For Laci: A Mother's Story of Love, Loss, and Justice

For Laci: A Mother's Story of Love, Loss, and Justice

by Sharon Rocha


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Laci Rocha Peterson, 8 months pregnant, was last seen by her sister, Amy, in the late afternoon of December 23, 2002. She spoke to her mother, Sharon Rocha, at 8:30 p.m. that night. This would be the last time anyone from her immediate family ever spoke to her.

A search began which lasted an agonizing four months. Sadly, Laci Peterson and her son Conner were found dead on the shores of San Francisco Bay on April 18, 2003.

Her husband, Scott, was eventually arrested and charged with the murder of Laci and Connor. After a sensational, media-saturated trial, Peterson was found guilty of capital murder and was sentenced to death on March 16, 2005.

This book deals with the story in three separate sections: first, Sharon describes the ordinary, loving life her daughter led, including fond memories of her childhood and adolescence. Second, it covers her marriage, disappearance, the community's moving search for her, and her and Connor's eventual recovery from San Francisco Bay. Third, it tells the story of the trial in detail not before revealed. Sharon will also talk about victim's rights, a subject on which she now campaigns regularly.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307338297
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 12/05/2006
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 451,640
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

SHARON ROCHA is the mother of Laci Peterson. After the murder of her daughter and unborn grandson, she has campaigned for victim's rights, and helped launch Laci and Conner's Law, which makes it a crime to harm a fetus during an attack on a pregnant woman. The law, specifically the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, was signed into law by the President in April 2004. She lives in California.

Read an Excerpt

For Laci

A Mother's Story of Love, Loss, and Justice
By Sharon Rocha

Three Rivers Press

Copyright © 2006 Sharon Rocha
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0307338290

Chapter One

It was spring 2005, and I heard a sound at home that had been absent for a long time--laughter.

Two of Laci's longtime girlfriends, Stacey Boyers and Lori Ellsworth, were at my dining room table. Both were in their late twenties, the same age Laci would have been. They were dressed casually, they looked nice, and they radiated a youthful glow. I marveled at how much life they had in them. I pictured them as little girls at that table doing homework, snacking on cookies, and giggling at which boys liked which girls. Now they were reminiscing about Laci.

I gave Lori a cold beer, put a glass of Chardonnay in front of Stacey, and took one myself. Soon they were telling Laci stories that made them laugh, especially the latest one. Stacey started to describe what they'd done at the cemetery but abruptly cut herself off.

Seeming alarmed, she looked at Lori and, while trying not to laugh, asked, "Should I tell her what we said today?"

"Oh my God," Lori said. "You can't."

I looked around the table. There were four chairs and three of us. If Laci were in that fourth chair, she'd be the one most eager to hear what was making them laugh. I said exactly what Laci would've said to Stacey: "Go ahead. Tell me."

Stacey--whom I've known since she was eight--didn't require much coaxing, and neither did Lori, once they gotstarted.

"Lori and I went to visit Laci today," Stacey said. "We were standing there, talking to her, like we always do, catching her up with all the gossip.

"Then we were quiet for a minute and I said to Lori, 'I know what's going on with her. I can hear Laci now, knocking on her neighbors' caskets, saying, Hello! Anybody in there? Who's there? I need to talk to somebody.'"

As she said this, Lori was turning red from embarrassment. She was probably thinking, Oh my gosh, how's Sharon going to take this? Here's what I did: I laughed. I couldn't help it. It had been so long since I heard the sound of laughter at home. At one time, it had been common. Laci had a terrific sense of humor. She laughed a lot. Listening to Lori and Stacey, I was reminded of all the times the girls had sat around the table, talking and laughing.

"You know she's down there talking nonstop," Lori said, laughing. "She's down there going, Hey, excuse me! Pardon me! We haven't met. I'm Laci . . .

"I want to tell you about my little boy," Stacey said in a Laci-like voice. "I want to tell you what I'm cooking today . . ."

Lori pretended to be Laci's neighbors.

"Who put her here?" she said in a deep voice. "Can somebody please move her! She doesn't stop talking."

They were right. That was Laci.

And I missed it. I missed her so much.

Without her, a part of me was gone forever, too.

I grew up in Escalon, a small agricultural town of about 2,000 people adjacent to Modesto in central California. I remember Escalon as a picture-postcard of rural small-town life: cattle ranches, farms, dairies, and orchards. The Sierras rose in the distance.

