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Cops Grilled At Peterson Trial

Testimony in Scott Peterson's trial has taken yet another abrupt turn as prosecutors question witnesses about evidence collected during searches of San Francisco Bay and at the Petersons' home.

Two weeks ago, the focus was on Peterson's affair with massage therapist Amber Frey - his alleged motive, they say, for the murder of his pregnant wife, Laci, and the couple's fetus.

Then last week, testimony hung on witnesses who described where the bodies were discovered and their decomposed state, as prosecutors showed jurors photographs of the corpses and of tissue and bone.

In another shift in direction, police officers testified Monday about the extensive search for Laci Peterson's remains in the bay and of numerous items collected as evidence, among them a blood-stained comforter seized from the Petersons' home.

Modesto police Detective Ray Coyle testified that he examined the home for "blood spatter and blood drops" after search warrants were served on Dec. 26 and Dec. 27, 2002.

Coyle said he found small spots that appeared to be blood on a comforter on the couple's bed, but did not elaborate.

Detective Rudy Skultety said other items seized as evidence included two hair brushes, shotgun shells, a camera, a vacuum cleaner and samples of Scott Peterson's hair.

Skultety testified that the FBI used Luminol in the home - a chemical that can detect unseen traces of blood and body fluids. He did not say whether anything was found.

However, on cross-examination Skultety acknowledged that brown stains found in the kitchen and on a hot water heater tested negative for blood.

Coyle also testified he tracked down 285 of the 309 registered sex offenders and parolees living in the area, but said nothing led him to believe any of them were involved in Laci Peterson's disappearance.

Defense lawyer Mark Geragos then showed jurors a list of the offenders provided by Coyle that showed most of them had not been eliminated as suspects. Coyle said the list had simply not been updated.

Police officers testified no evidence connected to the case, including no further human remains, was found in the bay after the bodies of Laci Peterson and her fetus washed up in April 2003.

Sgt. Rick Armendariz testified he was involved in water searches that stretched into September 2003, but that nothing of value turned up.

Laci Peterson's body - just a torso - and that of the fetus washed ashore just two miles from where her husband, now charged in the deaths, claimed to have been fishing alone on the bay the day she was reported missing - Dec. 24, 2002.

Prosecutors are still making their case that Peterson killed his wife in their Modesto home on or around Dec. 24, 2002, trucked the body to San Francisco Bay in a large tool box and plunged it overboard from a small boat.

Defense lawyers maintain someone else abducted Laci Peterson as she walked the dog and held her captive before dumping her body to frame her husband. Peterson, 31, could face the death penalty if convicted.

By Brian Skoloff

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