CBSN

Missing Woman's Husband Is Absent

Ray Pimentel says a prayer for Laci Peterson outside the house she shared with her husband Scott in Modesto, Calif., on Thursday, April 17, 2003.
AP
As residents of Modesto in northern California await results of forensic tests to determine whether two bodies that washed ashore earlier this week are those of a missing woman and her son, they also are asking where the woman's husband is, and why he hasn't commented on the latest development.

"Where is he, why hasn't he coming forward, why isn't he saying anything. Is he concerned?" asked Modesto resident Pat Olivas.

The county prosecutor in Modesto says he feels "pretty strongly" that the body of a woman that washed up on shore this week is the missing Laci Peterson.

"If I were a betting man, I'd put money on it," Stanislaus County District Attorney James Brazelton told the Modesto Bee in a story published Thursday.

A state crime lab is working to determine whether two bodies found on the shores of the San Francisco Bay were Peterson and the baby she was carrying when she vanished Dec. 24. She was eight months pregnant at the time.

"I feel pretty strongly it is (Peterson)," said Brazelton, whose jurisdiction includes Modesto. "It's too much of a coincidence to have a female and a baby found close to each other a day apart and no others were reported missing."

While the community anticipates that the bodies will be identified as Laci and the baby, her husband Scott is nowhere in sight. Neighbors haven't seen him in weeks. Sources close to the investigation tell CBS affiliate KOVR that Scott is not in the Modesto area, and hasn't been for days.

He sometimes visits relatives in southern California.

State Department of Justice spokesman Nathan Barankin told the Bee that lab technicians had determined that samples from the infant's body, found Sunday, contained enough intact DNA to be used for testing.

"We've determined that we can yield a usable DNA profile from the fetus sample," Barankin said. "We're doing a little more work on the adult sample to finally determine whether we will be able to get a usable DNA profile."

As of late Thursday, investigators had been unable to ascertain whether enough DNA could be extracted from the woman's body, found Monday.

Earlier, lab supervisor John Tonkyn had said, "We don't have another person in mind" other than Peterson.

When asked why dental records weren't being used, Tonkyn said the lab wasn't provided with teeth. Published reports have said the woman's body was headless. The full-term baby still had an umbilical cord attached.

The 27-year-old substitute teacher vanished on Christmas Eve from her home in Modesto, 90 miles southeast of Richmond. She was eight months pregnant. Her husband, Scott Peterson, said he saw her as he left to go fishing that morning in Berkeley, not far from where the bodies were found.

The in-laws of Scott Peterson, 30, a fertilizer salesman, stood by him early in the investigation, but a rift developed after he acknowledged having an affair with a Fresno woman.

Scott Peterson has not been named as a suspect in his wife's disappearance, but police have seized his boat, truck and nearly 100 items from his house.

His father, Lee Peterson, said Tuesday at his house north of San Diego that he didn't know where his son was.

"What if Scott were here?" he said. "Is that a big deal?"

The property manager of the building where Scott Peterson rented an office, who identified himself only as Mark, said Peterson moved out earlier this year and is trying to find someone to take over the lease.

If the woman's body is not identified as Peterson's, the lab will begin comparing the samples with likely matches in a database of 100 DNA samples of other missing people or their relatives. The state has more than 25,000 active missing person cases.

Police will also resume its search for Laci Peterson.