Autopsy: Laci Peterson's Head Was Missing

Laci Peterson's head and parts of her limbs were missing and plastic tape was wrapped around the neck of her child, according to the full autopsy and coroner's photographs exclusively seen by ABCNEWS.

According to the autopsy, the skin of the child was not decomposed at all, though the right side of his body was mutilated, and the placenta and umbilical cord were not found with the body.

The autopsy said that the cause of Laci Peterson's death was undetermined, and there was no evidence of man-made wounds, despite the fact that her head and all or part of her limbs were missing.

Peterson's body was so badly decomposed it barely looked like a body after it was found in San Francisco Bay last month. However, the autopsy report showed her cervix was intact.

Experts are divided over whether the new revelations about the condition of Laci Peterson's body and that of her child will help prosecutors or attorney's representing Laci's husband, Scott, who has been charged in the case.

On Thursday, sources close to the investigation told ABCNEWS the sealed autopsy report indicated a piece of nylon tape was looped around the child's neck when it washed ashore last month, and that there was a laceration or tear on the tiny body.

There also was tape on Laci Peterson's lower torso, outside her clothing, when her body was found April 14, a day after her baby's remains were recovered, the sources said.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden told Good Morning America that the limbs and head were probably removed before Laci was put in the water.

Baden, the former chief pathologist for New York City, said it could not be determined from the autopsy how the baby came out of Laci's body.

"It does tell us that the baby was in the womb for many months after Laci was in the water and Laci in fact protected the baby until the baby came out shortly before the bodies were found," Baden said.

He said the tape on Laci's body and a cement bag that was found washed up on the shore near the baby could be important evidence.

"If any of that matches cement or duct tape that they've come in contact with in removing stuff from Scott's place of work or place of residence, that's heavy evidence," he said.

Defense Strategy

Legal experts say that the autopsy leaks, along with recent statements from Scott Peterson's lawyers including one that Laci might have been killed by a satanic cult, could be part of a strategy by the defense to create doubts in the minds of prospective jurors even before the case goes to trial.

"The defense wants to try to get out as much information as possible to instill reasonable doubt that there might be other people involved in this other than their client," said criminal law expert Leonard Birdsong, a professor at Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Fla.

"I haven't been involved in the investigation, but having done some defense work in my time, if you have something that might help you instill reasonable doubt, I would certainly try to float it," he said.

As for the autopsy report itself, it does not have to indicate a cause of death to be a strong piece of evidence in a murder trial, even if it is only one more piece of circumstantial evidence.

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