By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"I had to understand how this guy was guilty," McCallie says. "He didn't look guilty." So she went to courttv.com, chose "Jordy" as her screen name, and posted.
Her naiveté immediately drew derision from a total stranger, someone named Katiecoolady. "What are you coming in so late for?" Katie wrote. "He's already been found guilty!"
"Lady, back off," McCallie replied. "I have questions." ("She just made me more determined to press on," McCallie says. )
By that January, McCallie had read the entire Crime Classification Manual, 400 pages of FBI research on murder and rape. She returned to the boards convinced of Westerfield's guilt, and Katiecoolady's attitude changed abruptly. "When I came back with that crime classification stuff, she was my best friend," McCallie says.
Even before they met, McCallie had been thinking about enrolling at ASU to finish her psychology degree; Monkman, a single divorcée, had extra room. Six months after they went from sending private messages to talking on the phone, McCallie moved to Tempe.
Methodical and precise, McCallie often seems shy next to Monkman's effusiveness. With her short, sun-streaked hair and no-nonsense oxford shirts, she is nothing like Cindy Monkman -- but Kathy Monkman doesn't hesitate to call her "my long-lost sister." "She relates to me in a very familiar way," Monkman explains.
By the time she moved to Arizona, McCallie was already obsessed with Scott Peterson. She remembers learning of the case on Christmas Eve, 2002, the day Scott first reported Laci missing. "I looked at the crime-scene facts, and right away I knew it was him," McCallie says. She posted a message at courttv.com immediately.
The trial was set for spring 2004. But just as McCallie finally persuaded Monkman to start paying attention, Judge Alfred Delucchi gave Peterson fanatics everywhere a devastating blow: No cameras would be allowed in the courtroom. That meant no newspaper photographers, and certainly no TV.
People kept watching anyway. Court TV reporters stood in front of the camera, live, reading aloud Blackberry transmissions that other reporters, inside the courtroom, had frantically typed. "It's a challenge when you're on TV, because it's a visual medium, and you don't have pictures," says reporter Beth Karas. "I'm reading these things for the first time out loud, figuring out what's going on, at the same time people watching are figuring it out."
The bare-bones coverage only seemed to whet the public's appetite. Throngs came to the courthouse, pestering Karas and her fellow reporters for autographs. "You would have thought I was a rock star," she says. To discourage people from lining up at the courthouse overnight, court officials used a lottery to dole out the 27 seats not reserved for media or family. Often, they turned away more than 100 spectators.
But though Monkman and McCallie's band of online friends were convinced of Scott Peterson's guilt, the word from Redwood City, California, wasn't good. Many reporters concluded that Peterson's flashy defense attorney was running rings around the prosecutors. The evidence looked weak. Peterson might walk.
"People on the message boards would be trashing the prosecutors, and I would say, 'Don't say that around me. Don't go there,'" Monkman says. "They had this air of defeat."
To a woman who believes in the power of positive thinking, the solution was simple. "The prosecution needs our support," Monkman told McCallie. McCallie agreed immediately. And so the two booked plane tickets to Redwood City.
August 12, 2004
KATIECOOLADY: I am sitting outside the courtroom right now.
I just found out a way to get wireless access in the courthouse and although did not get in today again, am sitting outside the courtroom.
I will sit here for awhile and give any up to the minute reports that I can.
JENNIFER33: Katie YOU ROCK! I envy you sooooo much right now . . . I can't even begin to tell you. Keep up with the posting . . . your[sic] in an incredible place right now. Take lots of pictures so you can scan them in!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm not asking too much here am I?
Neither Monkman nor McCallie has been trained as a journalist. Neither has a blog. But their online friends were eager for firsthand reporting, and they were just as eager to share everything they saw.
Once Monkman realized she could set up her laptop in the courtroom, she began posting live updates on the Court TV message boards. McCallie served as her wing: She'd focus on a particular thing (in the morning it might be Peterson himself, in the afternoon the jury) and then slip Monkman notes with her commentary.
But the Court TV boards were frequently slow, and Monkman found herself waiting three minutes at a time to post her next message. In the meantime, she was deluged with questions: Could she see Scott Peterson's face? How did Peterson's girlfriend, Amber Frey, look? What about superstar attorney Gloria Allred, who was representing Frey? Monkman was happy to oblige.
August 12, 2004
MSUDAWGS: Amber looks so tall . . . Gloria Allred looks like a dwarf beside her. How tall do you figure her to be?
KATIECOOLADY: Amber doesn't look really tall to me but she's wearing some serious heels (the chunky kind of pump). Gloria however is a peanut. She's no taller than 5'1ish.