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Witness tells Scott Peterson's attorneys he saw suspicious man

Divers search the San Francisco Bay Thursday for a seventh consecutive day.
Divers search the San Francisco Bay Thursday for a seventh consecutive day.

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MODESTO, California (CNN) -- Attorneys defending Scott Peterson on charges that he killed his wife and unborn child have interviewed a Peterson neighbor who reported seeing a man in the neighborhood that he considered suspicious on the morning Laci Peterson disappeared.

The neighbor reportedly saw the suspicious man in a tan van minutes before he saw a "very pregnant woman" walking her dog a few blocks away.

The man, who previously told his story to CNN, said Friday the attorneys had asked him not to speak further with the news media.

Laci Peterson disappeared December 24, resulting in a widespread search that included the San Francisco Bay. In early April, the bodies were found near the Berkeley Marina, where Scott Peterson said he launched his boat on a fishing trip the day he reported his wife missing.

Police arrested Scott Peterson on April 18 on charges of killing his pregnant wife and unborn son, on either December 23 or December 24. He is being held without bail and could face the death penalty if convicted.

The 30-year-old Peterson is scheduled to appear in Stanislaus County, California, Superior Court next Tuesday for a pretrial hearing that may decide whether to keep sealed the autopsy results of Laci Peterson and the police search warrants of the Peterson home.

The judge also may rule on a motion by Peterson's attorneys to change the location of the trial.

Neighbor says he was shown 'mug shots'

Scott Peterson said he last saw his wife at 9:30 a.m. on December 24 before he left for a fishing trip and that she had told him she intended to walk the couple's dog. A neighbor later found the dog roaming the neighborhood, leash still affixed to its collar, and returned it to the Petersons' home.

The neighbor who spoke with Peterson's attorneys previously told CNN that Modesto police had dismissed his report in the early days of the search. A sergeant, he said, told him search dogs had identified Laci's scent and that she had left her home in a vehicle.

The neighbor said he saw the suspicious man and the van at a nearby gas station and that he overheard a conversation that drew his attention. He did not say what he heard.

After leaving the gas station, he said, he passed a pregnant woman walking a dog a few blocks from the Petersons' home and pointed the woman out to his wife, saying he was afraid the leaping dog would knock her down.

During his interview with the attorneys Thursday night, the man said the attorneys showed him what he termed "mug shots" and asked if he could identify any of them, but he would not say if he did.

A source with the defense said Thursday the defense team was looking for a tan van and individuals they wanted to question in connection with the murder.

Another witness who reported at the time that she had seen a pregnant woman walking a dog on the day Laci Peterson disappeared was also interviewed by the defense team, the woman's husband said, and she too was asked not to speak to the media.

Divers continue search

Divers Friday were still battling the waves and winds, searching for evidence in the bay. Investigators have not divulged what, if anything, they have found in their weeklong, underwater search.

Investigators are particularly interested in finding the anchors they believe weighed down Laci Peterson's body while it was under water, a source said. Authorities discovered a concrete weight in Scott Peterson's warehouse that they believe could have been the type used in the crime.

Investigators earlier this year had searched the San Francisco Bay near the marina for Laci Peterson, but choppy water and bad weather often stymied divers.

In March, sonar experts spotted what they thought was a body lying at the bottom of the bay's shipping lane, but bad weather prevented further exploration until days later, when experts said they could not re-locate the object.

-- CNN Correspondent Rusty Dornin and CNN San Francisco Bureau Chief Bonnie Gannon contributed to this report.


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