Archive for February, 2006|Monthly archive page

Joran Tells the Truth

Miracle of miracles! Joran van der Sloot has proven that he can indeed tell the truth. ABC aired Chris Cuomo’s interview with the Dutchman on Thursday night’s Primetime. The problem is that he refuses to tell the truth about what happened to Natalee Holloway and where she is. Neither can he be honest about his own character. Instead he portrayed himself as the gallant, conscientious gentleman who refused to have sex with the girl-gone-wild, Natalee Holloway, because he didn’t have a condom. Not only did he besmirch her at every turn — insisting that she brazenly pursued him and suggesting that she found some other guy to hook up with after he left her alone on the beach — but he insulted her mother without justification, as well, informing Cuomo that Natalee had called Beth Twitty “Hitler’s sister.” He also blamed his initial lies as to Natalee’s whereabouts on the Twittys, inferring that he and Deepak might have told the truth if Beth hadn’t been so accusatory toward them and disrespectful of the Van der Sloot family.

According to Joran’s latest story, Natalee was fully in control of her faculties the night she disappeared, never losing consciousness or seeming incoherent in Joran’s presence. Joran stated that he, at first, intended to take Natalee to his house, where (as you’ll remember) he has his own private quarters, but then changed his mind because the considerate lad didn’t want to wake his father and brothers. After a short drive to the lighthouse (to see sharks), he asked Deepak Kalpoe to drop them off on the beach near Natalee’s hotel and said that he’d call him for a ride later. Deepak must be a really good bud to leave his house in the middle of the night in order to chauffeur Joran around the island. The pair spent most of their time together strolling hand-in-hand on the beach and making out in the sand. That is, until Joran got tired and wanted to go home. So he phoned his friend, and minutes later Satish Kalpoe arrived in his brother’s car. Joran, unable to convince Natalee to leave, hopped in and headed for home. Oops! He forgot his sandy shoes. For some reason, it was impossible to go back and get them. Upon arriving home, he used the Internet to check soccer scores, view some porn, and e-mail Deepak to let him know that he’d made it home. Satish, despite living in the same house with his brother, must be incapable of effectively communicating this. The Kalpoe brothers both deny giving Joran a ride home that night. Joran suggests that it is they who are lying, perhaps because one of them returned to the beach later and did something to Natalee.

So now, you’re probably wondering what Joran told the truth about. The two biggest truths that slipped Joran van der Sloots lips under Chris Cuomo’s questioning were (paraphrasing):

  1. That he hates Natalee.
  2. That he will never be free of this burden until the truth comes out.

Funny, that. I thought the whole point of doing the interview was so that Joran could get the truth out there and the world would know that he is innocent. From his own admission, we know that the truth about Natalee Holloway’s disappearance is yet to be heard.

I had intended to tape Thursday night’s program to review it later and, hopefully, offer additional observations, but due to technical difficulties, i.e. a bonehead blunder, that didn’t work out. I can say that Joran is well-rehearsed in narrating his fairytale, practiced at trying to appear blameless and beleaguered, but woefully inept and ignorant (or perhaps just oblivious), when it comes to conveying contrite and compassionate. Though he didn’t do a lot of shifting his eyes down and to the left (a la Peterson), it did appear that he rarely looked Cuomo in the eye when he answered questions. And he did this fluttery semi-closing of the eyelids when he knew he was lying (my opinion, of course) about something important, such as whether or not he harmed Natalee, whether or not he killed Natalee, etc. That’s my observation. I’d love to hear from anyone else who watched the interview. If you didn’t watch, don’t let that stop you from joining in.

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Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Four days after their wedding on June 25, 2005, George Smith IV and his bride Jennifer Hagel-Smith set off on a twelve-day Mediterranean cruise aboard Royal Carribean’s Brilliance of the Seas. The couple appeared to be having a wonderful time until the night of July 4 and into the early morning hours of July 5, when alleged heavy drinking, uncharacteristic behavior and perhaps trusting the wrong persons culminated in George’s untimely and tragic death. George Smith went overboard into the waters of the Aegean between Greece and Turkey, leaving his wife of ten days a widow. A thorough search by Greek authorities proved fruitless in finding him.

