Search for woman reaches foothills

January 02, 2003 11:00 pm

By AMY LINDBLOM

and The Associated Press

Widening their search for missing 27-year-old Laci Peterson, Modesto Police are seeking help from the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department.

"We're meeting with Modesto Police investigators this morning to discuss expanding the search in our area, possibly in Lake Don Pedro and New Melones Reservoir," Tuolumne County Sheriff's Lt. John Steely said today. "Right now, all we know is that they are expanding the search to nearby counties and we are one of those counties."

Modesto police are also asking the public for help verifying the whereabouts of Scott Peterson, husband of the missing pregnant woman, in the days before Christmas.

Police spent hours combing the waters near Berkeley Marina, 70 miles west of Modesto. That's where Scott Peterson said he went on Christmas Eve, the same day Laci Peterson disappeared.

At a news conference in Modesto on Thursday, police released pictures of the Petersons' pickup, boat and boat trailer, which they have impounded. Police Lt. Doug Ridenour said the department has neither declared nor ruled out Scott Peterson as a suspect in the disappearance of his 27-year-old wife, who is eight months pregnant.

Ridenour asked for eyewitness sightings of Peterson's bronze/brown 2002 Ford 150 pickup towing a 14-foot aluminum boat and trailer from Dec. 23 through Christmas Day.

The truck's license plate number is 6T59718.

Peterson told police he left Modesto about 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 24 to go fishing from the Berkeley Marina, and is the last person to see his wife before she disappeared. Days of searching, widespread posting of fliers by volunteers and a $500,000 reward have failed to turn up major breaks in the case.

Ridenour wouldn't be specific about why police investigators widened their request for information about Scott Peterson up to Dec. 23. He said only that they ‘‘want information to corroborate or confirm his story.''

In Berkeley, police spent several hours Thursday looking for clues.