It's been one year since Stacy Peterson, 23, the once teenage wife of former Bolingbrook police sergeant Drew Peterson, 54, according to her husband, ran away with a boyfriend after telling her husband 30 years her senior that she was going to leave him. Peterson marked the anniversary of his fourth wife's disappearance by appearing on NBC's Today Show and telling host Matt Lauer that he had nothing to do with his young wife's disappearance and still believed she had left him and their four children, never to contact them again, to run off with a secret boyfriend, someone who has not been identified to date.
Few are surprised at his appearance, however, as most that have followed this case know that it's really all about Drew. As the poster boy for narcissistic behavior who has portrayed himself as the ultimate victim in these cases, Peterson has never shied from the media, and for the last year has, like the moth to the flame, ran toward any TV camera turned in his direction. He appears to have enjoyed his "rock star" status, even offering himself as a prize in a local Chicago area radio show in a "win a date with Drew" contest.
The four wives of "Drew the first," like the six wives of England's Henry VIII, faced danger at every turn in their marriages. In Peterson's case, former wives and girlfriends have spoken of abuse, assault, and threats at his hands. Wife #3, Kathleen Savio, was found dead in her bathtub in 2004 and all of her estate, one she was to have split with Drew, and her insurance all went to her former husband. After Stacy disappeared under questionable circumstances last year Savio's body was exhumed and reexamined. Many, especially after the disappearance of Stacy, were not surprised to learn that Kathleen had been murdered, noting she had once obtained a restraining order against Drew because he allegedly threatened to kill her. Savio told her family, "if I die, it may look like an accident, but it wasn't." And then she was gone.
Family members of Savio believe Drew Peterson killed her to get all of their marital assets. The challenge in this case is that a terribly sloppy and incomplete investigation of Savio's initial death allowed it to be ruled an accident. Now, some four years later, the evidence to link her killer may have slipped away. Police seem to have a reasonable circumstantial case against Peterson, but proving their theory will be far more difficult. The fact that Savio's lawyer said she never had a will, but Drew was able to produce a handwritten will just two weeks after Kathleen's death, apparently fell on deaf eyes and eyes and Drew was able to take the money and run.
Wife #4, Stacy, began dating Drew when she was a teenager and when he was still married to wife #3. When Peterson and Savio eventually divorced, Stacy was there for Drew, someone who appears to always need a woman with him, even one young enough to have been his teenage daughter. Two children later Stacy, like the women before her in Drew's life, knew she had to leave, to run from her abuser. She had allegedly told him this just prior to her disappearance and then she too was gone. Although some personal effects were missing, e.g., her passport supposedly to allow her to flee to some desert island, etc., her favorite items of clothing were still at home, as were her two biological children, those to whom she was closest and, according to her friends, those she would have never leave behind.
On the Today Show, Peterson continued to profess his innocence, with him and his attorney pointing to a polygraph examination he had taken concerning the death of Savio and disappearance of Stacy, one in which he appeared deceptive in three of the ten questions asked of him. This test is the basis for one of the two new books concerning Peterson. In one, the Canadian author suggests his belief, based mainly on the polygraph results, that Drew Peterson is "86 – 98% not guilty." (I have never been sold on polygraphs and have seen suspects pass a polygraph and later be proven guilty of a crime. See "Do Lie Detectors Lie?" at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7992482/)
The local state attorney has indicated his belief that these cases will soon be solved, however Peterson's attorney is quick to note that this same prosecutor is up for reelection and his confidence may, in part, be political bravado. Meanwhile a hat signed by Peterson after a previous appearance by Peterson on the Today Show, was offered on eBay for over $1,000 and the former police officer continues to sign autographs and pose for photographs. Fame is fleeting at times, but to the one man who may know the secret to the fate of his last two wives, it continues to surround him.
Some question that even if indicted for a crime related to either Savio or Stacy, whether Drew Peterson could ever get a fair trial after all the media attention he has engendered. But trial, notwithstanding indictment, seems miles away at this point. Who, some ask, better than a police officer who worked nights with extra time on his hands would know where to put a body so it couldn't be found, and who, better than a police officer accustomed to advising others of their rights, knows that the way to keep a secret is to do something yourself and tell no one.
Meanwhile, Peterson's son by a former marriage, himself a police officer in Oak Brook, Illinois, was recently suspended for using police computers to make personal checks on vehicle license plates, something his father had also been accused of doing. Sometimes the fruit does not fall too far from the tree and the lessons we learn from our fathers can lead to our own downfall. In the case of Drew Peterson, the court of public opinion appears to believe him guilty of one if not two murders. Drew, however, can look into the camera and say he did nothing wrong. Who do you think is correct?