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Dateline NBC
updated 1/4/2005 5:52:26 PM ET 2005-01-04T22:52:26

Amber Frey recounts the night she called the Modesto Police Department and learned that Scott Peterson, the man she thought of as her boyfriend and single, was really married and that his wife, Laci, was eight months pregnant, that she was missing, and that Scott was a suspect.

Frey: "I felt like I was going 100 miles per hour, just talking to this woman. And you know, she's taking my statement down, writing it... I think I lost a moment of life. Because all I remember is shaking. I was just shaking. And I couldn't speak."

She was at a party, with a small group of friends.

Lauer: "Did you tell them what happened, the people in the room?"

Frey: "I was able to get a few words out that Scott Peterson was the Scott Peterson that had a missing, pregnant wife. And I just shook. They said I was there probably like an hour. And it just seemed like a moment. And I couldn't stop shaking. So, I was I guess, in shock."

Lauer: "Did you want to pick up the phone and call Scott right back at that point?"

Frey: "No, I was scared. I was scared. And I was thankful I was not home at that time. That I was around my friends. And I felt safe there. Because he didn't know where I was at."

Scott had told Amber he was traveling. He'd even called her, claiming to be in Maine, then New York, on his way to Paris. In fact, he was just 100 miles up the road, in Modesto, at the center of a police investigation.

Frey: "It's horrifying. It was just horrifying news. I had just talked to him earlier that day. And he's carrying on about, you know, on his way to Europe or to Paris for the New Year with his friend."

Lauer: "And so many of the things he had said must now start swirling in your mind. I've lost my wife."

Frey: "Uh-huh."

Lauer: "Modesto phone number. I mean—"

Frey: "I didn't sleep. I cried, I think, 'till that morning. I may be have-- maybe if I was lucky, had an hour's sleep. It just, so many things were crossing my mind, things he said.  I was just so scared, it was unbelievable. And I just, I remember saying that over and over. Unbelievable."

Lauer: "Why me?"

Frey: "That came to mind probably within that week. And as crazy as it sounds, I was thankful that that was me, for Laci. Because if that wasn't me, then there wouldn't be a way to find her."

Amber was beginning to realize she might be the key to investigating Scott Peterson. Remember, at this point, December 29, there were suspicions about Scott but no concrete reason not to believe his story that Laci disappeared near their home, while he was away on a fishing trip. No one knew about Amber Frey, least of all Laci's family, who continued to make very public expressions of their trust in Scott and his love for Laci.

Frey: "I would see the family and the friends, and talk about their support for Scott. And I'd just get so frustrated. Because they didn't know the truth. And I just felt, you know, every day I say I'm here and I know nobody knows about me. But I'm here. I was so angry that Scott was being supported by these people that loved him so much, and talked about this perfect marriage that they had, knowing that there was me, and the information, and what I knew, and what he was telling me."

Amber now knew that Scott Peterson had spun an elaborate web of lies for her as he must have also done for his wife, family, and friends. At first Amber was grief stricken, in shock. But soon she came to feel she had a mission to expose the truth about Scott Peterson's secret life and maybe, in the process, help find out what happened to Laci.

Frey: "I was thankful there was me. Because if there wasn't me, then people wouldn't see, I guess the real Scott, the Scott that nobody knew about."

On December 30, Modesto police detectives came to her home in Fresno. They collected evidence of her romance with Scott, photos, wine corks and even condom wrappers. 

Lauer: "The police said to you at one point, we've been praying for someone like someone like you to come forward."

Frey: "Yes."

At this point Amber hoped Laci was still alive. She didn't know whether Scott was involved in the disappearance. And Amber certainly had no idea that by getting involved, she was stepping into a media whirlwind.

Lauer: "Did you stop and think my life will never be the same?"

Frey: "I think my main focus really was that there was a missing, pregnant woman. That nobody knew where she was at.

At that first meeting, police asked Amber to take a huge, and potentially dangerous step.

Frey: "It was very casual how they brought it up. You know, basically, how would you feel about taping your conversations? And I thought, well if you know, it will help, you know okay."

She couldn't know, then, but those tapes would one day make up the core of the murder case against Scott Peterson.

Frey: "Anticipating that next call, you know, my stomach was turning. I was shaking. My hands were just sweaty. And when that phone rang and it was him, you know, I just had to, you know, get rid of the shakes and—"

Lauer: "You had to become an actress."

Frey: "If that's what one would say, yes."

At first it seemed so casual. The cops took Amber to radio shack and bought a microphone that attached to her cell phone. They gave her a cassette recorder and some tapes. They were hoping she'd catch Scott in his own web of lies. And it didn't take long. One of the most damning calls was also one of the first-- New Year's Eve, with Scott pretending he was in Paris.

Scott: Amber, it's New Year's here. Are you there?
Amber: Yeah. Are you having a good time?
Scott: I'm near the Eiffel Tower. The New Year's celebration is unreal. The crowd is huge.
Amber: The crowd's huge?

There was a huge crowd in Modesto. That very night, Scott attended a candlelight vigil for his missing, pregnant wife. 

Lauer: "You were listening to him say things like, I'm at the Eiffel Tower. The celebration's unreal. By this time you knew there was a vigil that night for Laci Peterson. Are you thinking, I'm dealing with a sociopath here."