MSNBC has a comprehensive Dateline article on the case. From this and other media sources, I’ve compiled a timeline (surprise, surprise):

July 4, 2005

  • 6:00 pm — After a leisurely day on the Greek isle of Mykonos, the couple return to the ship for dinner.
  • 11:00 pm — George and Jennifer meet another honeymoon couple, with whom they’ve become fast friends, in the ship’s casino. At some point, George and Jennifer begin partying with Josh Askin, Rostislav Kofman, and two other young Russian men.

July 5, 2005

  • 2:30 am — The casino closes and the party moves to the ship’s disco.
  • Rostislav Kofman, a 20-year-old Russian man from Brooklyn, NY, claims that George and Jennifer were drinking heavily that night. Both were very intoxicated and got into a loud argument. George allegedly cursed at his wife, calling her names, and Jennifer, in response, kneed him in the groin hard enough to cause him to double over. Reportedly, a few other passengers corroborate this account.
  • 3:20 am — Jennifer, alone and wobbly according to a custodian, leaves the disco. The custodian rides the elevator with her from deck 13 to deck 9 (her cabin level). She told him she was fine and went on her way.
  • 3:30 am — The disco closes.
  • George is so intoxicated that he needs assistance to his cabin. He is helped to his room by Josh Askin, a 20-year-old California college student, and three young Russian men from Brooklyn, NY — 20-year-old Rostislav Kofman and his cousins who have only been referred to as the Rosenberg brothers.
  • 3:45 am — According to the young men’s story, upon finding that Jennifer is not in the room, George and his entourage set out to look for her and head for the Jacuzzi in the solarium area. Unable to locate Jennifer, the men return to the Smith stateroom, put George to bed and return to their own cabin on deck three.
  • 4:00 am — The four men allegedly order room service.
  • 4:05-4:20 am — Clete Hyman is awakened by a commotion in the Smith’s cabin. First he hears several loud male voices that sound like they’re engaged in a drinking game. He phones security and bangs on the wall in an attempt to quell the racket. The voices continue, but in a more subdued manner. After several minutes, he hears three or four male voices arguing out on the balcony. This is followed by several “goodnights” from within the cabin, the door opening and closing, and voices receding down the corridor. Hyman looks out and sees three young men walking down the corridor. Subsequently, Hyman hears a single male voice speaking in a conversational tone in the Smith’s cabin. More loud noises (which Hyman describes as furniture being moved) ensue as the man moves between the cabin and the balcony. The last couple of minutes, Hyman hears what he believes to be the metal chairs on the balcony being moved. Then a few minutes of silence are followed by a loud, reverberating thud.
  • 4:20 am — The four men supposedly receive a very large room service order in the Russian men’s stateroom and photograph it “as a memento.”
  • 4:30 am — Security officials respond to Hyman’s call by knocking on the Smith’s cabin door. No noise is heard from within, and no one answers the door. They do not enter the cabin.
  • 4:30 am — Jennifer is found sleeping in a corridor on the other side of the ship from where the Smith’s cabin is located.
  • 4:48 am — Security officials return to the stateroom to try to locate someone to assist Jennifer. The room is vacant, and nothing appears amiss.
  • 4:57 am — Jennifer is brought to her cabin via wheelchair and laid on her bed.
  • 5:15 — Josh Askin, one of the four men who accompanied George that night, states that he is back in bed.
  • 7:00 am — Clete Hyman peers around the partition between the Smiths’ balcony and his own and sees the coffee table and chairs out of their normal position and several cigarette butts on the balcony.
  • 7:00 am — Passenger Emilie Rausch photographs a large bloodstain on the lifeboat canopy below her balcony. She describes it as a couple of feet in length with what appear to be handprints or footprints in it.
  • 8:30 am — The bloodstain on the canopy is reported to staff.
  • 9:30 am — Ship officials have determined that one of the Smiths is missing.
  • 10:00 am — Jennifer is located in the spa and informed by three uniformed officers that her husband is believed to have fallen overboard. Jennifer is wearing the same clothes that she’d worn the previous night.
  • 6:00 pm — The bloodstained canopy is cleaned by crew members.
  • 7:00 pm — The Brilliance of the Seas leaves the Turkish port. Jennifer Hagel-Smith remains behind.

