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Peterson's lawyers say leads ignored

Police questioned on case's early tips

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- Defense attorneys in Scott Peterson's murder trial tried yesterday to show that the police investigation was shoddy and designed from the start to implicate him.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos also suggested Laci Peterson could have been kidnapped and killed by someone other than her husband, including three "dark-skinned" men seen in the couple's neighborhood.

In a cross-examination of Detective Allen Brocchini, Geragos asked about several tips police received early in the investigation, including one that Laci was being held in a storage bin about 30 miles from Modesto.

Brocchini said he knew of the tip but did not have much information about it.

Geragos said police flew over the area with a helicopter equipped with a heat-seeking device and discovered what could have been a sign of life, but officers never searched the area.

Peterson, 31, is accused of murdering his pregnant wife on or around Dec. 24, 2002, then sinking her body in San Francisco Bay. Defense lawyers say he was fishing in the bay when Laci Peterson disappeared and that someone else abducted, holding her captive before killing her and dumping her in the bay to frame Peterson.

Geragos asked Brocchini about a report that a man of Pacific Island descent, described as dark-skinned, had tried to kidnap a 15-year-old girl a few days before Laci disappeared.

The detective said he never followed up on that tip.

Witnesses have said they saw a van with three dark-skinned men in the Petersons' neighborhood around the time Laci vanished. The defense has continually brought up the detail, trying to show police ignored leads that did not point to Peterson.

Geragos questioned the detective about a burglary at the Petersons' home on Jan. 19, 2003. Brocchini testified that a woman admitted robbing the Petersons' home.

The detective acknowledged asking the woman her whereabouts on Dec. 23 and Dec. 24, 2002, suggesting he had suspicions she could have been involved in Laci's disappearance.

The woman told Brocchini she was visiting her former boyfriend and his friends, men of Hawaiian descent.

Brocchini acknowledged he did not follow-up with a friend of the woman who provided her alibi because he believed the friend after talking to him by phone.

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