Police investigating the disappearance of Laci Peterson questioned hundreds of area sex offenders and parolees, though others were not contacted and many alibis went unverified, a detective testified Monday in Scott Peterson's murder trial.
Detective Ray Coyle said one possible suspect even confessed to the crime but that the man's admission was discounted because he had mental problems.
"He said he murdered a female named Lisa Peterson, right? ... He said the only witness was the dog. ... He said he broke her neck?" defense attorney Mark Geragos asked Coyle.
"Yes," Coyle replied.
Coyle was originally called by the prosecution last week to testify about the extensive search for evidence at the Petersons' home, but answered Geragos' questions Monday about the sex offenders and parolees who lived near the home.
The detective said Monday that after police tracked down 285 of the 309 sex offenders and parolees living in the area, they closed most of the files without ruling them out as suspects.
As the eighth week of the trial got under way Monday, Coyle testified he is still working to track down the remaining 24 offenders who have never been contacted.
Geragos has accused authorities of focusing solely on his client, while failing to aggressively pursue other leads.
Holding a list of names in his hand, he asked the detective about several sex offenders with sketchy alibis. One said he was out of state visiting his sister the day Laci Peterson was reported missing, yet police were never able to substantiate his story, Coyle said.
Another registered sex offender listed his address as a homeless mission less than a mile from the Peterson home, Geragos said. He was contacted by police, but authorities were unable to verify where he had been the day Laci vanished.
"Didn't have any alibi, so to speak. Is that correct?" Geragos asked.
"Correct," Coyle said.
Prosecutors allege Peterson murdered his pregnant wife, Laci, in their Modesto home around Dec. 24, 2002, the day she was reported missing, then drove to San Francisco Bay and dumped the body.
Peterson acknowledges being on the bay that day, but said he went fishing alone and returned to an empty home. Geragos asserts that someone else abducted and killed Laci, then framed her husband.
The remains of Laci Peterson and the couple's fetus washed ashore just two miles from where Peterson claims he was fishing. He could face the death penalty or life without parole if convicted on the double-murder charges.
Earlier Monday, Detective Henry Hendee testified under cross-examination that residue from seven suspicious stains collected from Peterson's pickup truck were not blood, and that no incriminating evidence was found in a large toolbox in the bed of the vehicle.
Prosecutors allege Peterson used the toolbox to conceal Laci's body during the drive from the couple's home to the bay.
By Brian Skoloff