July 7, 2005

  • The FBI takes over the investigation when the ship docks at Piraeus, Greece.

July 8, 2005

  • An 18-year-old female passenger notifies officials that she was raped by the same men whom George Smith was last seen in the company of. The incident, which supposedly progressed from an encounter between two of the men and the alleged victim in the Jacuzzi to a videotaped sexual encounter in a stateroom, is described as consensual by the accused men. The young woman vehemently denies the characterization. Royal Carribean officials say that the incident had already occurred by the time the ship docked in Greece on July 7, but had not yet been reported. No charges are filed.

July 9, 2005

  • The young men and their families are removed from the ship when it docks at Naples, Italy.

Albert Dayan, attorney for Rostislav “Rusty” Kofman, asserts that his client had not met the Smiths before the night of July 4. Kofman describes both George and Jennifer as “bombed” and recounts his observation of the couple’s behavior in the disco that night – Jennifer, flirtatious and cozy with the casino manager and an ugly confrontation between George and Jennifer, ending with Jennifer kicking her husband in the groin and “walking away with an attitude.” Statements from other passengers confirm the story and depict George remaining behind in the bar drinking absinthe shots with the four young men. According to Josh Askin’s attorney, George himself brought the bottle of absinthe aboard when the ship docked in Florence, Italy. Interestingly, the jaunt into Florence was the first occasion on which Askin and the Smiths became acquainted, when they shared cab rides to and from the city.

Of particular interest to me is that Kofman’s attorneys refer to their client as “the leading target” of the investigation. Does this mean that Kofman is believed to be the man who remained behind, talking and moving furniture around before passengers on the either side of the Smiths’ stateroom heard a “horrific thud”?

Josh Askin’s statement is somewhat in line with Kofman’s: Jennifer was cozy with a man he believes to be the casino manager. The man was openly flirting with Jennifer in George’s presence and had his arm around her in the elevator as the group moved from the casino to the disco. They were sitting on a couch together in the disco lounge, and Askin thought they had left together. However, during his interview with Turkish authorities, Askin described the Smiths as happy and denied that they were fighting that night. He also expressed concern for Jennifer, stating, “I’m not letting her go to jail,” and urging investigators to interrogate Lloyd, the casino manager. Josh made a couple of other interesting comments in the days that followed George’s disappearance. Upon hearing the ship’s page for the as yet unaccounted for couple, he told a ship statesman that “George had been drinking a lot the night before and they might need to send somebody to his cabin because he might not respond to the page due to the previous night’s activities.” He also commented to another passenger, “The room service is what saved us.” It seems to me that young Josh knows more than he’s willing to admit. Perhaps his parents do, too. They surreptitiously videotaped his interview with Turkish investigators and seemed to be trying to keep him on track and prevent him from saying too much. Of course, that’s just my observation.

What really happened after George left the disco with his benevolent entourage that early morning of July 5? Do records indicate that the men left the cabin briefly to search for Jennifer, as they’ve stated? He’s been described by the men as so intoxicated when leaving the disco that he was dropping his cigarette and needed the physical assistance of two young men to make it back to his stateroom. Do ship records coincide with the 4:20 am time stamp on the photograph of the room service feast? What happened to George in that cabin? It’s been reported that Turkish investigators found blood on a towel and in the bed. Josh Askin claims that he used Smith’s bathroom while his Russian friends put George to bed. What did the men argue about on the balcony and what was ultimately decided by the argument? Was George already dead and Kofman elected to dispose of the body while Josh and the Rosenberg brothers left George’s cabin to return to their own, order room service, and photograph it as a time-stamped alibi? I realize that I’ve provided more questions than answers, but they’ve formed in my mind a working theory that makes more sense than the young men’s purported version of events. Motive is, as yet, unclear, but let’s hope that the FBI knows more than we do. By all accounts, it’s still a very active investigation. George Smith’s family needs some form of resolution soon; by maritime law, the statute of limitations for their civil suit runs out one year from his disappearance.