I was the second of four children. My father, Cliff Anderson, was a foreman on a peach and almond ranch, and my mother, Elta, was a full- time homemaker. In high school, I was an A-student, a cheerleader, and Homecoming princess. I don't know where I got the nerve to be a cheerleader. Unlike Laci, I was always shy, self-conscious, and easily intimidated.

During my freshman year, I started dating Dennis Rocha, the son of a dairyman whose Portuguese family had deep roots in Escalon. Dennis was already attending Modesto Junior College when a mutual friend introduced us at a dance in Turlock. We became serious very quickly. After I graduated from high school in 1969, Dennis and I married in a traditional ceremony at St. Patrick's Church attended by four hundred people, most of them Dennis's relatives, or so it seemed. We moved into a new three-bedroom home on the north end of his family's 365- acre ranch.

I started Modesto Junior College but left by the end of the year, feeling pressure to be a wife, not a student. My first child, Brent, arrived in 1971. As much as he became the center of my world, I sensed that I had married and left school too young. I couldn't articulate it then, but I felt I might have cheated myself from life experiences.

So much was going on in the world, so much was happening up the highway in the hippie-populated San Francisco, and I was curious about life beyond the small California town I knew way too well. I was just nineteen, a child myself, and I had barely started to live my own life. I wondered what opportunities I might be missing.

But I kept those thoughts to myself. Besides, my life wasn't terrible.

Nearly four years later, I got pregnant again, this time with Laci. I wish I could remember more about carrying her for those nine months, but I'm afraid the pregnancy was uneventful other than the time I got sick eating a bowl of banana-nut ice cream, which, in reality, I didn't even like. I also craved hot fudge sundaes and See's candy, and ate my fair share.

"No wonder I'm chubby," Laci said when she was twelve years old and I told her about the significant amounts of chocolate I'd consumed while pregnant with her. "I didn't stand a chance because of all the chocolate you ate while you carried me."

True to form, Laci arrived right on time, on her due date of May 4, 1975, and she was in a hurry. It felt as if I had just checked into Doctors Medical Center when I complained to the nurse, "I think the baby's coming."

"The doctor's not here," the nurse snapped. "That baby can't come yet."

I said, "Oh yes it can," and we went back and forth like that for what seemed to me a cruel number of hours.

In reality, I was at the hospital only two hours before I gave birth. When the doctor said I had a baby girl, I was ecstatic. Then, as I've always joked, I saw her. Laci was wrinkly, with a mess of dark hair, and my first impression was that she looked like my grandmother on my father's side, not exactly the personification of beauty. But as time passed, Laci got much cuter. She was all smiles and spunk. And no one ever thought of my grandma when they saw her.

I named Laci after a pretty girl I had met when I was in high school. I'd done the same with Brent, his namesake being one of Dennis's college buddies who I thought was very handsome.

Having felt so good through my pregnancy, I sensed Laci was going to be an easy baby, and I was right. It took just two weeks until she slept through the night, and she almost always woke up in the best mood. On most mornings, I found her sitting in her green spindle crib with a smile on her face, staring at the yellow-and-orange elephant quilt on the wall. She amused herself and smiled all the time. I hate to boast, but she was so cute. I still look at those pictures and want to squeeze her.

Just after Laci turned one, I split from Dennis--proof that I spoke from experience when I later declared to Scott that divorce is always an option, not murder! At the time we split, I thought the reasons were complicated, but I now know that I was simply facing what I felt in my gut. I'd married too young. Except for my children, nearly everything in my life was left over from high school, and it didn't feel right. I was still in my early twenties, and I craved more.

I've read that Dennis is the one who left, but I'm the one who moved out, and it wasn't easy or pleasant. I wrote him a letter, explaining my thoughts and feelings as best I could, and then we talked about it. He wasn't happy about getting a divorce, and as often happens when feelings are raw and unclear, we had a hard time for a while.

I took Brent and Laci and moved in with a friend in Escalon, then we rented a house in Modesto. Around Christmastime, Dennis and I got back together. The holidays were hard on both of us. But the reconciliation lasted only a few weeks, and this time when we split, it was permanent (though today we have a good relationship).

In early 1977, I moved to San Jose, thinking that was the change I needed, and got a job at an insurance company dealing with workmen's comp. But San Jose turned out to be too big a city for me. The nightly news was filled with reports of crime and violence, and I thought, Who needs this when I can have the quiet, comfort, and relative safety of a small town?

