Four months after his pregnant wife disappeared from their Modesto, Calif., home and days after her skeletal remains washed ashore in San Francisco Bay, federal and local authorities Friday arrested husband Scott Peterson at a San Diego golf course in her slaying.
Peterson, 30, has yet to be formally charged with the death of his 27-year-old wife and their unborn son, Conner, whose remains also turned up beside the bay this week.
Peterson is expected to be arraigned early next week in the double homicide, charges that potentially could lead to the death penalty, Stanislaus County District Attorney Jim Brazelton told a news conference Friday evening.
Peterson's arrest follows an around-the-clock effort to identify the remains of an adult woman and a full-term fetus that were found about a mile apart on Monday and Sunday, respectively, on the rocky shoreline of San Francisco Bay near Richmond.
Although police had declined since the woman's Christmas Eve disappearance to name Peterson as a suspect, he had fallen under increasing scrutiny, particularly since admitting an extramarital affair.
The investigation had been stymied, however, by the lack of the victim's body.
"There is no question in our minds that the unidentified female is Laci Peterson. The unidentified fetus is the biological child of Laci Peterson and Scott Peterson," California Attorney General Bill Lockyer announced at a news conference televised nationwide. "We are scientifically convinced that the match is one in billions."
Criminalists used DNA samples from Laci's hair brush, her parents cheeks and samples of Scott Peterson's blood and compared them with samples taken from the leg bones of both corpses.
Peterson, who had dropped from public view in Modesto in recent days and sought refuge at his mother's home near San Diego, was pulled over by FBI and San Diego authorities as he drove past Torrey Pines Golf Course shortly before noon.
Detectives were driving him back to Modesto, where he was expected to be jailed overnight.
"He will be charged with capital murder," Brazelton said. The district attorney said a special circumstances accusation of double homicide will qualify Peterson for the death penalty, but that "doesn't mean we'll be seeking it automatically."
Laci Peterson was eight months pregnant when she was last seen on Christmas Eve, walking the family dog. She has been the focus of an intensive search ever since. Photos of the broadly grinning mother have been posted around California and beyond and shown on television across the nation.
The case had seemingly gone dormant until Monday, when a passerby discovered the skeletal remains of a woman along the rocky shoreline of Point Isabel Regional Park on San Francisco Bay. A day earlier, another passerby discovered the remains of a fetus that had also washed ashore. The bodies were discovered about one mile apart.
The Petersons lived in a Modesto bungalow about 90 miles away from the bay. Attention had been drawn to the bay's chilly waters when Scott Peterson told authorities that he was fishing at the Berkeley Marina on the day his wife disappeared. The marina is about two miles from where the adult remains were found.
Mourners have constructed a makeshift shrine of candles, flowers and stuffed animals on the front lawn of the Petersons' modest home.
Family members said through a spokeswoman Friday that they did not intend to comment on the case over the weekend, but would speak on Monday.