A Holloway Sting

There has been a fascinating development in the Natalee Holloway case. Yesterday, John Q. Kelly filed suit against Joran van der Sloot and his father, Paulus, in a Manhattan court on behalf of Natalee’s parents, Beth Twitty and Dave Holloway. The defendants were served with summons when the emboldened pair arrived in New York for a television interview with an unnamed media organization. Greta van Susteren last night interviewed Kelly, who gave the impression of the cat who swallowed the canary. Withstanding much probing by Greta, Kelly guarded the details of how this feat was accomplished, but allowed that he got wind of the Van der Sloot’s impending visit through his own investigative resources. The when and where of their arrival was determined, and papers were quickly drawn up, filed in the appropriate jurisdiction, and served on the defendants aboard their conveying aircraft.

Van Susteren also interviewed by telephone Julia Renfro, Editor of Aruba Today. It’s my impression that Ms. Renfro has, from the beginning, demonstrated bias in support of the suspects, Joran van der Sloot and Deepak and Satish Kalpoe. Last night, it seemed she had to stifle her outrage as she sputtered through the phone that people will be shocked to learn of the tactics employed by the Holloway camp in achieving their coup. Renfro insinuated that Joran and his father were lured to the U.S. with the promise of proclaiming their truth by Larry Garrison, co-author of Dave Holloway’s book about his daughter’s disappearance and the corruption that hindered a proper investigation. She stated that Garrison was to collaborate with Joran and Paulus on a book of their own.

If there is any truth to Julia Renfro’s allegations, I’m thoroughly impressed. After months of frustrating observation of the floundering investigation by the inept (and possibly corrupt) Aruban authorities, it’s a heartening turn of events. It appears that Natalee’s family has assembled a network of shrewd, resourceful allies in their search for the truth. The successful execution of a masterful plan is a satisfying thing. I’m thrilled for them and pleased with the new potential avenue in the quest for answers.

Phooey!

Another valuable lesson learned this morning: When you write a new entry in Blogger, copy and save it to a Word document before clicking Publish Post. Otherwise, it might disappear into cyberspace if the server is having a problem.

Dang, dang, dang! I don’t think I can recreate it, and even if I could, it’s already dated. It was a lead-in to the Entwistle arraignment, which has now already happened.

Neil Entwistle appeared, straight and tall, beside his attorney and listened with furrowed brow as the prosecutor addressed the court. No bail was set. Afterward, court-appointed attorney, Elliot Weinstein, chastised the media for the biased publicity surrounding the investigation, refused to answer questions, and vowed to defend his client to the best of his ability. Rachel’s parents, Joseph and Priscilla Matterazzo, were in attendance and issued a statement through family spokesman, Joe Flaherty. Of note was a reference to their son-in-law’s double life. More to be heard there, no doubt.

Update: 6:35 pm, CST
It just occurred to me that I neglected to mention earlier that Neil Entwistle entered a plea of Not Guilty today. It comes as no surprise that he has no intention of fessing up and facing the music. His earlier voiced concern of sparing Rachel’s family and his own any additional distress was nothing more than lip service. It’s part of his schtick — an Eddie Haskell-ish rhetoric aimed at portraying the conscientious, selfless, responsible young man that his in-laws once believed him to be. His own agenda always comes first and remains the same that drove him on January 20 — self-preservation. Judging by some of the details put forth in recently released search warrant documents, the tapestry of his façade was rapidly unraveling.

  • Rachel’s parents told police they believed Neil “had some sort of secret government job in England” which he could not talk about.
  • According to Rachel’s parents, Rachel told them Neil would not answer questions about their finances, and this caused some conflict between Rachel and Neil.
  • According to Rachel’s parents, Rachel told them she tried to use one of Neil’s English credit cards, but the account had been frozen.
  • According to Rachel’s parents, Rachel told them their money was tied up in “offshore accounts” that Neil would not talk about.
  • Rachel’s parents gave police a make-shift business card they said Neil gave to them for “ENT Embedded New Technologies.” The business card was “a folded piece of paper held together by cellophane tape.” An internet search by police found the address for this company listed as Rachel’s parents’ home address.

I’m not aware that the 231 pages of court documents are available on-line, but several in the media have combed through them and provided a summary of interesting details.

