Drew Peterson: Officer of the Year

Oct 15, 2012 - by Mark Pulham - 0 Comments

Oct. 15, 2012 Updated Feb. 25, 2013

Drew Peterson with Stacy Peterson

Stacy and Drew Peterson

For over 25 years, Bolingbrook, Illinois, Police Officer Drew Peterson used his connections to the police department to intimidate, threaten, and abuse his successively younger wives. He was untouchable. When his fourth wife went missing in 2007, state police took another look at the “accidental death” of his third wife.

by Mark Pulham

Update: Former Police Officer Drew Peterson – now 59 years old – was sentenced on February 21, 2013 to 38 years in prison for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004.

Drew Peterson seemed to be unlucky with women. His first three marriages failed and ended in divorce, with his third wife dying in a tragic accident. And now his fourth wife had run away with another man. Not too surprising given their 30 year age difference.

But did that really happen? Things were not all they seemed in the Peterson household.

Drew Walter Peterson was born in 1954, and all his life he wanted to be a cop. After graduating from Willowbrook High School in Chicago, in 1972, he joined the U.S. Army where he was trained to be a military police officer.

At high school, he met Carol Hamilton and the two started dating. She described him as a person who was very outgoing and told lots of jokes. He was very confident. Carol fell in love with Peterson, and in 1974, the couple married.

In 1977, Drew Peterson got his wish when he joined the police department in Bolingbrook, Illinois. A year later, Peterson became part of the Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad, and started going undercover. He was so good at his job that in 1979, he was named “Officer of the Year.”

 

An Abusive Control Freak

But there was a side to Drew Peterson that was not immediately apparent. He was a man who needed to be in control, a man who was manipulative, and would not hesitate to be physically and mentally abusive to get what he wanted.

As part of his work, Peterson would be out almost every night, but he wouldn’t allow Carol to go out with friends.

The marriage eventually failed as the couple began to grow apart; its final death knell tolled when Carol, pregnant with their second child, discovered that Drew was having an affair. The couple separated, and finally divorced in 1980. Carol was not working at the time, and so Peterson’s own lawyer, in what may be a bizarre bending of ethics, acted for both parties, something that certainly would appeal to Peterson’s controlling personality.

Kyle Piry
Kyle Piry

Within a short while, Peterson met another young woman, Kyle Piry, who, at just 20 years old, was seven years younger than he was. She was working for a gas station at the time, and he was there to investigate a crime. Peterson flirted with her, and she thought that he was attractive and funny, and that he was certainly charming. They began to go out, and soon, Peterson asked Kyle to marry him. She accepted, and they got engaged.

But something worried Kyle, something she had seen in the man she was engaged to. It was nothing dramatic, nothing overt, but a lot of little things. For example, if she wanted to go out with her friends, Peterson’s jealousy would emerge, and he would become angry. His jealousy made him question her about where she had been and who she had seen, and he would even follow her when she went out. As the time went on, Peterson gradually got worse, becoming angry and verbally abusive toward her.

Eventually, Kyle had enough. Uncomfortable and growing increasingly scared of the man she once thought of as charming, she decided to break off the engagement, and handed him back the ring. Peterson was infuriated.

Kyle went to Peterson’s house to collect some of her belongings, and Peterson was there. Peterson was so angry that he attacked Kyle, pushing her over a table and onto the floor, where he straddled her, his legs pinning her arms to the floor.

Kyle filed a domestic abuse charge with the police, but the Bolingbrook police closed ranks to protect one of their own, and persuaded her to drop the charge.

Peterson, seemingly untouchable, began a campaign of harassing Kyle. When she went out, Peterson was there following her. He would pull her over and issue traffic tickets for violations such as bald tires. Peterson, with a smirk on his face, even arrested her for non payment of parking tickets, tickets which she said she never received. It was clear to Kyle that Peterson was writing tickets himself and then throwing them away.

Nobody goes against Drew Peterson.

Despite Kyle filing complaints with the police, nothing was done; it was swept under the carpet.