Within six months, I moved back to Modesto and rented a small two- bedroom duplex. The woman next door, Susan, had a son the same age as Laci, and we became friends. I also met her sister, Roxie, who had kids the same ages as mine. I appreciated being back home and woke up mornings feeling as if the sun was shining on me again.

I got an office job in the shipping-receiving warehouse for Standard Brands, which, after mergers and acquisitions, became Nabisco and then RJR. A few months later, my cousin Gwen called me at work and said she wanted me to meet a guy.

Even though it was a Friday night in November and I didn't have plans I said no. I wasn't in the mood for any kind of romantic stuff.

"Sharon, his name is Ron Grantski, and he's a nice guy," she said.

"No, thanks," I said and hung up the phone.

She called back three or four times and persisted until she wore me down.

Still, I didn't want to go by myself, so I brought a girlfriend from work. We met Gwen and her husband, Harvey Kemple, at a local hangout. At the time, Ron worked for Harvey in construction. Initially, Ron mistook my girlfriend for me. Wishful thinking, I imagine; she was very pretty. Nevertheless, he and I hit it off that first night. We talked and laughed for hours. I told my friends that he had made me feel comfortable, which wasn't easy given my thick reserve.

But I hadn't met anyone with Ron's qualities. I liked that he was at ease with himself and very confident. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, he lived in Nebraska and Oregon before his family settled in Sacramento, California. At nineteen, he joined the Navy. After boot camp, he married his high school sweetheart and they moved to Hawaii and had a son. At the time we met, he was divorced and in Modesto working construction. He was ambitious, solid, funny, and he made me feel good about myself.

A year and a half after Gwen introduced us, Ron and I moved into a three-bedroom home with Brent, then eight, and Laci, four. Why didn't we ever marry? Well, we planned to. In 1981, we were actually in the midst of making arrangements when my father was killed in an automobile accident. It was an awful ordeal and obviously everything was canceled. Then the next time we talked about getting married, Ron's father passed away. We got the message. Since both of us wanted to keep our mothers around, we agreed the only aisle we would walk down together would be one at the grocery store.

No one objected, including our children. Their thoughts were our top priority, and they were fine with our arrangement. Our family life was typical of two parents raising two little children. It was never dull or quiet. One Christmas, when Laci was around four years old, we were driving the kids around to look at the lights. As we passed a house with an elaborate display, Laci said, "Ooooh, pretty," and Brent took exception to the way she said that. It annoyed him, he said. So what happened? For the next few years, every time we passed that house, Laci would say, "Ooooh, pretty."

Laci liked teasing her big brother. I once took them to get ice cream sundaes and Brent asked Laci for her cherry. Even though she didn't like cherries, she said no. No matter how much he pleaded, she refused. I was almost as frustrated by her as Brent was, and so I made her eat it. And the next time Brent asked for the cherry, he got it.

Then there was the party at their grandparents' house when Brent dared Laci to take off her bathing suit. There were twenty-five to thirty people around the backyard pool. Laci, who was probably four years old, didn't hesitate. All of a sudden she was scampering around completely naked and laughing. She wasn't laughing nearly as hard as Brent, though. He was even more entertained when their grandma went over to Laci and said, "Honey, you're not supposed to be taking off your bathing suit."

It was around that same time that Laci made her debut in the kitchen. I was baking for the family and she wanted to help. She stood at the counter with all the confidence of Julia Child. I wrapped her in an apron, put a bowl in front of her, and let her cook. She put together a concoction that included milk, banana, a raw egg, and a few other things I can't recall. But I remember it was pretty gross, and when she asked me to try it, I said, "Why don't we let Ron taste it."

She took it to where Ron was watching TV in the living room. Grinning, she offered the glass to him. He took it from her appreciatively and made a nice show of being excited to try her first culinary invention; then he actually drank the whole thing down, pronouncing it delicious. I can still hear him say, "That was really good, Laci." She came back into the kitchen beaming with pride. Later the day I told Ron what had actually been in the glass and he gagged. "You let me drink that?"

Brent loved spending time with his father on his ranch, and at age nine he went to live there full-time (Dennis had remarried and had another daughter, Amy). My mom and dad also lived on a ranch, and Brent and Laci adored visiting them, too. We had big family gatherings there, and they were just like when I was a kid. Brent and Laci followed their cousins, Jeanette, Karen, Rene, and Rachel, out on the dirt road behind the house and listened to them tell stories about wolves and monsters coming out of the orchards, until finally the younger ones ran screaming to their grandma.