Frey: "I was very much afraid."

Lauer: "For your own safety?"

Frey: "I still at that point had not been home. I was afraid to go home."

The next day, New Year's Day, Scott calls Amber again, curiously light-hearted for a man whose wife was missing and feared dead. Remember, he doesn't know that Amber is on to him:

Scott: Do you know what time it is here?
Amber: Um, well--
Scott: 7 o'clock. I am determined to go out and jog.
Amber: Really?
Scott: I am going to fight pudge boy.
Amber: So what have you been eating to make you pudgy?
Scott: Oh, all this French food. And all this wine. And last night-- well, this morning, too--there is this fucking dog next to this hotel.
Amber: This what?
Scott: This dog that just keeps barking.
Amber: Really?
Scott: I want to kill it.

Lauer: "He talks about there's this blanking dog barking next to the hotel. He says, I'm going to kill it, that dog. Basically, you have to assume that was Laci and Scott's dog barking there in the background, the dog that she was last seen walking. What do you-- you know, how do you go to sleep after a phone conversation like that?"

Frey: "You don't."

Adding to the tension, Scott seemed to quiz her occasionally, as if trying to figure out if she'd heard about Laci's disappearance.

Frey: "I realized, he's testing me. He's kind of fishing to see if I'm watching the news. Because certain things were in the paper that day. And of course, even if I had, I wasn't going to let on at all that I even watched TV."

He may have been testing her, but he was also, in his mind, still wooing her. Imagine knowing what Amber knew, and hearing this:

Scott: In my mind, we could be wonderful together, and I could--I could care for you in any and every way.

She'd known for a week now that Scott was married and a suspect. But she played along with the fiction that they stillhad a relationship. Not for Scott's benefit or hers, but for the police.

Lauer: "Amber were you thinking, I hope he's not involved. I wish he hadn't lied to me about being  married. But I hope he's not involved with her disappearance because you still have feelings for him."

Frey: "At that point?"

Lauer: "Yeah."

Frey: "How can you have feelings for somebody when the relationship was based on all lies?"

By January 6, the story of Laci's disappearance had gotten so huge that Scott became convinced Amber would soon learn about it. Amber so wanted to hear the whole truth from Scott. This was the first call in which he told her even part of the truth:

Scott: The girl I’m married to, her name is Laci.
Amber: Mm-hmm.
Scott: she disappeared just before Christmas.
Amber: Mm-hmm.
Scott: For the past two weeks I’ve been in Modesto with her family and mine searching for her.
Amber: Okay.
Scott: The media has been telling everyone that I had something to do with her disappearance. And god, I hope... I hope so much that this doesn't hurt you.

Lauer: "’And I hope this doesn't hurt you.’ What were you thinking when you were hearing him say that?"

Frey: "I just, you know, it's hard to even put words on what-- he just came across so casual about, well, I hope this doesn't, you know, hurt you. Yeah, I'm hurt. Yeah, I was hurt."

Hurt and angry. You can hear it in that January 6 phone call, which went on for an hour and a half.

Amber: You've been having conversations from me when all this was happening?
Scott: Yeah.
Amber: Really. Isn't that a little-- isn't that a little twisted, Scott?
Scott: It is.

Amber called Scott on lie after lie after lie. In part she was doing it for the police. In part, for herself.

Scott: I never cheated on you.
Amber: [laughs]
S
cott: I never did.
Amber: You're married. How do you figure you never cheated on me?

Frey: "It’s just so absurd the things that would come out of his mouth. It was--no words to put-- just absurd."

Amber: Was Laci aware of the situation about me?
Scott: Yes.
Amber: She was?
Scott: Yeah.
Amber: Really? How did she respond to it?
Scott: Fine.
Amber: Fine?
Scott: Yeah.
Amber: An 8-month woman, fine, about another woman?
Scott: You don't know all the facts. Amber, you don't know all the facts.

Lauer: "What do you think he was saying to you? That they were estranged or that it was some kind of an open marriage, an open relationship?"

Frey: "It was just his-- Scott Peterson was a pathological liar to me. Nothing he said was the truth. You know, what can you believe that came out of his mouth. It was just all lies."

Lauer: "At this point is there any doubt left in your mind that Laci is not coming back and that Scott had something to do with her disappearance?"

Frey: "I think even then I still had hope."

Lauer: "Hope that Laci was coming back. But did you still have hope that Scott had nothing to do with her disappearance?"

Frey: "Like I said, I felt very little innocence in his behavior and what he had to say."

Scott: Amber, are you asking if I had something to do with this?
Amber: You never told me you haven't.
Scott: Yes, I have. I had nothing to do with this. You know that.
Amber: How am i supposed to know that when I didn't even know you were currently married, you have a child on the way, how was i supposed to know?
Scott: The only way you can know that is just by knowing.

Lauer: "At some point, Amber, I heard that the police pretty much said, enough, we've got enough on tape, but that you wanted to keep taping some of these conversations. Is that true?"

Frey: "They felt that they had enough. And I felt that there was only me. There was only one me. And I was going to do whatever I needed to, you know, help find Laci."

Until now, Amber's anguish was private. Despite all the media swarming the Peterson case, Amber's very existence was known to just a few people. But that was about to change suddenly and completely.

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