 

The Second Wife

By 1982, Peterson had met and married his second wife, Victoria Rutkiewicz, who at 23 years old was five years younger than Peterson. With her came a daughter, Lisa, aged 8. Peterson and Victoria were married for almost 10 years, but despite the length, it was not a good marriage. According to Lisa, there was a lot of abuse, physically, mentally, and verbally. On more than one occasion, Peterson pulled a gun on his wife and told her that if he wanted to, he could kill her and make it look like an accident. He would make the same claim to another woman a few years later.

Lisa didn’t like her new stepfather right from the start. She would later describe him as a military type, very strict, who would hand out physical punishment to her, including a beating with a belt with her pants pulled down when she was in her early teens. Interviewed on television, Lisa said,  “He grabbed me by the back of head pushed and said whether I liked it or not he was going to marry my mother and he was going to be my father and I would respect him.”

After her mother was hospitalized following a car crash when Liza was 14, Peterson continued the abuse. “He had told me that he missed my mother so much that he didn’t want to be without her.” She told reporters, “He asked me to come lay down with him. He had tried to touch me in an inappropriate way. I went in my room locked my door, and I thought to myself that can’t be happening,”

Peterson also had a grudge against Lisa’s biological father, who Peterson didn’t want coming around. Peterson considered Lisa his child, and no-one else could have her. When her real father was due for a visit, Peterson would hang out on the route he would have to take, and when he saw the car he would pull it over and delay the visit as long as he could.

Later, he would tell Lisa that her real father obviously didn’t care for her as much as she thought otherwise he would be there on time.

And all the while, Peterson was continuing to have affairs with other women, normal behavior for him. But although he was free to do what he wanted, that was not the case with his family. Peterson bugged the house so he could find out what they were doing. As Victoria later told the Chicago Tribune, “He put a microphone in our kitchen and taped our conversations. He was cheating so much he wanted to make sure I wasn’t.”

In spite of the problems, Victoria was a loyal wife, who stood by her husband when, in 1985, the Bolingbrook Police Department found him guilty and fired him for disobedience and the failure to report a bribe of an undisclosed amount, while he was working on a narcotics investigation.

The legal battle lasted a year, and ended when the judge overruled the Police Commission, when a judge ruled that the police lacked sufficient evidence to find Peterson guilty. The police department was forced to reinstate him.

The marriage continued, as did the womanizing and the abuse. Peterson’s violence was never enough to cause Victoria to need medical help, but finally, in 1991, enough was enough.

Kathleen Savio
Kathleen Savio

Victoria had stayed quiet about the affairs, one of which was with a babysitter, and now her husband was in a relationship with another woman, Kathleen Savio, who Peterson had met on a blind date that had been set up by the wife of a fellow officer. In what appears to be a pattern, Peterson had chosen someone much younger than himself. At 29 years old, Kathleen was 10 years younger.

Victoria and Peterson separated, but the torment was not over for Victoria. Peterson began stalking her, and at one point, she awoke to find him standing over her. Peterson never said anything, and after a few moments, just walked away.

The marriage ended in a no-fault divorce on February 18, 1992, and Victoria described the divorce to the Chicago Tribune as amicable. But Victoria’s daughter, Lisa, said that Victoria was scared of her former husband and that may have contributed to why it was amicable; she didn’t want to do anything to cause a problem.

 

The Third Wife

Four days before the marriage ended, on Valentine’s Day, Peterson and Kathleen went away to Jamaica for a vacation. A couple of months later, on May 3, 1992, the two got married.

Anonymous letter to Savio
Anonymous letter to Savio

Within a year, Peterson had once again used violence against his wife. During an argument, Peterson took hold of Kathleen’s head and smashed it down on the dining room table. The result was enough to send Kathleen to the hospital.

The marriage produced two sons, Thomas and Kristopher, but it was not a happy one. There were frequent bouts of violence, which on at least one occasion, resulted in the police showing up after a domestic disturbance complaint. But, Peterson was a cop, and nothing happened over the incident. Peterson, it seems, was untouchable.

