Search for missing pregnant woman turns to computers, cars
MODESTO, Calif. — Investigators looking for a missing pregnant woman combed through her computers and vehicles for clues Friday, while a newly opened volunteer center dispatched search teams armed with fliers, determination and hope.
“All avenues of the investigation are going to be of interest,” said Det. Doug Ridenour, a spokesman for the Modesto Police Department, which is leading the search for Laci Rocha Peterson.
Peterson, 27, was last seen walking her dog in a neighborhood park about 10 a.m. Christmas Eve, and was later reported missing by her husband, Scott, after he returned home from a fishing trip. Peterson is eight months pregnant.
Ridenour said investigators were looking for clues in two computers and two vehicles — a pickup truck and a sport utility vehicle — seized during a search of the couple’s home Thursday night.
Detectives also planned to check Scott Peterson’s story that he was fishing in Berkeley when his wife disappeared, Ridenour said.
“At this point, he is not a suspect,” Ridenour said.
Dozens of local residents showed up Friday at a volunteer center at a Modesto hotel, according to Kim Petersen, executive director of the Carole Sund-Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation, which was helping with the search effort.
“They just kind of keep flowing in all day,” Petersen said.
Volunteers produced thousands of fliers, and were heading out in teams to distribute the handbills and search for the missing woman, Petersen said.
Authorities have asked area residents to search rural areas, especially orchards, for any hint of Peterson’s whereabouts.
“At this point we’re not excluding anything,” Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden said Friday on ‘Good Morning America,’ adding that the park where Peterson was last seen had been searched three times.
The missing woman’s family also pleaded for her return on national television.
“Whoever has her could have some compassion,” said Brent Rocha, Peterson’s brother. “She’s a human being. She’s pregnant. She needs to take care of her baby. She’s wife, a daughter, a sister, please return her.”
Rewards totaling $125,000 have been offered for information leading to Peterson’s safe return, police said. The total includes $100,000 offered by the missing woman’s friends and family and $25,000 offered by an anonymous donor through the Sund-Carrington foundation.
Police said that Scott Peterson told detectives he tried to call his wife after fishing Tuesday, but was unable to reach her. When he returned home and found his wife missing, Scott Peterson called police shortly before 6 p.m., authorities said.
Officials used dogs, horses, helicopters and rafts in a massive Christmas Day search, but failed to find Peterson. A neighbor found Peterson’s golden retriever, with its lease still attached, on Christmas Eve before her husband returned.