CBS4Boston.com
Boston.com News

Some of the allegations are rather salacious, and many contend immaterial to the case. Others argue, and I agree, that they point to motive. Relevant or not, the resultant banter between a decidedly uneasy Nancy Grace and her reporting on-line expert, Clark Goldband, has been an entertaining aspect of her nightly coverage of the case.

Neil Entwistle: A Tangled Web


Click to enlarge the affidavit.

I realize I’m stating the obvious, but Neil Entwistle is a liar. The following is an excerpt from an affidavit released last week, detailing a portion of the district attorney’s case against him.

On January 23, 2006, police called Neil Entwistle at the home of his parents in Worksop, England. Entwistle told police that on January 20, 2006, at approximately 9:00 am, he had left his Hopkinton, Massachusetts, home to do an errand. He said his wife and daughter were in bed when he left. He said he returned at approximately 11:00 am and found his wife and daughter dead from gunshot wounds. He said he did not call for emergency assistance, but instead covered them up and got a knife to kill himself, but could not go through with it. He said he left the home in the family car and drove to his in-laws home in Carver, Massachusetts, to get a gun from his father in-law so he could kill himself. He said he could not get into the home so he drove to Logan airport because he wanted to go home to his parents in England.

In the above document, Sergeant Joseph Bennett, the attesting officer, contrasts Entwistle’s lies with the pertinent facts. Mr. Entwistle’s recounting of his actions upon finding his wife and infant daughter in bed with bullet wounds defies reason. Wouldn’t the normal response have been a frantic call to 911 and a desperate attempt to revive them? Instead, he comes up with this cockamamie tale of twice-failed suicide in an attempt to kill two birds with one stone –- to explain his presence at the Matterazzo home late that morning and to garner sympathy for himself. Neil purposes to disassociate himself and the murder weapon from the crime by declaring that he was unable to get into his in-laws’ home. In contradiction, the house keys were found in the car that he drove to the airport. The murder weapon, a .22 caliber handgun from Mr. Matterazzo’s collection, had been placed back inside the home. Neil Entwistle’s DNA was found on the grip, and Rachel’s on the muzzle.

What additional lies should we anticipate from Neil Entwistle? Are we to hear that Rachel knew of and was a partner in his fraudulent and failing Internet businesses? Will he say that he told her in early January about his venture into the enterprise of Internet porn because it was the right thing to do, and she was fine with it? (Those are some Peterson pearls, in case you didn’t recognize them.) Will he assert that Rachel was a willing participant in the suicide pact, but he was too cowardly to hold up his end of the bargain? There is probably an endless litany of fabrications running through Neil Entwistle’s mind. He doesn’t strike me as the sort of person who will own up to his misdeeds without first trying to wriggle out of accountability. These things are only incidental to Neil Entwistle’s character. There are more relevant questions to be asked.

Thus far, the district attorney seems willing to consider the tale of a murder/suicide gone awry. It remains to be seen if DA Coakley truly considers it a possibility or is merely giving it forbearance as a matter of strategy. The supposition appears to be dually based on Neil’s own declarations and on the fact that he surfed suicide websites before the murders. But Neil Entwistle is a liar. And what is to be learned by perusing suicide websites? How to kill quickly and effectively, of course. Who were the originally intended victims? Only Rachel and Lillian are dead. We know these things: By January 9th, Neil Entwistle was well aware that his eBay business was in shambles, and he had no present means to support his wife and child. Yet he went ahead and moved his family from the free accommodations of her parents’ house in Carver to a large rental home in Hopkinton at the cost of $2700 per month. Ten days later, Rachel and Lillian were shot dead with a handgun that Neil surreptitiously took from his father-in-law’s gun collection. Reportedly, Neil had previously fired that same weapon during an outing with Mr. Matterazzo. What was the pretense behind that male bonding session, and when did it occur? At what point did Neil purloin the firearm in question? These are the questions that I want honest answers to. I wonder if any are to be had.

3:48 Update
Now I’m aware that more documents have been released. I’ll have to read them later and find out if there are more questions than answers therein. That’s what I get for keeping this entry in draft for three days.

