In this NBC News exclusive interview, “Today” host Matt Lauer talks with Amber Frey about the emotional moment when she found out the man she was dating, Scott Peterson, was not who he said he was, and her courageous decision to help solve the case no matter what.
Amber Frey: I think I lost a moment of my life. Because all I remember is shaking. I was just shaking and I couldn't speak.
Amber Frey had just found out that Scott Peterson, the man she'd been dating for the last month, was not only married, but that his wife was pregnant, missing and that Scott was a suspect. Amber was at a party with friends.
Matt Lauer: Did you tell them what happened, the people in the room?
Frey: I was able to get a few words out, that Scott Peterson was the Scott Peterson that had a missing, pregnant wife and … I just shook. They said I was there probably like an hour and it just seemed like a moment … I couldn't stop shaking. So I was, I guess, in shock.
It was December 29, 2002. Five days earlier, on Christmas Eve, Scott had reported that his wife, Laci, was missing. A massive search was underway, and Laci's disappearance was becoming a major news story. Amber now realized Scott had told her a string of outrageous lies, and that some of them bore an eerie resemblance to the facts of Laci Peterson’s disappearance.
Lauer: And so, many of the things he had said must now start swirling in your mind — "I've lost my wife."
Frey: I didn't sleep. I cried, I think, 'till that morning. Maybe, if I was lucky, [I] had an hour's sleep. It just, so many things were crossing my mind, things he said. I was just so scared, it was unbelievable.I remember saying that over and over, “unbelievable.”
Lauer: Why me?
Frey: That came to mind probably within that week. I know it sounds crazy, but I was thankful that [it] was me, for Laci, because if [it]wasn't me, then there wouldn't be a way to find her.
Modesto police had begun to suspect Scott was hiding something. When Amber called, their whole investigation changed.
Lauer: The police said to you at one point, "We've been praying for someone like you to come forward."
Lauer: Did you stop and think, "My life will never be the same?"
Frey: I think my main focus really was that there was a missing, pregnant woman, that nobody knew where she was. And as far as my life or what was going to happen with everything else, I don't think my mind-set was there at that point.
The police wanted to document Scott’s lies and asked Amber to help them.
Frey: It was very casual how they brought it up. You know, basically, "How would you feel about taping your conversations?" I thought, "Well if, you know, it will help … OK."
At the time, Scott Peterson had no idea that Amber knew about Laci, no idea that Amber was talking to the police. He was still calling Amber [and] pretending to be her unmarried, globe-trotting boyfriend.
Frey: Anticipating that next call … my stomach was turning. I was shaking — my hands were just sweaty.When that phone rang and it was him I just had to get rid of the shakes and…
Lauer: You had to become an actress.
Frey: If that's what one would say, yes.
One of the most damning calls was also one of the first — New Year's Eve. Scott pretended that he was in Paris.
Scott: Amber, it's New Year's here. Are you there?
Amber: Yeah. Are you having a good time?
Scott: I’m near the Eiffel Tower. The New Year's celebration is unreal. The crowd is huge.
Amber: The crowd is huge?
There was a huge crowd, but in Modesto. That very night, Scott attended a candlelight vigil for his missing, pregnant wife.
Lauer: You were listening to him say things like, "I'm at the Eiffel Tower. The celebration's unreal." By this time you knew there was a vigil that night for Laci Peterson. Are you thinking, "I'm dealing with a sociopath here?"
Frey: I was very much afraid.
Lauer: For your own safety?
Frey: At that point [I] had not been home. I was afraid to go home.
In the weeks and months ahead, Amber would have to face down her fears and eventually, in court, she would have to face Scott Peterson himself.
Watch "Dateline NBC" Tuesday, Jan. 4, at 10 p.m. ET when Frey talks about her testimony that may have helped convict Scott of Laci's murder, her reaction to his sentencing, and more.