Now that Scott Peterson has been convicted of murdering his pregnant wife and her fetus, some people in this city where he was tried are feeling a void: emotional in some cases, financial in others.
Some residents who regularly attended the trial say the conclusion of the real-life soap opera drama leaves an emptiness in their lives.
Linda Torgeson didn’t know anyone directly involved in the case but attended just about every day of the trial.
“I am going to miss it,” the 54-year-old teacher said.
The announcement early last year that Peterson’s trial would be moved to Redwood City, a sleepy bedroom community just south of San Francisco, brought a touch of excitement to tourism officials.
“We’re ecstatic,” Anne LeClair, president of the San Mateo County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said at the time. “The economic impact is tremendous.”
The trial was moved because a judge found the attention given the case meant Peterson couldn’t get a fair trial in his hometown of Modesto, about 90 miles east, and LeClair predicted the media crowds expected to flood this town of about 75,000 would bring an economic windfall of $8 million to $16 million.
But 10 months later, that windfall appears to have been a whimper, with Redwood City spokesman Malcolm Smith saying the effect on local businesses was “negligible.”
A steady number of reporters did stay for months covering the trial, but the expected crowds came only at key times, such as the days when Peterson’s lover, Amber Frey, took the witness stand.
The cost to the county for the trial could top $1 million, although much of that is expected to be billed to Stanislaus County, where the case originated, according to court officials.
Media organizations have put some money into local coffers. The California Broadcasters Association paid the county $60,000 for use of a listening room near the courthouse where the trial was broadcast over an audio feed, said Peter Shaplen, hired by the television networks to coordinate the media. Television stations paid Redwood City $550 a month for parking. More than $13,750 was paid in November alone, Shaplen said.
Friday’s conviction doesn’t mean that the county’s link to Peterson is over. He will remain in the county jail until jurors arrive at a sentence — life in prison or the death penalty — for first-degree murder in the death of his wife and one count of second-degree murder for the killing of their fetus. She was eight months pregnant.
A sentencing hearing, expected to take a week, begins Nov. 22.