Entwistle Arrest

Formerly a person of interest in the murders of his wife, Rachel, and 9 month old daughter, Lillian, Neil Entwistle is now the prime suspect. Entwistle was arrested by British authorities in a London tube station at 11:50 (6:50 am ET) this morning. A sealed warrant had been issued late yesterday. Held at a London police station, he faces charges of two counts of murder, illegal possession of a firearm, and illegal possession of ammunition. Considering the charges, it seems likely that the murder weapon has been found. Massachusetts police have been examining the gun collection of Rachel Entwistle’s stepfather, running ballistics tests and searching for fingerprints and DNA evidence over the last couple of weeks. The Entwistles had been living in her parents’ Carver home until ten days before the murders. Jim Hammer of Fox News reports that the family car has been absent from his parents’ Worksop home since at least 7 am yesterday. Was Neil Entwistle attempting to flee? So far, there’ve been no reports of dyed hair or a goatee.

Boston Herald article

Update: 9:30 am CT

Moments ago, Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley held a press conference to update the public on the status of the investigation. Several new items of information were released.

  • Forensic evidence links a .22 caliber handgun from the collection of Rachel’s stepfather, Joseph Matterazzo, to both Rachel and Neil. It is known that Rachel had not previously handled the gun. It wasn’t specified whether that evidence is in the form of fingerprints, DNA, or both.
  • Police believe that the shootings occurred Friday morning.
  • It is believed that the gun was returned to the Matterazzo home late Friday morning or early Friday afternoon while Rachel’s parents were out of the house.
  • At 5 am Saturday morning, Neil Entwistle was at Logan International Airport attempting to raise funds to purchase a ticket to London. He was ultimately able to do so using a credit card.
  • Police believe that a murder/suicide may have been the original intent. Neil Entwistle had substantial debt in England, no assets, and no means to support his family.
  • At the time of the shootings, Rachel and Lillian were dressed in clothing that could be worn as sleepwear.
  • Police do not believe that Neil was attempting to flee authorities, but simply to avoid the media. He was arrested without incident at a west London subway station.
  • A hearing will be held later today or tomorrow in England. It could take days, weeks, or months for Entwistle to be extradited to the United States.
I have updated the Timeline accordingly.

I’m going to withhold comment on the murder/suicide supposition for now, except to say that Neil Entwistle is a coward, and my sympathy is for the victims and their family.

One more thing…Steve Huff has received some interesting correspondence regarding the case. Don’t miss it.

Entwistle Double Murder

I’m following the Massachusetts investigation into the murders of Rachel Entwistle and her 9 month old daughter, Lillian. As I know many other people are also interested in it, I’d like to share this Entwistle Murder Timeline [click for detailed timeline]. Please add your observations, analysis, speculation and new developments in the comment section.

Click to enlarge this chronology.

This entry is a work in progress. Let me know if you notice any errors or omissions. I guess I’m not so good at being on hiatus.

On Hiatus

I’ll be around from time to time, but there won’t be any new entries for a little while. Sorry to disappoint. I’ve re-opened the comment threads. Make yourself at home.

Peterson Case: One Trip or Two?

The prosecution presented at trial that Scott Peterson, having murdered Laci and Conner sometime between 8:30 pm on December 23rd and 10:08 am on the 24th, wrapped her body in a blue tarp, loaded it in the bed of his pickup, where he concealed or camouflaged it with similarly wrapped market umbrellas, and drove to his warehouse. There he placed her body in his boat, attached homemade concrete anchors to it, drove to the Berkeley Marina where he launched at approximately 1 pm, and submerged her remains in the shallow water between the Berkeley Marina and Brooks Island. Adherents to the more provocative and intriguing “Two-Trip Theory” greet this argument with disappointment and skepticism. They scoff at the notion that Peterson would transport Laci’s body (with no more than a boat cover to conceal it) 90 miles, on a busy travel day and in broad daylight to dispose of in shallow water. For those unfamiliar with the “Two-Trip Theory”, allow me to present it.

