Scott Peterson's Money Woes Spelled Out

Scott Peterson's Money Woes Spelled Out
AL GOLUB/EPA/Landov

08/03/2004 AT 09:00 AM EDT

Accused killer Scott Peterson was financially strained on the job and at home, an auditor testified Monday in the double-murder trial of the former fertilizer salesman.

Hoping to create a financial motive in the killing of Laci Peterson, prosecution witness Gary Nienhuis painted a picture suggesting that Peterson, 31, might have murdered his pregnant wife to reduce the pressure on him. Laci's life was insured for $250,000, with her husband named as beneficiary.

Nienhuis, an internal auditor for the city of Modesto, after a financial analysis of the Peterson family income, testified that Scott's debt-to-income ratio was nearly 70 percent. "The payments that that required were high in relation to the cash flow," Nienhuis said.

The auditor also reviewed the books of Trade Corp., the fertilizer company that employed Peterson. Nienhuis said that Peterson was not meeting his agreed-upon sales goals and had only met 23 percent of them by the time his wife went missing in December 2002. Moreover, the auditor said Peterson was operating his office at a $123,000 loss.

Based on his analysis, Nienhuis said that with such losses and poor sales achievements, "You are going broke."

The only way to save the company from rolling over would be a massive infusion of additional capital.

Under cross-examination, defense attorney Mark Geragos presented the case that Peterson was financially sound despite his debts and would have had an infusion of income from his wife that would have wiped out all of his outstanding liabilities.

Geragos said the family debt could have been erased with Laci's half of $100,000 in jewelry and an anticipated $140,000 from a house she inherited from her grandparents.

Peterson is charged with murdering his pregnant wife in their Modesto home on Christmas Eve 2002 and dumping her body into San Francisco Bay. He has pleaded not guilty.

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