REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – For days, Amber Frey grilled Scott Peterson about his marriage to a missing Modesto, Calif., woman.

He had repeatedly lied to Frey, romancing her with sweet talk before the Fresno woman learned the truth that her lover had a wife and a baby on the way.

But Peterson, too, had suspicions. Perhaps Frey had something to do with Laci Peterson’s Dec. 24, 2002 disappearance, he said.

“So, you know, once we find her, um, you know, everyone will know that I was not involved in this,” Peterson told Frey during a Jan. 8, 2003, telephone call. “And I just, you know, I hope that you, um, are not, um, involved to any degree and …”

Frey immediately interrupted, saying “My hands are clean of this, Scott.”

In Peterson’s double murder trial, prosecutors continued Monday to roll hours of taped calls Peterson made to Frey in the weeks after his wife disappeared. Frey had agreed to record her conversations after learning the man she once believed to be single was the husband of a missing Modesto woman whose story was all over the news.

Through constant apologies for his deception, Peterson time and again denied having anything to do with Laci’s disappearance. He was smitten with Frey, he declared incessantly, but also increasingly spoke of his missing wife.

In four calls played Monday, Peterson talked more about Laci than he had in more than a dozen previous recordings. He loved her, he said, and prayed for her safe return.

“I love Laci,” he said in one call. “I loved Laci, no question. And she doesn’t deserve to be missing.”

Peterson held hope his wife would be found alive, he said, telling Frey a private investigator was working on tips and that police were following a strong lead. He sounded more and more like an optimistic searcher than someone who investigators believed knew more about the case than he was letting on.

While Peterson focused more on his wife, Frey continued to zero in on his possible involvement in the case.

“I mean should I 100 percent think that you’re innocent of this?” Frey asked in a Jan. 14, 2003 call.

“I would just hope that you know that,” Peterson answered.

Frey told Peterson on Jan. 8, 2003, that she planned to tell police about their love affair, even though she had already secretly done so on Dec. 30, 2002. He told her to do what she thought was right.

“I have nothing to hide, Amber,” he said.

Investigators informed Laci’s relatives of the affair on Jan. 16, 2003, just before an article on Peterson and Frey’s romance appeared in a paper.

Legal analysts agreed that Peterson’s image has improved as the prosecution has played more calls.

“They’ve gone way too long with this,” said Michael Cardoza, a lawyer and media legal analyst following the case. “They’re losing whatever gains they made with” the recordings.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos could begin his cross-examination of Frey this afternoon.



(c) 2004, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.).

Visit the Contra Costa Times on the Web at http://www.contracostatimes.com.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-08-16-04 2158EDT



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