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Consumer Reports

For Scott Petersons, only their name is the same | (KRT) Not too long ago, Scott Peterson placed a call to his credit card company with a question regarding his account. A Chase employee promptly called him back.

"The guy said, `We'd like to thank you for using your one phone call to call Chase,'" Peterson said.

Now, that's funny.

For those who share their name with America's most famous fertilizer salesman - people whose only brush with the law might have involved illegal U-turns - life has been full of double takes from strangers, and one-liners from bank-tellers-turned-comedians.

It's not known how many unfortunate souls out there in California's San Francisco Bay Area are named Scott Peterson; the San Jose, Calif., phone book lists three. Further investigation shows Santa Clara County has 10 Scott Petersons registered to vote.

Though they take plenty of ribbing, there's nothing funny, of course, about Scott Lee Peterson, who is on trial for allegedly killing his pregnant wife, Laci, on or just before Christmas Eve 2002. The double-murder trial in Redwood City, Calif., is getting national attention, improbably sharing headlines with a war and a presidential election.

Combine that massive media coverage with the relative commonness of the name and the result is giggles and raised eyebrows whenever Scott Peterson introduces himself at a meeting, cashes his check at the bank or shops for groceries.

Meet Scott D. Peterson, a 38-year-old computer programmer from San Jose. Shopping at Safeway means hearing cashiers call out his name when they hand him the receipt: "Thank you, Mr., uh, Scott ... hmmm ... Peterson." And then they wink.

For Scott William Peterson, the Chase cardholder, it was irritating at first.

"It is strange to hear your name on national news and even stranger to be associated with a double murder," said Peterson, who teaches math at De Anza College and is a manager of flight control at Lockheed.

Peterson, 47, was in Los Angeles when his namesake was arrested in Southern California last year. The Los Angeles Times' headline blared: "Scott Peterson Arrested."

"I kept that," Peterson said.

Lauri Peterson, formerly of San Jose, remembers the winter of 2002 as an eerie period for her family. Her husband's name is Scott; she, too, was due to deliver in February 2003; "and my name is Lauri."

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Peterson, 27, said at the time that longtime family friends of her husband's would call up his mother, genuine concern in their voice.

"We know he got married," they would say, "and we can't remember her name, and we know she was pregnant."

Then there's Scott B. Peterson, the one who lives in Berkeley (no comments about the Berkeley Marina, please) and who works as the program director for the Northern California office of the prestigious Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, which claims such notables as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Anna Eshoo and Gene Siskel, the late movie critic, on its list of alumni.

Peterson has taken to keeping his name short. Just Scott, thank you.

"It's a bummer. I don't really use my last name anymore," said Peterson, 38. "Frankly, people get a little too distracted."

This is often what happens: He tells someone his full name and they respond with an "Oh!" The conversation continues, he said, but he can actually see them, sitting there, working it over in their minds.

Some have blurted: "You're not related to that guy, are you?"

"If I were," he'll ask slowly, "would I really have the same name?"

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© 2004, San Jose Mercury News Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services