First, some pertinent details:

  • Scott’s boat was equipped with auxiliary wheels that allowed the user to remove the boat from the trailer, trundle it down to the water and launch it without proper facilities.
  • On January 9th, the MPD received a tip that a truck driver named David, traveling westbound on highway 580 at approximately 3 am on December 24th, had seen a vehicle and boat matching the description of Scott’s pickup and boat. David observed a large bundle wrapped in a blue Mexican-motif blanket in the back of the boat.
  • Prior to trial, there was an unconfirmed report that one of the Medina burglars would testify to seeing Scott engaged in suspicious activity in his driveway –possibly loading something in his pickup – at 2:30 am on December 24th.
  • Computer records indicate that while researching the tides and currents in the central bay, Scott zoomed in on an area that included the channel between Richmond and Brooks Island.
  • Scott entered the dates December 23rd and 24th on the two-day fishing license that he purchased on December 20th.
  • On the evening of December 23rd, Scott told Laci’s sister, Amy Rocha, that he planned to play golf the following day and would be able to pick up a fruit basket at Vella Farms between 1 and 3 pm for her because he would be in that area of town.
  • In mid-March, side-scan sonar expert, Gene Ralston, located an object in the channel off Point Richmond that appeared to be the size and shape of a human body. Because of poor weather and water conditions, divers were unable to recover the object.* An ROV was sent down to get a better look. The object appeared to be a human body, covered in crabs, lying prone in the middle of the channel with noodle-like streamers of material floating up from the lower portion. Ralston first assumed that it was kelp or some other vegetative matter, but upon learning the condition of Laci’s body when it washed ashore, he became convinced that the noodle-like material was the shredded remnants of her maternity pants.

Mr. Ralston’s find is the most compelling potential evidence in support of a two-trip theory. Why, you ask? Because that location is nearly 5 miles from the Berkeley Marina. There’s no way that Scott could have motored out to the Richmond channel from the Berkeley Marina, dumped the body, returned to the marina and re-trailered his boat in the 78 minutes (or less) that he was boating on the bay that Tuesday afternoon. Simply put, Scott’s “fishing trip” will not accommodate Ralston’s sighting. If you believe that the object in the channel was indeed Laci’s body, then you must conclude that he made an earlier trip in the dark of night to launch near Point Richmond (possibly using the auxiliary wheels) and submerge Laci’s remains in the 40 ft. depths of the ship channel. Proponents of the two-trip theory offer two explanations for Scott’s return to the bay that afternoon. One account is that he needed to be able to explain why there was saltwater on his boat. The prior owner had used it only in freshwater lakes. The other is that he grew anxious about his success and returned to check up on his work. They also cite Scott’s golf plans as the originally intended alibi. Scott wanted people to assume that Laci had been abducted during her walk with McKenzie while her husband played golf at the Del Rio Country Club. Meanwhile, he had already gotten rid of her the night before. For whatever reason, Scott abandoned his golf plans, neglected to pick up the fruit basket, and claimed that he’d chosen to go sturgeon fishing instead.

*By the time conditions at the bay improved, the object was gone and repeated efforts to locate it were unsuccessful.

Click on the graphic below for a satellite image of the recovery area. The overlay demonstrates where Dr. Cheng’s model indicated the body would have been deposited. (An orange marker represents the nearby private mooring buoy mentioned in a previous entry.) Laci’s body (green marker) washed ashore on Point Isabel and Conner’s (blue marker)in a marshy area near Richmond. The channel wherein Gene Ralston made the sonar sighting is labeled as Richmond Channel and lies just to the north of Brooks Island, extending WNW around Point Richmond.

Click image to enlarge

I was once a subscriber to the two-trip theory. The similarities between Mr. Ralston’s description of the body he found and the actual condition of Laci’s remains when she washed ashore were quite convincing. However, as the evidence was revealed, I began to question the notion that Scott placed Laci’s body in the Richmond channel.