As with his other marriages, Peterson’s wedding vows were meaningless, and he started having affairs with other women. In 2001, Peterson met a young woman who was the front desk clerk at the Springhill Suites Hotel in Bolingbrook. Drew Peterson, at this time was 47 years old. His new girlfriend, Stacy Cales, had just graduated from Romeoville High School, and was only 17 years old.

Stacy Peterson
Stacy Peterson

Peterson was very generous with Stacy, buying her gifts, including a car, and rented her an apartment. Stacy would later tell her friends that Peterson made her feel safe.

In October, 2001, Kathleen received an anonymous letter telling her of the affair with Stacy and that everyone in town knew what was going on, including the mayor, the police chief, and others. The letter warned Kathleen to beware of who she talked to.

Within a few months, both Kathleen and Peterson filed for divorce. This would be Peterson’s third divorce, but this time, there was a lot at stake. Kathleen was not only asking for child support and alimony, but she was also going after other marital assets. She was asking for half of their two businesses, a bar and a printing shop, half the investments, their home, cash and vehicles. For Peterson, this could be an expensive payout.

Peterson and Stacy moved into a house together on Pheasant Chase Court, the same street that Kathleen lived on, just three blocks down. It was a move seemingly calculated just to cause trouble and harass his soon-to-be former wife. The divorce was destined to become a nasty one. Between the time Peterson and Stacy moved in, spring of 2002 and February of 2004, the police had been called for domestic disturbances at Kathleen’s home almost 20 times, and Peterson had twice had Kathleen arrested for domestic violence. In both cases, she was found to be not guilty.

It seemed that Stacy was just as guilty as Peterson in the harassment of Kathleen, as there were frequent reports of both of them loitering in front of Kathleen’s house. In one incident, Kathleen was arrested after Stacy was being verbally abusive in front of Kathleen’s children, while Stacy videotaped the whole thing. The video camera that she was using was one that belonged to Kathleen herself, but had been taken by Peterson when he came to the house. As Kathleen tried to get the camera from Stacy, Peterson grabbed Kathleen and slammed her to the ground, holding her there until the police arrived.

On July 5, 2002, according to Kathleen, Peterson got into their house, using a garage door opener that he himself had programmed. At 10:30 a.m., as Kathleen came down the stairs carrying a basket of laundry, Peterson stepped out from the living room. Kathleen asked him to get out, but Peterson, dressed in a SWAT uniform, didn’t leave. Instead, he shouted at Kathleen to sit down, and pushed her on the stairs.

According to Kathleen, Peterson was angry that a divorce judge ruled that he would have to pay child support, and he told her that he didn’t want to pay anything. She reported that she was left with bills totaling around $2,000, along with an $11,000 income tax bill.

Peterson pulled a knife from a sheath on his leg and threatened her, holding it against her neck. Her ordeal lasted three hours, with Peterson finally leaving around 1:30 p.m.

In a letter to Elizabeth Fragale, the assistant state’s attorney, dated November 14, 2002 detailing this attack, Kathleen says that she didn’t tell the police because she knew that they would not protect her. However, there is an incident report filed with the Bolingbrook police dated July 18 that concerns this attack. In the investigating officer’s report, he says that Kathleen did not want Peterson to lose his job. She did, however, express her fear of Peterson, believing that he was unstable. She also mentioned another incident in which Peterson gained entry into the house by cutting a hole in the drywall.

The officer also interviewed Peterson, who told a whole different story. In his version, they both sat on the stairs and talked about the divorce, both crying and hugging. Then, according to Peterson, Kathleen exposed herself to him and asked if he missed this. In Peterson’s version, everything ended amicably.

A third interview, this time with Kathleen’s friend Steven Maniaci, who she phoned after the incident, confirmed Kathleen’s version.

In the letter to Fragale, Kathleen writes, “He knows how to manipulate the system, and his next step is to take my children away. Or kill me instead.”

 

The Last Wife

The divorce between Peterson and Kathleen was finalized on October 10, 2003, and now that the marriage was over, Peterson was able to marry Stacy, which he did just eight days later on October 18. Peterson was 49 years old, and Stacy, pregnant with their first child, was just 19.