Excerpted from For Laci by Sharon Rocha Copyright © 2006 by Sharon Rocha. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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For Laci 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 110 reviews.
MrsJonesTJ More than 1 year ago
I have read this book over and over. It touches my heart everytime I read it. I have been through 3 murders in my family. All were by the hands of people they thought loved them. Sharon Rocha shares her innermost feelings of love, grief, and the struggle for justice. She lets us know who Laci really was: A beautiful,intelligent, creative, persistant, happy,loving, giving woman who was so looking forward to being a mother. Her honesty and grief spill out of the book. Laci and Conner are walking down the streets of gold in heaven now and "Their" story was told by the mother and grandmother who loves them so very much. Ms. Rocha tells the story, as it unfolded. This book is a must read. It will touch your heart.
Jessica Orlock More than 1 year ago
This was a great portrayal of a mother's love for her children. I found myself completely loathing laci's husband. I love books where you have an emotional attachment to characters, and this did exactly that. Wonderfully written, yet horribly heartbreaking. Definitely shows you the meaning of love & to never take anything for granted.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is great. It is so honest and personal. I loved how descriptive Sharon was of Laci's life. I felt like I knew Laci while reading this book. I couldn't put it down.
readerchic More than 1 year ago
I wish this was the first Laci Peterson book I read. While the others on the market are also decent, this by far gripped my soul. I felt like i went through every emotion Sharon went through. What a heartbreaking story about a mom who loves her daughter with every essence of her being. I wish i could have reached and and hugged Sharon. What an amazingly touching work of art she has written in honor of Laci. Laci would be so proud of her momma.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I opened this book at 10:30 at night and was up until after midnight when i had to force myself to put it down to go to bed because i had work the next morning. I sat and read this entire book the next day. You truely felt Sharons pain. I cried when she cried, I was angry when she was angry. This is truely an inspiration! Sharon was not trying to convience anyone of Scott Petersons guiltiness. She was simply putting into words the thoughts and feelings throughout this TRAGIC ordeal. This is a number one on my book shelf!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book i have read in a long time, Sharon did an exceptional job. Laci had captured the hearts of people everywhere whe she went missing and sharon just makes you feel like you knew laci. This is also the saddest book i have read to date. But once you start reading you will not be able to put it down- Truely words can't express how wonderful this book is, definately a must read! Excellent!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very well written. Sharon Rocha was the most gracious woman in my opinion to have gone through such a horrible, horrible and senseless loss of her beloved daughter and grandson. I have two daughters and one granddaughter and a new grandson on the way and I cannot even begin to even think of going through such a horrible, senseless loss! There is no doubt in my mind that Scott Peterson killed Laci and their unborn son, Conner. He most definitely was beyond mentally ill, he was possessed by the devil!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My heart was broken when I learned about this woman. I followed the story and when I heard on the news that her husband was found guilty I screamed "YES!" and through my arms up in the air for victory! I know Laci and Connor are in Heaven with God. And I ache for her mother who wrote this book. Very good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What happen to laci and her baby is a terrible tragedy. As a mother i can never imagin going threw all that sharron rocha did. This book is a beautiful recap of her life with laci and how the monster scott peterson took it all away from her for his own selfish discuting needs. After reading this I felt closer to laci and her family. Any man who would choose an afair withAmber Fry over a life with the beautiful laci is clearly unstable. Rot in hell scott.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book about 5 years ago and I have never forgotten it. I feel like I know Laci thanks to her mother's emotional narrative and I find myself thinking of her often. Sharon describes how ladybugs were special to Laci and while I read the story I seemed to see them everywhere and even had one crawling on my sleeve in the house as I read! To me the most poignant part was Sharon sitting with Laci one last night after she was found. As a mother that tore my heart out. This is the most touching and well written true crime novel I have ever written. I highly recommend it. I pray that Laci's family has found some degree of peace and know she is in Paradise with Connor. God bless.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books i have read... After reading it I felt I knew Laci. It takes you through many emotions right along with her mother and family. I deffinately reccomend reading if you haven't.
MinorcanQueen More than 1 year ago
Loved the book! The backstory was so interesting from Laci's mother's point of view. Honest and an easy read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
God Bless Laci and Baby Connor, RIP My heart goes out to your Amazing Loving Mother and Family
JeannieVA More than 1 year ago
