It was a case that both horrified and riveted the public. On Christmas Eve 2002, Modesto, California, resident Scott Peterson, 29, suffocated his 27-year-old pregnant wife Laci, dismembered her body, and dumped her remains in San Francisco Bay.
Afterward, Scott claimed Laci had gone missing, and played up the role of a panicked husband. For a while, he pulled the ruse off successfully — but not forever (the irony that Peterson worked as a fertilizer salesman would hardly go unnoticed).
Police arrested Scott Peterson in April 2003. He had changed his appearance and possessed what appeared to be a “go bag” that included $15,000 cash, camping equipment and, for whatever reason, Viagra.Even more distressing, Peterson was also carrying 200 packets of sleeping pills, a double-edged dagger, two ropes, a shovel, and MapQuest directions to the home of the one woman who could — and eventually did — powerfully testify against him: Amber Frey.
Peterson and Frey, a 27-year-old massage therapist, had been dating for several weeks that December. Frey said Peterson told her that he had “lost his wife” the previous year and that he dreaded spending his first Christmas alone without her.
Initially, Frey had no reason not to believe her new suitor. Then she saw him on the news weeping over the wife he “lost” — 14 days after they met. Frey went immediately to the police.
Amber recorded several phone conversations with Scott that were later played in court. In one he claimed to be calling her from Paris. He was, in fact, attending a candlelight vigil for Laci in Modesto.
During Peterson’s extremely high-profile 2005 trail, Frey testified against him in great detail. Ultimately, a jury found Scott Peterson guilty and the judge sentenced him to death by lethal injection. Since then, Peterson has resided in San Quentin State Prison, unsuccessfully filing multiple appeals.
What became of Amber Frey, though?
In 2005, Frey published a bluntly titled memoir, Witness for the Prosecution of Scott Peterson. At the time, Frey told People magazine:
“For most people, it was just a story, but to me, it was part of my life, a very painful part. I don’t know if I’ve made my mark on the world, but I’m young, and I have my whole life ahead of me – and I intend to do my best.”
Frey has two children from a previous relationship, both teenagers now. She married in 2006, but that marriage has unfortunately ended in divorce. She opened her own spa for a while, but that didn’t last. Professionally, Frey continues to work as a massage therapist. She’s also active in her church and regularly travels the world on missionary projects.
Remarkably, Amber Frey has mostly managed to remain out of the harsh media spotlight and conduct her life as a private person. In 2015, she appeared on NBC’s Today and said:
Frey also wrote a piece for the Today website, in which she stated:
“I don’t regret anything. As crazy as it sounds as what came out and whatnot, I would do it all over again because it wasn’t about me. There was a missing woman carrying a child that if I had something that would help, without question (I would).”
“Who I am today is a strong woman, a loving mother, a good friend. I am the person who travels half way around the world to help people in their most desperate time of need. I feel that I am the one who gains from this experience.
I am the woman who testified in court to give testimony of my knowledge for a missing woman and her unborn child.
I am all of these things today. I can’t wait to see what life has in store for me and who I become in the next ten years.”
As Scott Peterson’s legal team continues to file appeals and mount campaigns to get him a new trial, the case remains active in the popular consciousness.
Amber Frey may continue to live a rich and rewarding life, day to day, by having put this part of her past behind her — but will the public ever be able to feel the same way?
Watch Scott Peterson: An American Murder Mystery on Wednesday, November 29, at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery!
Main photo: Amber Frey, right, leaves a Redwood City, Calif., courtroom with her attorney Gloria Allred, left, after she was questioned by attorney Mark Geragos during the Scott Peterson trial, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2004. Peterson is the Modesto, Calif., man who could face the death penalty for the murder of his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn son. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)