Although the marriage with Kathleen was now officially over, there was still the property settlement to be sorted out, and that would not be done until a civil trial that was scheduled for April 6, 2004. Along with everything else that Kathleen was asking for, which was alone more than $300,000, she was also going for half of his pension, which would be $72,000 a year. Peterson didn’t want that.

In late 2003, Peterson talked to a friend named Jeff Pachter, a fellow worker at a cable company where Peterson moonlighted as a cable installer. Late one night, Pachter and Peterson were driving around in Peterson’s squad car, when Peterson asked for a favor. "He asked if I could find someone to take care of his third wife," Pachter would later tell the court. "He indicated that he would give me the $25,000 and if I could find someone to do it for less I could keep the remaining balance."

Peterson came up with a code word that Pachter could use when he had killed Kathleen, but Pachter couldn’t remember what the word was, other than it was something to do with cookies.

Peterson wanted to know exactly when the hit would take place, so he could arrange an alibi. One of Peterson’s suggestions was that he go to Six Flags Great America amusement park on the day the murder was to take place. There, Peterson would start a fight. It would prove that he was there at the time of her death.

Because Peterson often joked around, Pachter thought that he was just fooling around now. Several months later, Pachter called Peterson to ask how Stacy and the newborn were doing. Peterson said that everything was well, and then added, “The favor that I asked you – I don't need it anymore.”

In February, 2004, Peterson bumped into a fellow police officer, Lieutenant James Coughlin, in the Will County Courthouse. The two talked about Peterson’s problems. Peterson said to Coughlin, “My life would be easier if she were just dead.”

On Thursday, February 26, Kathleen called her sister, Sue Doman, and told her that she had a strong feeling that Peterson was going to kill her and was going to make it look like an accident, something he had told her that he could easily do. She asked her sister to take care of the children.

According to Peterson, he had their children on the last weekend in February, and on Sunday afternoon, February 29, he had come over to drop them off. Unable to get an answer when he rang the doorbell, he took the children back home with him for the night. He said that she was also not answering her telephone.

The next night, Monday, March 1, he cruised by in the police car, and saw a neighbor, Steve Carcerano. He asked Carcerano to come with him and try Kathleen’s house again. With Carcerano standing there, Peterson knocked on the door, and once again, there was no answer. Peterson called a locksmith to the house, and by the time he got there and opened the door, it was almost 11 p.m.

By now, the two men had been joined by Kathleen’s neighbors, Mary and Thomas Pontarelli, and their son, Nick. Peterson asked the neighbors to go in and look around while he stayed at the front door, an unusual thing for him to do. Mary Pontarelli and Steve Carcerano headed upstairs, while Thomas and Nick Pontarelli looked around downstairs.

Moments later there was a scream as Mary Pontarelli discovered Kathleen Savio. Her bloated body was naked and lying in the bathtub, a one inch gash on the back of her head. It appeared that she had slipped and fallen in the tub, hitting her head on the way, and then drowned.

 

An Accidental Death

The police were called and immediately concluded that death was accidental. The coroner, Dr Bryan Mitchell, came to the same conclusion, and in May, 2004, a coroner’s jury made it official.

With Kathleen’s death official ruled as an accident, Peterson was allowed to get on with his life. Kathleen’s funeral was paid for by Peterson, and although he attended the funeral, he didn’t go to the reception afterward; he had something else to do. The something else was to take a truck to Kathleen’s house and drive away with all of her possessions.

Peterson also produced a handwritten will, which Kathleen had signed, leaving everything to him. The will was written by Peterson on March 2, 1997 and witnessed. Kathleen’s estate was valued at almost $300,000.

Over the next several months, Peterson sold the bar that they had owned, getting $325,000 for it, and sold Kathleen’s house for $287,000. Kathleen also had a life insurance policy for $1,000,000 naming their two sons as beneficiaries. With Kathleen dead, Peterson got custody of the boys, aged 10 and 11, and so controlled their money.

With Kathleen now gone, there was no threat to Peterson’s assets or his pension in the divorce settlement.

