She Glitters, but Is She Really Gold? the Defense Takes Aim at Scott Peterson's Flame

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Byline: KAREN BRESLAU (With Robina Ricitiello and Bob Jackson)

Scott Peterson may have told Amber Frey he wanted her to play a big role in his future, but certainly not like this. Taking the stand last week in Redwood City, Calif., as the prosecution's star witness in Peterson's murder trial, Frey cut a more respectable figure than she had as the tabloid siren who had an affair with Peterson in the weeks before his wife, Laci, disappeared in December 2002. Demure and composed in court, Frey explained how, as a single mother, she'd unwittingly fallen for a man who teased her with the prospect of caring for her and her child. When she discovered he wasn't the jet-setting bachelor he claimed to be--but rather a philandering fertilizer salesman whose pregnant wife may have been the victim of foul play--Frey secretly began recording their phone conversations at the request of police, and last week jurors got their first listen. "Isn't it a little twisted?" to carry on an affair while all of Modesto searches for Laci, Frey grills Peterson in one conversation with all the moxie of a D.A. "It is," he says.

Frey's appearance was the high point thus far for a prosecution plagued by missteps. A witness was forced to recant testimony. A cop had to admit error. And the state's generally sloppy presentation has sorely tested the judge's patience.

Now it's up to defense attorney Mark Geragos to decide how hard to cross-examine Frey. Does he get her off the stand quickly to signal to jurors she's no threat to the defense? Or does he try to tear her apart? Those close to Peterson say that even before his wife went missing, he worried that Frey, a massage therapist he first wooed with strawberries and champagne on Nov. …