While families across the country were gearing up for Christmas festivities in 2002, Laci Peterson's family were desperately looking for their relative who went missing while walking her dog on Christmas Eve.
The 27-year-old pregnant California woman's disappearance came as a shock to those who knew her because from an outsider's perspective she had a good life that she didn't need to run from. Laci was happily married to a man named Scott, they lived in a beautiful suburban home with their dog, and had a baby on the way.
The search for Laci continued for months after she was last seen, but it came to an end when her decomposed and mutilated body washed ashore in the San Francisco Bay. Her death was ruled a homicide and it sparked one of the most highly publicized murder investigations the nation has ever seen.
Laci wasn't involved in any illegal activities and had no known enemies, so it took a while for police to round up suspects. However, in an unforeseen twist, police began to grow suspicious of Scott. Although many described him as the "perfect gentleman" he showed bizarre behavior and visible disinterest in the investigation. He also refused to take a polygraph test, and gave police an inconsistent alibi.
Investigators eventually found enough evidence that suggested Scott, who worked as a fertilizer salesman, was Laci's killer. They uncovered details about an extramarital affair he had been having with a woman named Amber Frey, including a phone call he made to Frey during a New Year's Eve candlelight vigil for Laci.
Amber later cooperated with the police, and claimed that she had no idea Scott was a married man and that his wife had gone missing. The information she shared contributed to Scott's arrest a few months later.
He was apprehended while on the run in 2003, and charged with first-degree murder of Laci, as well as second-degree murder of baby Connor. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection in 2005.
Having been through the unimaginable, it took a while for Laci's family to finally speak out about losing their loved one. Laci's mom, Sharon Rocha, recently opened up about life after her daughter's murder in an interview with ABC.
Since her daughter's tragic death, Sharon has remained out of the spotlight save for the occasional interview.
In 2017, she appeared in the ABC special Gone Girl. Truth & Lies: The Murder of Laci Peterson, and got very candid about the last time she saw Laci, and what life has been since finding out that her son-in-law was her daughter's killer.
"You wake up from most nightmares, and they're over. Mine was different," Sharon explained. "I was awake when it started, and I've barely slept since. It was Dec. 24, 2002 -- a date when life as I'd always known it stopped forever."
As you can imagine the holidays have never been the same for Sharon, and she admitted that "if it weren't for the grandkids," she "wouldn't have a Christmas."
Sharon then recounted the last time she ever saw her daughter, and her reaction to finding out that Laci vanished.
"She said the baby was kicking, so I put my hand on her stomach, because I'd never felt him kick," Sharon recalled. "But she leaned over to me, and she said, "˜Mom... Scott doesn't like to do this. She said, "˜I've asked him about, you know -- feel my stomach when the baby kicks, and he never wants to touch my stomach.' That really, really bothered me, and that was the last time I saw her."
The next time Sharon heard from Scott, he had called to let her know that Laci never came home after her "walk." Unbeknownst to her that Scott could be capable of murder, Sharon initially supported him.
"Because in the back of my mind, I kept thinking, "˜What if he didn't have anything to do with this? Laci comes home, how is she going to feel about me if I'm suspecting that her husband had something to do with the disappearance and he didn't?' [SIC]" said Sharon.
She continued, "That's the last person you want to think had anything to do with the disappearance of your daughter "” her husband. The person that was a member of your family, somebody that you loved and cared about, and thought he felt the same way about your daughter. And knowing how she felt about him."
When asked why she thinks Scott killed Laci, Sharon said that it was his "solution" to avoid becoming a father.
Fifteen years later, Scott is still on death row at San Quentin State Prison. To this day, he denies being involved in his wife's murder.
"He denied it. He denied everything. He told me he would never hurt Laci. And I specifically remember that, "˜I would never hurt her.' I said, "˜Well you may not have hurt her, but you killed her,'" Sharon recalled.
Since his incarceration, he has had two appeals and a request for a new trial denied. Last June, during a phone call with his sister-in-law, Janey, he gave his first public statement in more than ten years.
"I wasn't the last one to see Laci that day. There were so many witnesses who saw her walking in the neighborhood after I left," he said, according to TODAY. "The police failed to find my family."
He also confessed that the "had no idea" the double murder conviction was coming, and was "staggered" when the verdict was delivered.
As for Sharon, she penned a book titled "For Laci: A Mother's Story of Love, Loss and Justice," and has been actively advocating for victims' rights. She still struggles to understand why the world became so captivated with her daughters case, but has an interesting theory.
"I believe that Laci wasn't going to allow Scott to get away with murder, so she kept the spotlight shining down on him until he was convicted," Sharon explained.
We hope Sharon and rest of Laci's family have found the closure they need to come to terms with their loss.