Kathleen’s family did not believe the accident story. They believed that, true to what Kathleen had predicted, Peterson would murder her and make it look like an accident.

Back at Peterson’s house, things between him and Stacy were not great. They had had a second child, but Stacy was feeling like a prisoner. Peterson would call her all the time to check up on her and she wasn’t allowed to go anywhere. By the middle of 2007, Stacy wanted to get out of the marriage.

In August, 2007, there was an incident with a gun. According to Stacy’s sister, Cassandra Cales, Peterson had asked Stacy to get him a soda from the refrigerator in the garage. While Stacy was there, there was a shot from the bedroom above the garage. A bullet came through the ceiling and hit the floor near where Stacy was standing. According to Peterson, the incident was not like that at all. He bought Stacy the gun, a Glock .9 millimeter, as a present, because, as he put it, “she had a fascination with guns. I bought her a Glock for Valentine’s – because nothing says I love you like a Glock. That was our joke.”

In Peterson’s version, it was Stacy herself who fired the gun accidentally. Because Stacy felt embarrassed by the incident, she told her sister that it was Peterson. Her family said later that Peterson’s explanation was “idiotic.”

Rev. Neil Schori
Rev. Neil Schori

Neil Schori was an assistant pastor at the church that Stacy attended. On August 31, 2007, Stacy called him and asked to meet somewhere. She wanted to discuss something important. After a few minutes of normal chatting, Stacy told him that she was scared of her husband and explained about the marriage. She also said, cryptically, “He did it.”

Although it was clear that Stacy was talking about Peterson, the assistant pastor wasn’t sure what it was that Peterson had done. He asked, “He did what?”

The answer must have shocked the assistant pastor.  “He killed Kathleen.”

She went on to detail everything that happened on the day that Kathleen died. On February 28, 2004, Stacy awoke in the middle of the night, and found that her husband was not there. She looked around the house for him, but he was not home.

The next morning, she found Peterson standing by the washing machine. He was dressed in black, and he was holding a bag. Stacy said that Peterson removed his clothes and put them in the washing machine, and then put the contents of the bag, which she said was women’s clothing, into the machine as well. For some reason, according to Stacy, Peterson admitted to her that he had killed his ex-wife, hitting her on the back of the head and making it look like an accident.

The assistant pastor did not go to the police with this information, but instead advised Stacy to go home and pray and try to patch things up with her husband. Possibly, he regarded this as privileged information, regarding the meeting as a form of confession.

In mid October, Stacy was disturbed to find a copy of her phone bill in her husband’s briefcase. Numbers on the bill had been highlighted, and there were notes next to them. Stacy immediately changed her phone number and had all the bills sent to her sister’s home.

Rev. Neil was not the only one that Stacy confided in. In 2001, long before she met Peterson, Stacy was dating a young man named Keith Rosetto. Now she needed someone to talk to, and she contacted Keith’s twin brother, Scott.

Stacy and Scott talked and emailed frequently, and Stacy told him that she wanted to end her marriage because she felt trapped. In an email to her sister’s former boyfriend, Steve Cesare on October 17, Stacy wrote: “I have been arguing quite a bit w/my husband. as I mature some w/age i am finding that the relationship I am in is controlling, manipulative and somewhat abusive. as I try to help make changes to this he has become argumentative. tomorrow is our 4 year anniversary and I am not as excited as the years that have past. I dunno?!?!?!?! we'll see what happens I guess, if you could keep me in your prayers i could use some wisdom, protection and strength.”

On October 19, 2007, Stacy met up with Scott and some friends at a local Denny’s. Within a short while, Drew Peterson, in police uniform, walked into the Denny’s and came and sat at their table. Immediately, everyone at the table became uncomfortable. It was clear that Peterson had followed Stacy in his squad car. His attention was firmly fixed on Stacy and Scott. Scott told the Chicago Tribune that Peterson “asked me how I would feel if my wife went off with another guy. I told him, ‘Honestly, I would trust her until she gave me a reason not to.’”

