Before Scott Peterson met his wife, Laci, or his secret girlfriend, Amber Frey, Lauren Putnant was the woman in his life.
“He was charming, absolutely charming, handsome, the most driven man I have ever met until then,” Putnant told Inside Edition in November 2004, just days before Scott Peterson was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife Laci and the couple’s unborn son, Conner — a case that gripped the nation for two years.
Laci disappeared from her Modesto, California, neighborhood just before Christmas in 2002. She was eight months pregnant and out walking her dog when she was never seen again.
Public perception of Scott, a husband seemingly concerned for the well-being of his wife and unborn child, quickly changed when his mistress, Amber Frey, came forward to tell police she had been having an affair with the 30-year-old father-to-be. Frey said the affair had begun in November 2002 and that Peterson had told her he was single at the time.
In April 2003, Laci's body was found in the San Francisco Bay. Scott Peterson was arrested soon afterward and charged with murder.
Frey became a key witness in the case when she secretly recorded her conversations with Scott after Laci disappeared. The tapes were eventually played in court and became key parts of the evidence against him.
Following a lengthy trial, Peterson was found guilty of the first-degree murder of his wife and the second-degree murder of their unborn son on Nov. 12, 2004. Shortly before the verdict in the case was handed down, another one of Scott Peterson’s ex-girlfriends, spoke to Inside Edition.
‘He Was A Catch’
Putnant said she was 18 when she met Scott Peterson at Abba’s Pacific Café, the restaurant where they both worked on California’s Central Coast. Putnant said her attraction to Scott Peterson was instant and mutual.
She said her friends and family were also struck by the young, ambitious businessman, so much so that Putnant said her mother wanted her to marry Scott.
“My mother especially wanted me to marry him because he was a catch,” Putnant said. “He treated me like a queen. He was very romantic. He would send me flowers and roses and just say the sweetest things.”
“He would literally take me to the beach and have a picnic set up on the sand and he would feed me strawberries or fresh berries that he had picked with a nice wine or champagne,” Putnant recalled.
During Peterson’s murder trial, Frey said Scott would court her with romantic gestures like flowers and roses as well.
But after dating Scott for a year and a half, Putnant said things took a turn in their relationship. He became what she described as “a stay-at-home guy” and lacked the ambition he once had. Putnant said she ended up breaking up with Scott.
“One of the reasons why I didn’t want to be with him was that he was a little more straight,” she said. “Sometimes, you just want to break free and dance until 2 a.m. and take a shot and he would not loosen up. He was a little uptight.”
When Putnant broke up with Scott, she recalled that he “was pacing back and forth” and upset. But within a week of their breakup, Scott seemed to have rebounded with Laci Rocha, the woman he would ultimately marry and later kill.
Putnant recalled Laci as “angelic,” and said that Scott went out of his way to make sure she met his new woman face to face.
“It was mostly, ‘Hey, Laci, come into the restaurant so Lauren can see us,’” she said. “They sat in my section. I had to wait on them.”
Putnant believes Scott did it to make her jealous, but Putnant says the couple’s appearances at the restaurant didn’t make her resentful.
Not long after her encounter with Scott and Laci, Putnant left her job at the restaurant and moved to San Francisco. The last time she said she saw Scott Peterson was when he appeared on television in December 2002 pleading for Laci’s safe return.
Putnant said that when she first learned that Laci was missing, she “couldn’t believe it,” adding, “I was in shock.”
After being convicted of murdering his wife and son in 2004, Peterson has been living on death row at San Quentin State Prison.
In March, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order issuing a moratorium on the executions of all 737 death row inmates in the state, including Scott Peterson. That moratorium is in effect only as long as Newsom is in office; the next election for the governorship of California is scheduled to take place in 2022.
As for Putnant, she said she thinks about how it could have been her.
“The FBI told me, ‘You are so lucky,’” Putnant said. “I lost sleep over it.”