The Medina Burglary
Rudy and Susan Medina, who lived across the street from Scott and Laci Peterson, left their home on December 24, 2002, at 10:32 a.m. for a short holiday trip to Los Angeles. When they returned on December 26, about 4:30 p.m., they discovered their home had been burglarized. December 24 is the day Laci disappeared.
On January 2, 2003, Steven Wayne Todd and Donald Glenn Pearce were arrested at 1406 Tenaya Drive in Modesto, California.
Through an informant named Mark, the Modesto Police Department learned that some of the items taken from the home of Rudy and Susan Medina, 516 Covena Avenue, were in the possession of Steven Wayne Todd. When the Modesto Police arrived at Tenaya Street address, they recovered some of the jewelry and the large safe ( 2 ˝ ‘x 2 ˝’ x 3’) which had been taken from the Medina property.
Steven Todd, interviewed by Officer Michael Hicks on January 2, said he had nothing to do with the woman and the baby. He then told the officer the burglary at Medina’s had taken place on December 27. When this proved to be untrue (Medinas were home by that time), he said that the burglary had taken place on December 26 between 3:00 and 7 a.m. The Modesto Police took his word for this and did not investigate further.
Sergeant Ron Cloward, MPD, put out word that anyone who had the remaining possessions from the Medina burglary could return them to MPD and no questions would be asked. On one occasion, a woman ran into the police headquarters and threw jewelry on the counter and then ran out. This incident was not recorded on the security camera at the headquarters.
When Steven Todd pled guilty during his court appearance in February 2003, he was given a sentence of 8 years and 8 months even though he was a 3 strike offender. Donald Glenn Pearce received a sentence of 180 days.
In the summer of 2003, Mark Geragos asked Detective Craig Grogan to turn over the Medina safe, still in police custody, so it could be tested. Grogan later told him that sometime after Geragos made the request, the safe was destroyed.
Evidence the burglary is linked to Laci's disappearance
There is credible information to suggest that this burglary occurred on December 24, 2002, shortly after the Medinas left home at 10:32 a.m. and may have been directly connected to Laci's disappearance.
Media and police presence in the Covena neighborhood was extreme after the word of Laci’s disappearance became known on the evening of December 24, making a December 26 burglary highly impractical.
There were numerous sightings of Laci Peterson walking her dog in the Covena neighborhood on the morning of December 24 that were not thoroughly investigated by the MPD, which chose instead to rely on the unverified timeline constructed by Karen Servas who lived at 517 Covena Avenue and who found the Peterson’s dog McKenzie in the street in front of the Medina’s house on the morning of December 24. Her estimate of the time she found the dog was used to exclude a connection between Laci’s disappearance and the Medina burglary.
Diane Jackson, who lived a short distance away, reported seeing 3 men with a van and a safe in front of the Medina’s house at 11:40 a.m. on December 24, 2002. Her information was considered credible enough to be used in the flyer asking for the information about the burglary and offering a $1,000 reward. However, the Modesto Police arranged for her to by hypnotized by an unqualified hypnotist, and for that reason her testimony was not allowed at trial. Some of the information she provided, however, came in through the testimony of Detective Craig Grogan.
Merlin, the trailing dog owned by Cindee Valentin, trailed Laci's scent to the Gallo Winery in the airport district, on the night of December 26.
On December 31, 2002, a gold Croton watch, identical to Laci’s watch which disappeared the same day she did, was pawned by Deanna Renfro. The Modesto Police did not investigate this woman or her connection to the Medina burglars. A background check would have shown links between the families of Deanna Renfro and those of Steven Todd and the Tenbrink family.
Two weeks before the end of the trial, shortly before Mark Geragos was to begin his CIC, the prosecution turned over information about a prisoner in Stanislaus County jail, who confirmed the information given in a tip which had been received from Lt. Xavier Aponte, Norco Correctional Institute, during the last part of January 2003. Lt. Aponte said that a phone call between an inmate and his brother (Shawn and Adam Tenbrink) discussed Steven Todd’s confrontation with Laci Peterson during the burglary at Medina’s. The only information provided to the defense about his tip was a simple notation on a CD which included 10,000 other tips about the case. Modesto Police did not provide reports or information about any investigation of this tip. Lt. Aponte gave a signed statement to defense investigators which said the prisoner had been interviewed by MPD, and that MPD had received a copy of the taped phone conversation.
Judge Delucchi refused to consider this information which connected the Medina burglary to Laci’s disappearance and denied the Defense Motion for a New Trial.
Defense M: press advisory on the burglary. (Not admitted, no foundation)
Possible link to Missing Modesto Woman
KPIX Report, December 30, 2003
Press Release, Covena Burglars Arrested
Modesto Police Department, January 3, 2003
Burglary Suspects Didn’t Take Woman
Modesto Bee, January 4, 2003
Search Goes on For Their Teacher
Modesto Bee, January 7, 2003
Burglar may be Key Witness in Peterson Case
Posted: May 12, 2003
Updated: May 25, 2003
Police hypnotize second woman
Modesto Bee, September 12, 2003
Man Says Burglary Unrelated to Deaths
Modesto Bee, January 6, 2004
Updated October 16, 2004
Exclusive Document Reveals Identity of Peterson’s ‘mystery woman”
Court TV Article with photos of Deanna Renfro, the Croton Watch, and the Pawn Shop (*Deanna Renfro is probably not related to the Renfrows in the brown van)
Updated July 7, 2004