  • Confronted with the allegation that a neighbor saw him loading a large object into the back of his pickup on the 24th, Scott admitted to Diane Sawyer and to Ted Rowlands that he loaded umbrellas, wrapped in a blue tarp, in the back of his pickup and specifically stated that he did so “that morning.” The umbrellas were a cover for the large, bulky package that contained Laci’s body. If he had taken Laci’s body to the bay during the night, there would have been no need to load the umbrellas the following morning.
  • On several occasions, Scott drove to the bay to observe the search that took place between the Berkeley Marina and Brooks Island. (Several of those observation points are represented by red dated markers in the above image. He also observed the search from the Berkeley Marina on January 5 and 6, but there were no tracking devices on his vehicles on those occasions.) There is no indication that he showed the slightest interest in any searches between Brooks Island and Point Richmond, where Ralston sighted an object that he believed to be Laci’s remains. If Scott had placed Laci’s body in the ship channel off Point Richmond, he would have shown more interest in searches there. Any searches to the south of Brooks Island would have been of little to no interest to him.
  • Scott was very nervous when the sonar searchers found what they believed to be a body off the Old Berkeley Pier. He drove a rented car to the bay that day to observe undetected. He was extremely relieved, a few days later, when he learned via a voice-mail from Sharon Rocha that it was an old anchor instead, prompting the infamous whistle of relief. If Scott had placed Laci in the Richmond channel, a sonar find near the Old Berkeley Pier wouldn’t have caused him the least bit of concern. After this embarrassing incident, he thought he was free and clear for a little while. He was convinced that the investigators were imbeciles and that they’d never find Laci, and he immediately made phone calls to his father and friends to ridicule their search efforts.
  • Trimble detected Laci’s scent at the Berkeley Marina, following it from a point in the parking lot down to a pylon on the pier where Scott most likely would have tied his boat while moving his pickup from the ramp to the parking area and vice versa. This one’s a little tricky. I’m of the opinion that Laci was already in Scott’s boat before he left his warehouse. Therefore Laci’s scent had to have been transferred to that pier by Scott. However, I also believe that he had to have had very recent contact with Laci in order to leave enough of her scent for the dog to track several days later. In other words, he left her scent there immediately after having handled her body, not after having dumped it the night before (launching his boat near Point Richmond rather than at the Berkeley Marina), returning to Modesto, and making a return trip to the bay to check on his work or “put the boat in the water.”
  • Very early in the search, a blue tarp was found in the water off the shore of Cesar Chavez State Park. Cadaver dogs alerted on it and showed a lot of interest in it, even after it was stowed in one of the boat’s onboard compartments. Cesar Chavez Park is just north of the Berkeley Marina and southeast of Brooks Island. If Scott launched from Point Richmond and disposed of Laci’s body in the ship channel, north of Brooks Island, there is little to no chance that tarp would have made its way to Cesar Chavez Park. It is much more likely that the tarp became separated from Laci’s body where it was dumped, south of Brooks Island, just as the prosecution presented at trial.
  • There is no positive evidence indicating that Scott drove to the San Francisco Bay during the night of December 23/24 – no witness sightings, no gas purchases, no cell phone records. There is no evidence that Scott was absent from his home from the time that he and Laci returned home with the pizza that evening until he left for his warehouse at approximately 10:08 the following morning.
  • No clean-up of the warehouse, boat or pickup was done on the 24th. If he had already taken Laci to the bay during the night, why didn’t he use the time spent in his shop that morning to clean up rather than allegedly assembling a mortiser? In my opinion, he spent that time preparing Laci’s body for disposal – loading her in the boat, attaching the anchors, and concealing her for the trip to the bay in addition to emailing his boss in an attempt to establish an alibi. If he had had time to clean up that concrete mess (not to mention the boat), he surely would have done so.
  • At 8:40 am, before leaving home on the morning of December 24th, Scott checked the weather in the Bay area on the computer. He also checked his slpete1@msn.com e-mail and viewed two items in Yahoo shopping – a fleece scarf and a sunflower motif umbrella stand. If Scott had already disposed of Laci’s body and he planned to play golf in Modesto, why would he care what the weather was like in the bay area?

Absent Gene Ralston’s sonar find and in light of the evidence at hand, I’m left to conclude that the prosecution presented the correct scenario and Scott Peterson made only one trip to the San Francisco Bay on Christmas Eve, launching his boat at the Berkeley Marina and submerging Laci’s body in the relatively shallow waters south of Brooks Island.

Happy Groundhog Day!

Has the mild winter thrown Punxsutawney Phil for a loop? He saw his shadow and returned to his burrow for six more weeks of winter weather. The Canadian groundhogs (three of ’em) disagree. I hope they’re right, but dang…I hate losing face to the Canadians. Maybe we need a Schenectady Sam and an Owensboro Ollie.

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