Peterson tells Frey he was lying

Jury hears new taped phone calls

Thursday, August 12, 2004 Posted: 9:59 PM EDT (0159 GMT)

Amber Frey

REDWOOD CITY, California (AP) -- In one of the last recorded telephone calls between Scott Peterson and his mistress, Amber Frey confronted him about the disappearance of his wife, and he confessed he had been lying to her about his marital status and whereabouts.

"The media has been telling everyone that I had something to do with her disappearance," Peterson said in the January 6, 2003, call.

"So the past two weeks I've been hunted by the media. ... I know that I am, you know, I'm destroyed," he said.

Later in the conversation, Frey said, "So, you know, you and I..."

"Are destroyed," Peterson said.

Prosecutors in Peterson's double murder trial resumed Thursday playing tapes of telephone calls between Peterson and Frey that were recorded as authorities searched for Laci Peterson in late December 2002 and early January 2003.

The audio tapes are an effort by authorities to show jurors that Peterson's motive to kill his wife and their unborn child was to be with Frey.

Frey, a massage therapist who has become the government's star witness, was in court for the third day Thursday.

In earlier testimony, she told jurors that she called police after discovering that her lover was not only married, but suspected in the disappearance of his pregnant wife.

At the request of the police, she began recording calls between her and Peterson with a device bought for her by the Modesto Police Department. Ultimately, more than 300 calls between Peterson and Frey were recorded.

In the January 6 call, Peterson, who had pretended for weeks to be calling Frey from Europe, confessed to her that he had been lying.

"I'm so sorry this has happened and I am so sorry I'm going to hurt you in this way. I don't want to do this over the phone," Peterson said. "I want to tell you this, I want to be there in person to tell you this.

"During the last couple of weeks I have lied to you that I've been traveling."

Peterson was silent as Frey barraged him with questions about his marriage and his unborn child.

In a call later that day, Frey asks Peterson why she shouldn't be afraid of him. He responded, "I am not an evil person. ... I would never hurt anyone."

Frey testified briefly Wednesday after some of the tapes were played. Prosecutor Dave Harris, in his final words to her, asked if police, beginning January 6, 2003, took her "under their protection." She said "Yes."

Jim Hammer, a former San Francisco prosecutor and trial observer, warned that playing too much of the tapes could backfire because at least one juror could be seen rolling his eyes at the hours of recorded calls.

"It may look like the prosecution is smearing someone because they don't have a case," Hammer said.

Judge Alfred A. Delucchi told jurors before court ended for the week that more of the recorded calls would be presented Monday and Tuesday. Frey would take the stand again Wednesday to answer questions.

Prosecutors allege Peterson killed his wife in their Modesto home on or around December 24, 2002, then drove to the bay and dumped her weighted body from a small boat he had purchased just weeks earlier.

The badly decomposed remains of Laci Peterson and the couple's fetus washed ashore in April 2003, not far from where Peterson said he launched a solo fishing trip the day she vanished.

Some of the calls played earlier in the week were made on December 31, 2002, the same day Peterson attended a vigil in Modesto for his missing wife. He calls Frey "sweetheart" and says he needs "a better vocabulary or a book or a thesaurus or something to find the right words to describe you."

He also says his favorite film was "The Shining" -- a gory 1980 thriller in which Jack Nicholson plays a writer who goes insane and tries to murder his wife. And, pretending he is in Paris, Peterson describes standing near the Eiffel Tower, hearing fireworks in the middle of a huge New Year's Eve crowd.