Though their love story ended in tragedy, Laci and Scott Peterson, were once a happy couple and first met during college.

The duo were introduced while they were both attending California Polytechnic State University — she as an ornamental horticulture major, and he was studying agricultural business. They 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.

scott laci peterson — modesto police department
Modesto Police Department

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 December 1996, Scott proposed, and they tied the knot at a hot spring on August 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, California.

scott laci peterson — a&e

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 began fixing it up with her interior design input and his woodworking skills.

They also started trying for 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 began 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 wife had died.

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.

laci peterson getty images

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.

In August 2020, Scott’s death sentence was reversed after his trial for murder was determined to have “a series of clear and significant errors” during juror selection. Though it’s possible the convicted killer could walk free but it is “unlikely,” Beverly Hills legal analyst Jeffrey W. Steinberger exclusively told In Touch.

“The court could grant Scott Peterson’s pending writ of habeas corpus to have a hearing to determine whether his arrest, detention, hearing was legal in the first place,” Steinberger explained, and if it’s granted, it could allow Peterson to be released. However, Steinberger says, “A writ of habeas corpus is rarely granted in a murder case.”

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