ritual cult may have been involved. They may actually, as horrible as it is, prefer to hear more evidence along those lines.

KAGAN: Well, let's just about that -- the topic of rumors.


KAGAN: What -- how does it behoove the defense to let these rumors -- is it putting doubt out there? Is this a sign of a desperate defense team? BLOOM: Well, there's three parties in this case: there's the prosecution, there's Scott Peterson, and then there's the media. And Scott Peterson's attorney is well versed in the media, a frequent CNN guest.

KAGAN: Mark Geragos, we see him on CNN all the time, especially on LARRY KING.

BLOOM: That's right, and he's smart. He's trying to turn public opinion, I think, to his side. He started out with this strange rumor about a mystery woman. We don't know what happened to her. Then he said there's a credible alternate suspect. We don't know who that is. And the latest: a Satanic ritual cult based in Modesto, California. It just gets curiouser and curiouser.

KAGAN: It does strange. What about the huge challenge of finding an untainted jury pool?


KAGAN: Here we are on national television talking about out it. You can't do it in Modesto. I think that's a given. But where do you go?

BLOOM: Well, I think it can be done in California.

There was the high profile dog mauling case. There was a change of venue to Southern California. I think there was a fair trial.

KAGAN: But that didn't get any kind of publicity like this is getting.

BLOOM: What about the David Westerfield case with Danielle Van Dam last summer? Again, that was in San Diego. It was Camp Westerfield outside with all the satellite trucks. I was there. That jury deliberated for 10 days, Daryn. I think they really took their job seriously. They had charts and maps, they pored over every piece of evidence. And I think they came to the right conclusion.

Sentencing phase, same thing, on the death penalty. They took their time. They were very careful even though people were clamoring outside. I think juries rise to occasion and I think we'll see that in this case.

KAGAN: Sounds like you still believe in the system and you think that Scott Peterson can get a fair trial at this point.

BLOOM: I do believe in it. I see it every day on Court TV. I really do.

KAGAN: All right. Lisa Bloom from Court TV. Got one more plug in there. Thank you. Appreciate your legal insight today.

BLOOM: Thanks.


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