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Detective reveals techniques used to catch Peterson

MODESTO - A detective who spent Christmas Eve questioning Scott Peterson and the next four months trying to find his missing wife testified Wednesday about how officers enlisted Peterson's friends, neighbours and mistress in the effort to snare him.

Detective Al Brocchini said he called friends of Scott and Laci Peterson to point out news articles about his extramarital affair and a $250,000 insurance policy Peterson took out on his wife.

The officer said he tried to get friends to prod Scott Peterson for details about what happened to his wife, who reportedly vanished Dec. 24 while he was fishing. The remains of the 27-year-old substitute teacher and her unborn son washed ashore in San Francisco Bay in April only a few miles from where Peterson said he was angling.

At one point, Brocchini made a note that he "was attempting to plant the seeds of suspicion" in a friend of Laci Peterson.

The testimony came as the defense continued cross-examining Brocchini, the first detective to investigate the disappearance of the pregnant woman. The defense has claimed investigators focused suspicion on Peterson and failed to catch the "real killers."

Defense lawyer Mark Geragos also renewed his claim Wednesday that investigators neglected to notify him of surveillance tapes taken outside Peterson's home. He called the failure "a problem of monumental proportions" and said it could lead to a request to dismiss the case.

Brocchini said he took part in discussions with other officers about themes that girlfriend Amber Frey should discuss when talking with Peterson during phone calls she was secretly recording.

He said he didn't recall coaxing her to suggest to Peterson that there had been an accident and he panicked, but he vaguely recalled officers telling her to pretend she was a suspect in the disappearance so that Peterson would feel sorry for her and take the rap, Brocchini said.

Brocchini said he was more concerned with her spilling the news that she was cooperating with police. He encouraged her to let Peterson talk.

"Laci was missing and he wasn't talking about Laci, he was talking about himself and where he was in Europe," Brocchini said about a phone call that came in when officers were at Frey's house in Fresno.

Defense lawyer Kirk McAllister asked Brocchini if he was trying to alienate Peterson from friends and show that he had a double motive when the officer phoned a friend of the couple to alert him to an article in The Modesto Bee about Frey and the insurance policy. Brocchini only said he wasn't trying to distance Peterson from his friends.

Brocchini said that police installed a camera on a pole across from Peterson's house to keep an eye on his comings and goings. If Peterson left the house and he was under surveillance, officers would be alerted and could tail him from a distance.

But Brocchini said he didn't know tapes had been made until last week.

"Well, I heard it now," he said after Geragos requested the tapes based on a scant mention in 27,500 pages of police reports.

Geragos said there was a "rogue element here that's out there taping things" that other detectives didn't even know about. But prosecutor Rick Distaso denied there was any deceit and said the tapes were being turned over to the defense.

Brocchini said a surveillance officer told him Friday that occasionally they were bored and pushed the record button.

Geragos said the camera could have played an important role if it captured a burglary at the Peterson house between Jan. 16-19, but he refused to elaborate. A women who had played a role in the search for Laci Peterson was later arrested in the break-in.

Also on Wednesday, an FBI scientist defended the forensic evidence that linked Laci Peterson to a hair found in the boat her husband said he took fishing the day she disappeared.

FBI scientist Bruce Budowle was called by prosecutors to rebut testimony from a defense expert who had criticized the DNA techniques used by FBI lab workers to analyze the hair, found in pliers in Scott Peterson's boat.

Budowle said the DNA sample wasn't contaminated, as the defense has suggested, and said the defense misrepresented the way the FBI went about its analysis.

He also defended the database the FBI used to determine the probability that the hair could have come from someone else.

"The ideal size database would be the entire world population," Budowle said. "If we had a larger database, we could have greater confidence."

Testimony in the hearing to determine if Peterson is tried on two counts of murder resumes Thursday with the testimony of Brocchini and other detectives.

Full credit for this news article goes to: San Diego Union Tribune, CA

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