April 18, 2003 -- Authorities tonight identified remains that washed ashore earlier this week as the bodies of Laci Peterson and her unborn child, and her husband Scott was arrested and will be charged with capital murder in their deaths.
Scott Peterson's arrest came days after a woman's decomposing torso and the remains of a full-term male fetus were found on a San Francisco Bay beach. He was arrested in San Diego this morning and was being transferred to Modesto, Stanislaus County District Attorney James Brazelton said.
"He'll be charged with capital murder," Brazelton said. "There are no other suspects in this case."
Peterson, 30, would face two charges of homicide "with special circumstances" for the deaths of his wife and their unborn child, Brazelton said. He could be arraigned either Monday or Tuesday in Stanislaus County Superior Court. Brazelton said no decision had been made on whether to seek the death penalty.
Laci's family was devastated, a spokeswoman said. Laci was reported missing on Christmas Eve, and her body was identified two days before Easter.
"It was not a total surprise, but it is not what we hoped for," said family spokeswoman Kim Petersen, who is not related to Scott or Laci. "Christmas is a time for families as well as Easter is a time for families. Please respect our need for privacy during this time."
‘No Question in Our Mind’
Laci Peterson's remains were found Monday about 90 miles from the couple's Modesto home, at the Point Isabel Regional Shoreline in Richmond. Investigators have refused to comment about the specific condition of the remains, but there were reports that only a decaying torso was found, and it was not possible to get fingerprints. A full-term, decaying male fetus with the umbilical cord still attached was found Sunday, about a mile away.
Because of the condition of the remains, authorities have not been able to determine how Laci, 27, was killed. When she disappeared, she was nearly eight months pregnant with a son she had already named Connor.
On Tuesday, a black tarp washed ashore approximately 60 yards away from where Laci's remains were found. Contra Costa County officials have preserved the tarp and are examining it as potential evidence in the case.
Genetic experts at the California attorney general's office used DNA samples from the adult remains, the fetus, Laci's parents, and Scott Peterson himself to make the identifications.
"There is no question in our mind that the unidentified female is Laci Peterson. The unidentified fetus is the child of Laci Peterson," California Attorney General Bill Lockyer told reporters tonight.
"We are scientifically convinced that the match is one in billions," he said.
Fear of Flight
Police arrested Scott Peterson before they received the final DNA test results. Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden suggested they decided to move because they feared he might try to flee. p>
Authorities said they were relieved to be able to bring some answers to Laci Peterson's family, but it was not the news they wanted.
"It's been a difficult four months," said Wasden. "But this is not the result we would have liked to bring. We would have loved to have been able to tell you Laci is alive."
Until today, police had not even called Scott Peterson a suspect in the case, although they never ruled him out either. Scott Peterson told police he last saw Laci on the morning of Dec. 24, when he left to go fishing out of Berkeley Marina.
Admitted Affair, But Denied Hurting Wife
Scott Peterson has denied any involvement in his wife's disappearance. Her family initially said they would never suspect him of hurting Laci, but they lost trust in him after Scott admitted he had been having an extramarital affair.
Peterson had not appeared in public or made any public statements since the bodies were found. However, in today's edition of The Modesto Bee, his lawyer said Peterson still hopes to find his missing wife and child alive.
"As he has been for the last several months, he is hoping to find Laci and the baby alive," Kirk McAllister said. "He is hoping this doesn't mean that his search for Laci and the baby is over."
ABCNEWS affiliate KABC-TV in Los Angeles, ABCNEWS' Mike Gudgell, Steffan Tubbs and Taina Hernandez contributed to this report.