LOS ANGELES: The scene in the West LA Doubletree Hotel last weekend was not a happy one, but it was one deemed necessary. Scott Peterson, the husband of the missing Laci Peterson, had traveled almost 300 miles from his central California home to widen the search for his wife, a 27-year-old expectant mother, who had disappeared without a trace two days before Christmas.
Joined by his parents and siblings, Peterson told scores of reporters that he was broadening the search because Laci may have been abducted by a car that had passed through the LA area.
"If you go to Modesto, you see posters for her everywhere," Peterson told reporters. "We've been working on that for 26 days. We simply have to expand the geographical area. So we'll (do so) until we find her."
The media's missing-person experts have acknowledged that Peterson has been keeping the story in regular media rotation by publicly expanding his search. Many feel that keeping the spotlight on the case is critical to developing new leads. However, it is also a task that grows harder as more days pass since Laci's disappearance.
Nevertheless, the skeptics saw a darker motive. Perhaps it was a PR push to win public support after numerous media reports seemed to cast suspicion his way.
In the weeks before the LA event, the local and national press reported that Peterson may have been having an affair, and may have also taken out a sizeable insurance policy on his wife. A few reports even suggested police were looking at him as a possible suspect in the disappearance of another young woman in the mid-'90s. All this led some to criticize the LA event as a ploy to divert attention from those suspicions, while simultaneously recasting Scott as the crusading victim.
Whatever the motive, the results were astounding. The story was carried widely in both broadcast and print across the US, keeping the Laci Peterson disappearance front-and-center weeks after she was last seen.