In one of the last recorded telephone calls between Scott Peterson and his mistress, she confronted him about the disappearance of his wife, and he confessed he had been lying about his marital status and whereabouts.
“The media has been telling everyone that I had something to do with her disappearance,” Peterson told Amber Frey in the Jan. 6, 2003, call. “So the past two weeks I’ve been hunted by the media. ... I know that I am, you know, I’m destroyed.”
Later in the conversation, Frey said, “So, you know, you and I...”
“Are destroyed,” Peterson said.
Prosecutors in Peterson’s double murder trial resumed Thursday playing tapes of phone calls between Peterson and Frey that were recorded as authorities searched for Laci Peterson in late December 2002 and early January 2003.
The audiotapes are an effort by authorities to show jurors that Peterson’s motive to kill his wife and their unborn child was to be with Frey.
Frey, a massage therapist who has become the government’s star witness, did not take the stand Thursday and sat in the courtroom audience only briefly. In earlier testimony, she told jurors she called police after discovering her lover was not only married, but suspected in the disappearance of his pregnant wife.
300-plus calls recorded
At the request of police, she began recording her calls with Peterson with a device bought for her by the Modesto Police Department. Ultimately, more than 300 calls between Peterson and Frey were recorded.
In a Jan. 6 call heard by jurors Thursday, Peterson, who had pretended for weeks to be calling Frey from Europe, confessed to her that he had been lying.
“I am so sorry I’m going to hurt you in this way. I don’t want to do this over the phone,” Peterson said. “I want to tell you this, I want to be there in person to tell you this.
“During the last couple of weeks I have lied to you that I’ve been traveling.” Instead, Peterson said he had spent the past weeks helping authorities search for his wife.
“You’ve been calling ... having conversations with me when all this is happening?” Frey asked.
“Yeah,” Peterson said, and Frey responded, “Really? Isn’t that a little twisted, Scott?”
He answered, “It is.”
Peterson explained when he woke in the morning, he felt hopeful about finding Laci, but late at night, “I begin to lose faith.” He said talking to Frey cheered him up.
In a call later that day, Frey asks Peterson why she shouldn’t be afraid of him. He responded, “I am not an evil person. ... I would never hurt anyone.”
On one of the tapes heard Thursday, Peterson stammered, apologized and repeatedly changed the subject as Frey barraged him with questions about his marriage and his unborn child. She asked him repeatedly if the baby was his and said his refusal to answer led her to believe it was not.
‘What if she's found dead?’
Peterson told Frey, “Our hope, and it’s a sad hope, is that ... well, I mean we need a tip. That’s why we have such a big reward. We just hope that someone is holding her for her child and that we can, you know, get her back with a tip.”
Frey asked Peterson, “What if she’s found dead?” He responded, “My God, don’t say that.” Frey persisted, and Peterson said, “All our questions are answered and then we can find the bastards that did it.”
Frey asked Peterson why she shouldn’t be afraid of him. He responded, “I am not an evil person. ... I would never hurt anyone.”
Frey testified briefly Wednesday after some of the tapes were played. Prosecutor Dave Harris, in his final words to her, asked if police, beginning Jan. 6, 2003, took her “under their protection.” She said “Yes.”
Could tape strategy backfire?
Jim Hammer, a former San Francisco prosecutor and trial observer, warned that playing too much of the tapes could backfire because at least one juror could be seen rolling his eyes at the hours of recorded calls.
“It may look like the prosecution is smearing someone because they don’t have a case,” Hammer said.
Judge Alfred A. Delucchi told jurors before court ended for the week that more of the recorded calls would be presented Monday and Tuesday. Frey would take the stand again Wednesday to answer questions.
Prosecutors allege Peterson killed his wife in their Modesto home on or around Dec. 24, 2002, then drove to the bay and dumped her weighted body from a small boat he had purchased just weeks earlier. The badly decomposed remains of Laci Peterson and the couple’s fetus washed ashore in April 2003, not far from where Peterson said he launched a solo fishing trip the day she vanished.