When you hear the names Laci and Scott Peterson, you probably don’t think of a loving marriage. You probably think of her shocking disappearance and death 15 years ago, and his conviction of her murder two years later. But it might surprise you to know that, at one time, they were a happy couple.
Laci and Scott met as college students while they were both attending California Polytechnic State University — she as an ornamental horticulture major, and he was studying agricultural business. They first met at a party, but nothing happened until they bumped into one another again at Pacific Café in Morro Bay, a restaurant where Scott was working. Laci made the first move by giving him her phone number, and he soon called to ask her out.
Their first few outings didn’t go too smoothly, as they encountered both emotional hurdles — she was uninterested in his passions, like golf — and physical hurdles, like when she got seasick on their first date deep-sea fishing. Still, they managed to forge a connection, and Laci’s mom Sharon Rocha remembers her daughter calling her, saying, “Mother, I have met the man I am going to marry. You've just got to get down here and meet him.”
Even their families approved of the pairing, including Laci’s brother Brent who thought Scott looked like “the perfect gentleman” who would “take care of her.”
Meanwhile, Scott’s brother Joe said Laci came off “polite and smiling,” which pleased their family.
Two years into their relationship in Dec. 1996, Scott proposed and they tied the knot at a hot springs on Aug. 9, 1997 — just months before Laci’s graduation. Scott’s brother-in-law Ed Caudillo recalled, “I vividly remember Scott carrying Laci up to their room at the end of the wedding. He’s shouting and happy, and she’s laughing, and we’re all worried he’s going to drop her. But Scott had her safe in his arms.” When they returned from their Tahitian honeymoon, the Petersons opened burger joint The Shack in San Luis Obispo, CA.
Then, in 2000, they sold the business and moved to Modesto to be closer to her family. Scott started working as a fertilizer salesman for Tradecorp, and she began as a substitute teacher at a nearby school. They bought a three-bedroom home in an upscale neighborhood and started fixing it up with her interior design input and his woodworking skills.
They also started working on starting a family, though they had some trouble conceiving. It wasn’t until May 2002 that Laci became pregnant with their first child, and the expectant parents were over the moon, attending doctor’s appointments and Lamaze classes together. “They were a happy couple,” Laci’s mom claimed. “There wasn’t any reason to suspect any problems.”
A problem did arise, however, when Scott started an affair with massage therapist Amber Frey in November, when Laci was seven months pregnant. However, those close to the family have maintained Laci didn’t know about her husband stepping out. At a holiday party in December, Scott and Amber were photographed together looking cozy. He’s reported to have told her at the time that his then-alive-and-well wife had died.
Then, on Christmas Eve 2002, the Peterson’s dog McKenzie was found running loose in their neighborhood, wearing a muddy collar and leash. Laci’s Land Rover was in the driveway and her wallet and purse were inside of the house, but she was nowhere to be found. Her body and the body of her unborn son, Conner, were discovered in San Francisco Bay four months later.
So what went wrong? We may never know, though police have always suspected that Scott’s motives were related to financial trouble or his relationship with Amber. Still, even as he sits on death row today, Scott maintains his innocence. In Aug. 2017, a judge rejected his request for a new trial, saying there’s “overwhelming evidence” of his guilt.