06/09/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
As he walked into the courtroom in Modesto, Calif., Scott Peterson—freshly buzz-cut hair back to its natural brown—avoided looking at the family of his murdered wife, Laci. But Laci's stepfather, Ron Grantski, came face-to-face with Scott's father, Lee. As the spectators at the May 27 hearing looked on, both men nodded to each other, then shook hands.
It is hard to say if such civility will last once the case begins heating up in court. Most important for Scott's future, Judge Al Girolami set a date of July 16 for a preliminary hearing, at which time the prosecution will have to disclose some of the evidence they have against him. (Under California law, the defendant is entitled to a trial date within three months of that hearing.)
At the very least, the July date may help stem the torrent of rumors in the case. Some of those rumors involve the defense team's promise to come up with the "real killers," along with juicy bits about Scott's romantic life, including his affair with Amber Frey (box), who promises to be a key witness. According to KTVU in Modesto, Scott had a "relationship" with two other women. Frey's lawyer Gloria Allred believes that sort of report plays into the hands of defense lawyer Mark Geragos—in a perverse way. "My educated guess is that Scott's defense team would like to minimize the role Amber Frey will play by suggesting there are other women," says Allred.
Meanwhile, the fate of the victims, Laci and the unborn Conner, remains the focus of prosecutors. Investigators have conducted an underwater search in San Francisco Bay, hoping the murk will yield the clarity of new clues.