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Drew Peterson's questionable response

Van Zandt: The suspended police officer who has been named the only suspect in his wife's disappearance was a man of few words in his interview with TODAY's Matt Lauer. But what he did say — and how he said it — was very telling.

“And if Stacy is out there, as you say, where she wants to be, perhaps with another man, perhaps even watching this interview, what would you say to Stacy, your fourth wife?”  “Come home,” Peterson said.  “Tell people where you are. And that’s all I can say.”

As the TODAY Show’s Matt Lauer concluded his lengthy probative interview with suspended police sergeant Drew Peterson concerning the now-questionable cause of death of his third wife Kathleen Savio and the disappearance of his current wife Stacy, Drew Peterson seems to be a man of few words. He doesn't seem to be one who wears his emotions on his shirt sleeves. 

What happened to “I love you,” or “our two children, ages 2 and 4, miss and cry for you,” or “If you just come home I promise that I’ll never give you cause to fear me again?” Or anything other than just “come home”?

Lauer’s interview provided a unique insight into the man many have come to believe may be responsible for the death or disappearance of both known women in his life. Consider a number of Peterson’s responses, notwithstanding the almost total lack of emotion concerning his now missing wife (who he began dating when still married to wife number 3, when Stacy was but 17 years old).

Inconsistent statements

  • Lauer pointed out that Stacy had asked Peterson for a divorce just two days prior to her disappearance, this after sending an e-mailed to a friend in which Stacy wrote, “As I mature with age, I’m finding that the relationship I’m in is controlling, manipulative and somewhat abusive. If you could keep me in your prayers, I could use some wisdom, protection and strength.”  Peterson dismissed the e-mail, suggesting this was not her words, something, he said, that must have been “fabricated or made-up.”  If someone was really trying to make Peterson look bad or trying to make him look like a realistic threat to Stacy, why wouldn’t the “fabricating” writer say something like, “My husband said if I tried to leave him, he’d kill me.” Stacy had already told friends her husband Drew had said these words to her. Otherwise the questioned e-mail appears age and emotionally appropriate, especially for someone who had apparently had reason to fear of the man she married.  
  • Peterson has previously stated his belief that Stacy had simply run off with another man.  When Lauer pressed this point, Peterson initially backed off from this statement, saying “She never told me she was seeing another man.”  He immediately changed his statement again, now saying, “She— well, maybe she did. But I believe she’s with somebody else right now.”  “Well, Sgt. Peterson,” anyone of us might ask, “did she say this or didn’t she?”  How could a husband forget such a critical sentence?   
  • Peterson then said her exact words to him were that “she found somebody else,” this allegedly from the woman he described as a great mom with her own two children at home.  Remember Peterson was also described by Stacy and others as controlling, manipulative and a somewhat abusive individual; someone who limited his wife’s telephone and social contacts with others; someone who allegedly followed his young wife to college to make sure she actually went to class.  Add to this Stacy’s responsibility for her own two young children and the two children from Peterson’s third marriage. You have to wonder how she would have had the time or guts to develop an extramarital relationship with a secret boyfriend, and how his identify could have escaped the investigative talents of Sgt. Peterson. 

His response was just too simple:  “She’s just gone.  She’s where she wants to be…”

Peterson believes his wife ran away due to hormonal problems, similar to those experienced by wife number 3.  According to Peterson, his current wife is in no trouble, simply having run, like her mother used to do, but in Stacy’s case due to excessive emotions, depression and mood swings; drugs, raging female hormones, and the loss of her religion when a close relative died.  An emotional real basket case capable of anything, he might have us all to believe.

Looking into the Kathleen Savio case
Peterson indicated he didn’t initially go into Kathleen Savio's home on the day she was found dead, fearing she would accuse him of stealing something. Yet, he was there with a neighbor and friend of Savio’s who could have vouched for his presence in his former home. 

In fact, it appears to be a neighbor’s persistence that finally got a locksmith on scene to open the locked door to Savio’s home, affording the neighbor access to the home, and unfortunately, to Savio’s dead body in an empty upstairs bath tub. 

Although her death was originally ruled accidental, the very agencies that either made or accepted that finding have now seen the light and have caused her body to be exhumed for reexamination.