Wow.....all I can say is WOW. This is truly an example of a tragedy turned into pure art. Sharon Rocha is an excellent writer. I can seriously say that it was VERY hard to put my Nook down even for a moment (seriously, it was that good). Sharon walks you through Laci's life and you literally are walking with her as she tells the story. I laughed when she described Laci's beautiful laugh, I cried when Sharon cried and I was enraged when she was enraged. Words cannot even express this book. It is amazing! I think that she and her family are amazing to have gone through this tragedy and shared their story with us. I am glad that she let us into her world to meet Laci and Connor. Wow....just wow!
OneReadingMomma More than 1 year ago
Heartbreaking account of a mother's unbearable loss of not only her daughter, but also her unborn grandson. My heart aches for Laci and Conner's family.
Dreamz2weave More than 1 year ago
I followed this case from the onset and the book brought tears to my eyes more than once. A betrayal of the worst kind and Sharon's heart-rendering story gives it's readers a real depiction of who Laci was.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't even begin to imagine having a member of my family, someone who you know and grow to love, turn into a monster. That is what this family has endured and lived through. It is really mind boggling...I recommend this book to anyone. Sharon does a good job of relaying the events of the search as well as the trial and passes along information quite well, but as I noticed someone else commented...she lets her raw emotion come through as well. That is so important...I think it really connects with people on a personal level.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful expression of the love and sorrow a mother feels after her child is taken from her. Her raw and candid emotion pours out of every page. Sharon Rocha is an excellent speaker. Her talent was shown throughout the case, in various interviews and especially during her victim impact statement and now again in print.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I cried like a baby reading this story! I feel like I know Laci so well and she's watching us all down from heaven while holding Connor. My husband and I are suffering from infertility and I pray to Laci promising that we'll be the parents she WANTED and everyone knew she would be! I hope she's listening!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have so much respect and admiration for Sharon Rocha for being able to write the book. She is such a strong & courageous individual. I pre-ordered this book before it hit store shelves and believe me, it was worth every penny and more!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
An excellent book brimming with emotion. Sharon has always proven herself to be a very eloquent person and her book continues in that vein. I can't fathom losing a child and she makes you feel that they've become a part of your family.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I saw that this book had come out, I knew I had to read it. I followed Laci's story very closely. I think it is wonderful that she chose to write this book and share Laci with all of us. Once I started reading 'For Laci', I couldn't put it down. Sharon did a wonderful job with this book and can't begin to imagine how hard it must have been for her to write. It was written so beautifully. A touching tribute to Laci. I was brought to tears and laughter numerous times.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book captured my attention more so than the media attention surrounding this case. Once I started reading I simply could not put the book down until it was finished. Sharon does such an amazing job of reliving the horrible details surronding the tragic end to her beautiful daughters life. This book really brings insight into the type of person Laci was which only makes this tragedy so much worse. Such a vibrant person so full of life and who truly loved living, Laci deserved so much more than Scott was ever capable of giving. This book also gives amazing insight to the dark and dirty world of defense attorneys and the hurt they cause when defending obvious criminals! Mark Garagos should never sleep easy after the antics of staging a boat in the parking lot across from the court house with a stuffed pair of overalls to mimic Laci's body. I can only hope he suffers the same type of tragic loss to someone very close to him, in an equally violent manner then faces a heartless defense attorney that mocks the reality of the crime committed! Thank you Sharon, for opening up to everyone and sharing your inner most thoughts throughout your darkest days and being Laci's voice through all of this sadness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was wonderful. so much was explained that you feel you know how laci's mother must have struggled to put her thoughts into words. as a mother of 2 boys i cant even come close to think of what kind of nightmare this still has to be on a daily basis for laci's family and friends. this is a must read for any parent. my heart realy hurt after reading this 15 yr. old son is doing his book report on this tragedy and how domestic abuse realy does impact an entire family not just the victim being abused.........
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. I could not put the book down. Sharon wrote a great book. She expressed her love for Laci so well. I really like how she went into detail and included part of Laci's personal journal she kept about her pregnancy. It must be so hard to lose such a beautiful and loving person. My heart goes out to Laci's family and may they be comforted by knowing that Laci and Conner are in a better place.