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Why it makes sense to suspect Drew Peterson

Van Zandt: Threats, mysterious death of third wife make cop likely suspect

  Body of Chicago cop’s wife exhumed
Nov. 14: The body of a Chicago policeman's former wife is exhumed amid an investigation into the disappearance of the officer's current wife. NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports.
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Clint Van Zandt

“If I tried to leave him, he said he’d kill me.”

Those were the words allegedly spoken by 23-year-old missing mother of two, Stacy Peterson, to a friend and neighbor about a threat her 53-year-old husband Drew Peterson made.

On Oct. 26, Stacy told Drew she wanted a divorce. Two days later she was gone. Her policeman husband suggests that she has left for personal reasons in the past, and that he suspects she has either run off on her own or run away with an unnamed man. No evidence of either scenario has yet been discovered.

What is it, though, in Sgt. Peterson’s background that would make him any more of a person of interest in his wife’s disappearance than the statistical probability ascribed to any other spouse or partner of a missing person? 

Common sense would support her husband knowing something more about her disappearance than is publicly known. Consider the following:

  • Sgt. Peterson is 30 years his wife’s senior, having met and allegedly dated her when she was 17 and while he was still married to his then 40-year-old wife, Kathleen Savio. Stacy Peterson is Sgt. Peterson’s fourth wife and he has a total of eight children. 
  • A history of deceit: Sgt. Peterson allegedly told Stacy he was single when he was still married to his third wife. Other wife-killers have told similar lies concerning their marital status, like Scott Peterson who told Amber Frey he was a widower.
  • Sgt. Peterson allegedly threatened and beat his third wife, Kathleen, who he married less than three months after his second divorce. Of the 18 individual reports of domestic abuse from their household, at least half were related to allegations of physical abuse by one or both parties to the marriage. 
  • After his divorce from Kathleen, who once had a domestic protection order against him, Sgt. Peterson attempted to have his $2,000-per-month child support payment reduced, to no avail. Kathleen continued to live in the house in which she, Sgt. Peterson and their two children resided at the time of her untimely death. At this point, she was in legal action to receive part of Sgt. Peterson’s anticipated retirement pension.

Kathleen Savio's death
On the weekend of her 2004 death, Kathleen is believed to have turned over her two children to Sgt. Peterson. When he later returned the children to his former residence, he was unable to get into the house. So he, an experienced police officer, went to a neighbor’s residence for help. The neighbor called a locksmith who responded and unlocked the door to the residence.

The neighbor entered the house and found Kathleen dead in an empty whirlpool-style bath tub. Her head reportedly showed signs of trauma and there was blood in her wet hair. Because her hair was wet and her fingers were wrinkled, the local medical examiner ruled her tragic death to be accidental, saying the water had probably slowly leaked away from the tub.

Kathleen had made notes concerning her fights with her former husband — just in case, according to her sister, something happened to her.

A pattern of behavior?
Stacy Peterson told relatives she was afraid of her husband. Sgt. Peterson had allegedly monitored and limited his current wife’s telephone and social contacts, “watching her every move,” even to the extent of allegedly following her as she went to class at a local college. He previously refused to allow her to visit her sister in a nearby community and had allegedly threatened her on more than one occasion. Stacy had told a number of friends that if anything happened to her it was not an accident; her husband, who had allegedly beaten her in the past, would kill her.

Stacy Peterson was said to be a good mother to her two children with Sgt. Peterson and the two children she was raising from his previous marriage to Kathleen. Family and friends say she would never run off and leave her children. She was, however, according to friends and relatives, depressed concerning the deaths of two of her sisters, one by SIDS and one in a fire. 

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