Behind Closed Doors

05/22/2003 12:30PM

These are the nights when Conner Peterson, who would have been 3 months old now, should be keeping his father awake. Instead the din of other prisoners at the county jail in Modesto, Calif., leaves Scott Peterson sleeping fitfully. His life has been reduced to bare essentials – a 6-ft.-by-9-ft. cell and a 90-minute twice-a-week session of shuffling along in shackles on the jailhouse roof. To relieve stress, Peterson has taken up yoga, just as his wife, Laci, did during her pregnancy. "He has done it every day," says his sister Susan Caudillo. "He tells us he is doing some really difficult moves."

Reminding the world of the bond that once existed between Laci and Scott – whether it be yoga, a shared love of cooking or their desire to have a baby together – has become a kind of mission for the Peterson clan. With a court appearance scheduled for May 27, the next step toward a preliminary hearing, Scott's family is launching a public relations campaign in the hope of dispelling the tsunami of negative news reports that has battered him almost from the moment the pregnant Laci, 27, went missing on Dec. 24. In an interview with PEOPLE, his parents, Lee and Jackie, along with several of his siblings and in-laws, sought to portray Scott, 30, as a favorite son and ideal husband who never would have harmed his wife and unborn son, whose bodies washed up in San Francisco Bay in April. "He was framed in the media," says his father, Lee. "He's not the monster they've made him out to be." Insists Peterson's lawyer Mark Geragos, whose client faces a possible death sentence for the double homicide: "Scott does not have the genetics of a cold-blooded, premeditated killer."

Not surprisingly, the "such-a-nice-boy" argument will not be Peterson's only defense. Geragos told PEOPLE that he is working on a number of leads, including one involving strangers in a brown van parked in the couple's neighborhood who, he argues, may have abducted Laci. He is even floating a theory involving a satanic cult. "The prosecution has no case," maintains Geragos. "And what's more disturbing is there are legitimate leads that point in other directions."

While Sharon Rocha grieves for her lost daughter and grandson, as far as Laci's family is concerned, all public talk of Scott is off-limits until after the trial. As Sharon's husband, Ron Grantski, said shortly after Scott's arrest, "We owe it to Laci to let the courts bring the facts out."

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