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Scott Peterson

No emotion, no remorse, many lies
Experts call Scott Peterson a sociopathScott Peterson

Ever since Laci Peterson was reported missing on Christmas Eve, 2002 in Modesto, California, America was fascinated by the case. She was 27 years old, petite, pretty and eight months pregnant. Four months later, her body and that of her unborn child washed up on the shore of San Francisco Bay, where her husband, Scott Peterson, said he had been fishing the day she disappeared.

Peterson was accused of murdering his wife and baby. His trial began June 1, 2004. On November 12, the jury found him guilty, and on December 13, they recommended that he be sentenced to death.

Across America, people asked, “How could he do it? Why didn’t he just get a divorce?”

Scott Peterson“Experts on the criminal mind say the answer may lie in what lurked beneath Scott Peterson’s charming veneer—a psychopathic (sociopathic) personality,” wrote the Associated Press.

According to the AP story, published on December 21, 2004, “Criminal psychologists say that Peterson appeared to be a master manipulator who lacked the capacity to feel remorse or consider consequences—the same sociopathic characteristics exhibited by serial killers Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy.

The story quoted San Diego forensic psychologist Reid Meloy, who noted that divorces are long and tedious, and sociopaths want short-term solutions. It also quoted former FBI profiler Robert Ressler, who said sociopaths “tend to con people very well, and they wear false faces.”

Nancy Grace of Court TV, herself a former prosecutor, also considered Peterson a sociopath. On July 20, 2004, she explained her views on CNN’s Larry King Live:

“A sociopath is someone that does not appear to recognize or follow any of society’s rules. And so far we have seen Scott Peterson lie prolifically at every given opportunity … Every possible chance he has had to help police, to tell the truth, to not flout convention, to ignore his marriage vows, he clearly thinks the rules do not apply to him. If you guys don’t agree with me, fine. We’ll leave it up to a jury. But I think that clearly Peterson is showing himself to be a sociopath.”

Michael Cardoza, a defense attorney who was close to Peterson’s family and attorney, Mark Geragos, was also a guest on the show. He disagreed with Grace, saying “There is reasonable explanations for everything that happened here.”

The jury did not agree with him.

Symptoms of a sociopath

Scott Peterson’s trial revealed a pattern of lies and callousness in his behavior. For example;

• Peterson told neighbors he was playing golf on Christmas Eve when his wife disappeared. He told investigators he was fishing—even though his fishing rod was not assembled and his lures will still sealed in the package.

• Peterson began an affair with Amber Frey, a massage therapist, a month before he killed his wife. According to Frey’s book, Witness: For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson, first he told Frey he was looking forward to settling down, but hadn’t found the right person. Then he tearfully confessed that he had lied to her, saying he was married but his wife had died—before Laci was missing.

• A candlelight vigil was planned for Laci Peterson on Dec. 31, 2002. An hour before it started, Scott Peterson called Amber Frey. During the vigil, Peterson was videotaped laughing and joking with friends and taking a cell phone call, while Laci’s family was distraught with grief.

• Later that night, Peterson called Frey at the stroke of midnight, telling her that he was in Paris celebrating New Year’s Eve. He was actually in California dealing with the search for his missing wife. They talked about continuing their relationship.

• Scott Peterson was arrested on April 18, 2003, in San Diego County, near the border with Mexico. He had lightened his hair and grown a goatee. He was carrying his brother’s ID and $10,000 in cash—the maximum he could legally carry into Mexico.

Jury impressions in Scott Peterson trial

The jury spent almost six months listening to the prosecution and the defense in the Scott Peterson case. After the death sentence was announced, several jurors talked to the media about their impressions of Peterson. Here are some of their comments:

“In the courtroom for the last six months, I didn’t see much emotion at all,” said Michael Belmessieri. “When I looked over there, it was a blank stare.”

“I still would have liked to see, I don’t know if remorse is the right word,” said Steve Cardosi. “He lost his wife and his child—it didn’t seem to faze him. And while that was going on … he’s romancing a girlfriend. That doesn’t make sense to me. At all.”

“We heard from him,” said Richelle Nice. “For me, a big part of it was at the end—the verdict—no emotion. No anything. That spoke a thousand words—loud and clear.”

More on Scott Peterson

For extensive coverage of the Peterson case, visit Court TV.com.