Seven years ago there were a lot of preparations surrounding December 24. Preparing for Christmas, the baking, shopping, wrapping, and decorating as well as preparing for birth. Christmas, the birth of Jesus, a celebration, and the birth of another, a first son was just around the corner. It was a busy time of last minute scheduling, gifts to be picked up and delivered, as well as tending to personal needs of the season.
Being 8 months pregnant is exhausting and topped with all of the other things to do, Laci Peterson still managed to attend a Christmas party, dressed in red silk and a dimpled smile, she went alone, her husband away on a business trip. She didn't know that would be one of the last pictures taken of that smile, and yet, it's that smile that captured the hearts of millions.
Laci was last seen on December 23 while attending to the last minute appointments and errands surrounding the coming festivities planned with her family and friends. The world stopped for her that day and we were all breathless, waiting on news that she had been found. Her husband made calls to her family searching for an answer to where she could be. It was December 24, Christmas Eve, dinners planned and Laci had prepared a recipe for French Toast for their breakfast.
Massive searches of the area disrupted the carefully planned holiday for several families in the Modesto, California area. Horses, dogs and people combed the park where her husband said she had gone to walk the dog. The dog returned home, Laci did not.
Days, weeks and months went by, and no sign of Laci. Her family looked distraught on television interviews, her mother, Sharon, frantic with worry, and yet, Laci's face held that famous smile with a twinkle in her eye looking like she would return at any time and start chattering about where she had been. A massive awareness campaign was being carried out, flyers posted, media coverage and we waited for any word of what happened to Laci and her unborn son, Connor.
All the while her husband was being looked at in a different light. He seemed to be avoiding contact with the press, avoided being seen with tears, avoided begging for help in finding his wife. It seemed like unusual behavior, but, there are no set patterns on how to act when your wife is missing. At the candlelight vigil it's reported he was in almost a jovial mood, making calls on his cellphone and caught by the camera with a smirk on his face. His behavior in light of his wife and unborn son being missing was disarming. Many started to wonder.
As the months wore on to the Easter season, Laci and Connor washed ashore near the Berkeley Marina, a place it was proven that her husband had been that very Christmas Eve, fishing. The media coverage was extensive when her husband was finally arrested and brought to trial, convicted and sentenced to death.
As we are in the same week of preparation for the Christmas holiday, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, there is another high profile case of a missing mother with a big bright smile in the news. Susan Powell, the mother of 2 toddlers, disappeared sometime in the night of December 7. Her husband, Josh, unexpectedly bundled up the two children and took them camping on a freezing cold night after midnight. When he returned the next day, Susan was gone, leaving behind her cell phone and purse.
A husband's strange behavior is being revisited each day on the media reports. Josh Powell, at this time, is the only "person of interest" until such time as he can be eliminated. Time will tell.
As you gather with your family this Christmas, hold your children tighter and remember those little ones who are spending Christmas without their mothers, and the big ones, too.
Remember the brown eyed girl, Laci Peterson, whose dimpled, smiling face we will never forget.