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Defense Grills Laci Detective

Scott Peterson's defense lawyers are again accusing police of narrowly focusing on their client while ignoring other possible leads.

Defense lawyer Mark Geragos launched into his fourth day of cross-examining Modesto police Detective Craig Grogan by pointing out how police failed to follow up on a number of reported sightings of Laci Peterson on the day she vanished.

Geragos on Tuesday pointed out four specific calls to the police tip hot line within days of Laci's disappearance, one from a man who said he saw a woman who looked like Laci "being forced into a van, correct?" Geragos asked the detective.

"Yes," Grogan replied.

One of the witnesses was never interviewed and police didn't contact another until May, 2004, Geragos noted. The two others weren't interviewed by police until July of this year, more than a month into the trial, Grogan agreed.

Geragos returned to the same line of questioning Wednesday regarding the tipster who claimed to have seen Laci being dragged into a van the morning she vanished.

"He commented specifically that there was that look on her face, remember? ... How did he describe her look?" Geragos asked. "A scared look on the face?"

"Yes," Grogan said.

On Tuesday, Grogan said the absence of a bloody crime scene led investigators to consider the possibility the pregnant schoolteacher was poisoned to death by her husband.

"One of the theories at some point was maybe Laci Peterson had been drugged, is that right?" Geragos asked of the lead detective.

"Yes, we looked into that," Grogan replied.

Grogan said police considered the poison theory because they were unable to find any signs of a struggle and found none of Laci Peterson's blood in the couple's Modesto home, where prosecutors allege the murder took place on or around Dec. 24, 2002.

Grogan said that during a Feb. 18, 2003, search of the Petersons' home, police seized, among other things, a mortar and pestle to have examined for the existence of any drugs. None were found, he said. It was unclear if police still considered the poison theory viable.

Geragos later Tuesday sought to attack the police theory of the crime, noting that Grogan had consulted early in the investigation with an expert on tidal action in San Francisco Bay.

The expert, Geragos pointed out for jurors, theorized that the 30 pounds of cement prosecutors allege Peterson used to sink his wife's body in the bay wouldn't have been enough weight to keep her pregnant body down.

Prosecutors allege Peterson killed Laci at their home and then dumped her body into the bay. Her badly decomposed remains — and that of her fetus — washed up in April 2003, not far from where Peterson launched his boat that Christmas Eve morning for what he claims was a solo fishing trip.

Defense lawyers maintain someone else abducted and killed Laci.

Geragos then revisited the issue of whether the fetus was born alive, which defense lawyers claim was the case, and proves their client couldn't be the killer. Prosecutors say the fetus was expelled from Laci's decaying body.

Geragos questioned Grogan about the medical examiner's initial findings after performing the autopsy on the fetus where the doctor indicated "there was some evidence that the child may have been born alive, correct?"

"Yes," Grogan replied.

"And he also told you that he just was uncertain as to whether the umbilical cord had been tied along the ragged end or whether it had come off as part of the decomposition, is that correct?" Geragos prodded.

"That's correct," Grogan said.

The medical examiner testified previously that he determined the fetus to be full term.

Then came the sighting of Laci at the warehouse where Peterson stored the boat prosecutors allege he kept hidden from her so he could later use it to dispose of her body.

Geragos noted that Peterson told police early on that Laci had been at the warehouse on Dec. 20, four days before she was reported missing. Grogan acknowledged that a witness told police on Dec. 30, 2002, she also saw Laci at the warehouse on Dec. 20, corroborating Peterson's story.

But, Geragos pointed out, police did not even interview the woman until a year later, implying police ignored important tips that didn't fit their theory.

Meanwhile, Judge Alfred A. Delucchi told jurors the prosecution would not wrap up its case this week as previously intended.

"Hopefully we'll finish the prosecution case by next week; we'll see," Delucchi told jurors.

The trial is now in its 18th week.