It now appears that the local police department, the one employing Sgt. Peterson, the Illinois State Police, the local coroner and his coroner’s jury, and the local prosecutor, all missed the chance to conduct a thorough investigation at the time of Savio’s death. All four agencies had a chance to raise a voice in behalf of Savio but let her and her family down.

Why wasn’t Sgt Peterson leading the charge, demanding a more thorough investigating, refusing to accept that Kathy (with no drugs or alcohol in her system) could still slip and drown in her own small tub?

If sufficient soft tissue is found on the deceased’s body to allow tissue examination of the eight or more bruises documented at the time of her death, as well as the one inch gash in her head, and should X-rays revealed any broken bones or evidence of strangulation — or any  other sign of death by murder be uncovered — then investigators will have their hands full.  Should Savio’s death now be ruled either questionable or a homicide, the “who did it” must be answered.  Remember that Savio and Peterson were married and lived in the same home in which Savio died. Any physical evidence linking Sgt. Peterson to Savior or the home could be explained by transfer.

A timeline for Savio and Peterson, some three years later, will need be established for both the deceased and her former husband. Who last saw Savio alive other than Sgt. Peterson? How can his activities be accounted for directly before and after her believed time of death?

Could CSI create a story where the emersion of a dead body in a tub full of either hot or cold water skew the expert opinion on her believed time of death, something that could give a potential killer time to establish an alibi?  Determining cause of death is one thing, determining who was responsible for a death is something entirely different. Perhaps the triangulation of their respective cell phones may shed some light on this case.

Peterson plays the victim
Peterson claims both wives number 3 and 4 were from abusive families, both were plagued with emotional problems, and both dealt with personal depression.  Both also eventually decided they wanted a divorce from Peterson, something Peterson says Stacy demanded from him on numerous occasions prior to her disappearance.

Peterson indicated to challenge the investigation and the media attention, suggesting that he was the center of attention both because he was the husband, the so-called "logical suspect" in such investigations. He sort of suggests he was being targeted and set up as the scape goat for the departments that had failed to solve this case to date. 

Peterson has spend far more time suggesting his victim status than actually helping to look for his missing wife. In fact, he has spent zero time looking for Stacy, something he explains as due to the media attention directed at him and his knowledge that she ran off with some unknown, mysterious man.  

He complained to Geraldo Rivera that he had lost 25 pounds since Stacy disappeared, and later said that Geraldo had put words in his mouth that were not true. One wonders how a veteran of almost 30 years as a police officer could so quickly forget that he really did have a right to remain silent?  His favorite topic was himself and issues concerning his past two wives did not seem to overly concern him.  “She was where she wanted to be…”

The effect of his TV appearance
But why would Peterson come on national television to undergo questioning by Matt Lauer concerning the death and disappearances of two of his four wives?  Peterson did use the interview to make a plea for free legal support, indicating that his defense (but he’s not been charged with anything to date) could cost him a half-million dollars. 

Peterson, who has submitted a letter of resignation to his police department, is, after all, a suspect if he refuses to talk and a liar if he does. If he thought his appearance on Today would help to humanize him, he was apparently wrong. I can see dozens of cops watching the interview, all becoming even more convinced about their need to do a thorough investigation in both matters revolving the current and past women in Peterson’s life.  There may be other girlfriends like Stacy originally was to him.  We need to find them and get their stories and more insight into the former police watch captain. 

All about evidence
Many have formed an opinion concerning Peterson’s potential involvement in Savio’s death and his possible role in Stacy’s disappearance without a shred of known physical evidence to support their belief. Now we are left with a questionable death, one that Peterson had much to gain from, and a mysterious disappearance, again one that he stood to gain from. 

Whether investigators can link him to Savio’s death and/or Stacy’s disappearance is yet to be determined.  You can believe what you wish concerning now-former Sgt. Drew Peterson, but probable cause, much less proof beyond a reasonable doubt, are still just as elusive as Savio’s true cause of death and Stacy’s whereabouts. 

The one person many believe to have the answers in both of these cases, the man closest to the two victims, has professed his innocence while claiming the hormone defense.  Time will tell if that defense ever gets off the ground or not.

Clint Van Zandt is a former FBI agent, behavioral profiler and hostage negotiator as well as an MSNBC analyst. His web site, provides readers with security-related information.