By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Monkman and McCallie's first trip was supposed to put them in the courtroom for four days. But court was canceled on the first day, so they made the two-hour drive to Scott and Laci's house in Modesto.
They hadn't planned to take pictures. But once they were standing in front of the Peterson house, McCallie snapped photograph after photograph: the house, the path that Laci supposedly walked on the morning her disappearance, the driveway.
Something at the rear of the driveway caught Monkman's eye.
"What is that back there?"
"It's a bag of concrete mix," McCallie replied.
Concrete was one of the case's big mysteries. Scott had admitted to police detectives that, soon before his wife's murder, he'd purchased a big bag of cement mix -- "something like" 60 to 90 pounds -- but could only produce one small anchor he'd made for his boat. Prosecutors argued that he used the rest to weigh down his wife's corpse, but Peterson said he'd shored up a fence post and fixed his driveway.
Could Peterson's attorney have placed the bag on the driveway to suggest to the neighbors that Scott really had worked on the driveway? It seemed too weird, but Monkman couldn't imagine what else it could mean.
"You'd better take a picture," she said.
"I already did," McCallie said.
They didn't know it then, but that picture would change their lives.
August 12, 2004
KATIECOOLADY: Jordy has had some computer problems today evidently so doesn't have the photos ready YET but I guarantee you will love them . . . she has about 250 I think and will put together a photo album.
But for now I want to post about our trip out to Modesto and drive to the Marina on Monday. . . .
One ironic note: in the driveway to the house still lays a half used bag of cement. Irony? Carefully placed? Some cruel joke?
After their first trip to Redwood City, the women decided to go back over Labor Day. Their fan base was clearly growing: The Court TV Web site records that some of Katiecoolady's trial updates have been read more than 38,000 times.
Other regulars, mostly California residents, also visited the trial and posted commentary. But few did it live from the courthouse, as did Monkman. And no one else engendered such a devoted following.
September 8, 2004
DALMATIONGRL: Hey Katie! Do me a favor and go spit on Scott for me. He's one of the reasons I hate men.
DUNLURKEN: I was thinking that I wish CTV would put Katie and Jordy on salary. They are doing a fabulous job with the minute details that we REALLY need. If we can't have cameras in the courtroom, can we have Katie and Jordy?
"So many people would say, 'You brought me into the courtroom with you,'" Monkman says. "And I felt that way, too. I'd be sitting surrounded by people, but I'd be feeling more connected to the people in the chat room than the people around me . . . even though the people in the chat room were technically strangers to me."
Court TV regulars have long been split into two camps. The Guilties steadfastly support the prosecution, while the Not Guilties, or N.G.s, often resort to arguing "reasonable doubt."
Arguments can be vicious. "The more high profile the case, and the longer it goes on, the more heated it gets," explains "JerseyGirl#4," who will give only her first name, Lori. "That screen just gives people false bravado. They say outrageous things they'd never say to anyone's face."
Monkman had long been an unwavering Guilty. N.G.s carped that she was milking her sister's death, but Guilties loved that she was willing to share from her painful personal experience. "She just has an interesting perspective," Lori says. "She's so insightful."
In Redwood City, Monkman didn't try to be objective or professional: She openly cheered for the prosecutors. She also gushed about how excited she was, what she was thinking, the vibe she perceived in the air.
One day, she burst into tears after not being selected in the lottery, which meant another day outside the courtroom when she desperately wanted to be in. She typed from the hallway, writing about her crying jag, her decision to find a chocolate croissant, and ultimately her quest to find meaning in her bad luck.
September 9, 2004
KATIECOOLADY: I believe everything happens for at least some reason so maybe something will reveal. . . . Maybe some other miracle will unfold today that will allow some clouds to part here.
IRISHPRINCESS: Keep in mind that there is a silver lining to you not getting in today (we just don't know what it IS yet). I know it stings, it hurts and it seems so not fair . . . but everything happens for a reason. You stand strong, keep your chin up and never let 'em see you sweat. WE NEED YOU OUT HERE!
That afternoon, Monkman got her "miracle" -- a chance to talk to Sharon Rocha, Laci Peterson's mom.
Monkman had passed one of the Rochas a card earlier that day, mentioning her sister's murder, and Rocha later approached her. She asked what had happened, and Monkman explained that 14 years after their trials, her sister's killers both remain on death row.