Peterson sat there and made no response other than to just stare at Stacy. Peterson stayed sitting for 20 minutes before leaving.

By October 25, Stacy wanted to move out of the house and called a friend of hers, Pamela Bosco. Pamela had rental property, and Stacy asked if she could live there. She said, “I have to get out of here, you know. I’m not feeling very safe. I'm afraid he's going to hurt me.”

Unfortunately, Pamela’s rental property was already occupied and Pamela told Stacy to seek legal advice.

By this time, many members of Stacy’s family knew she wanted to divorce Drew Peterson, and Peterson knew it as well.

 

Stacy: “If anything happens to me, he killed me. It wasn’t an accident.”

On the night of Saturday, October 27, Stacy’s sister Cassandra came round for dinner with the couple. According to Cassandra, Peterson looked angry. Finally, when both sisters were alone, Stacy gave Cassandra a hug and told her, “I love you...if anything happens to me, he killed me. It wasn't an accident.” They said goodnight.

They talked on the telephone the next morning at 10 a.m., and that was the last time Cassandra had any contact with her sister.

According to Peterson, he arrived home between 5:30 and 6 a.m., that Sunday morning, October 28, after finishing a night shift. He talked to Stacy, who, Peterson said, told him she was going to see her grandfather in the morning. Somewhere between 10 and 11 that morning, Peterson was woken up by the kids, and he noticed that Stacy wasn’t around. Peterson spent the day doing errands and playing with the kids before going out to eat at McDonalds.

By mid-afternoon, both Cassandra Cales and Stacy’s neighbor, Sharon Bychowski, had tried calling Stacy, but all the calls are going straight to voicemail, which Bychowski said was unusual as Stacy always had her phone turned on.

At 9 p.m., Peterson said he received a phone call from Stacy. She, according to Peterson, told him that she was running away with another man, the car would be at the airport. Peterson left to look for Stacy, and returned at around 11 p.m., just as Cassandra called looking for her sister, who never turned up that morning to help do some painting. Peterson told her that Stacy had left him for someone else, that she had taken money, clothing, and her passport. At 11:45 p.m., Peterson walked to the airport, found Stacy’s car and drove it back home, then went to bed. He was awakened by the telephone at 2:30 a.m., when the Bolingbrook police told him that Cassandra had filed a missing persons report.

Although it sounded plausible, Stacy’s family believed something very different. Friends and family knew that Stacy would not have abandoned her children. They were sure that Peterson had killed Stacy and had somehow disposed of her body.

Another person who was certain that Peterson had killed Stacy was Thomas Morphey. Morphey is Drew Peterson’s stepbrother, and his recollection of that weekend is more sinister.

Thomas Morphey
Thomas Morphey

On October 27, Peterson came to Morphey’s home and picked him up. They were supposed to be going to a local Meijer’s store, where Peterson had set up a job interview for his stepbrother. Instead, Peterson drove to Remington Lakes Park just off Remington Boulevard. There, Peterson told Morphey that Stacy has been cheating on him with two other men, and that he has to do something about it. Peterson asked Morphey if he loved him enough to kill for him. Morphey said that he did love his stepbrother, but he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he killed someone. Peterson asked if he could live with knowing about a killing, and Morphey said that he could. Morphey had already suspected that Peterson had killed Kathleen Savio.

Peterson then drove Morphey to a storage facility in Romeoville and asked him to rent a locker in his name. Peterson said he would give Morphey $200 to pay for the rental, and give him more money when that ran out.

Morphey, convinced that Peterson was going to kill Stacy’s boyfriend, and that he intended to put the body in the locker, asked, “What about the smell?” Peterson told him not to worry; it would be in a sealed container and was air tight. He told Morphey he could check it every once in a while to make sure that there was no smell of decomposition.

Peterson’s plan, according to Morphey, was to leave the body there for six months until the dust settled, and then dispose of it.

But the rental of the locker was rejected as Morphey had no I.D. on him and rather than arouse suspicion by leaving to get the I.D. and returning, the plan was abandoned, and Peterson dropped Morphey off at his home.

Some hours later, Morphey telephoned Peterson and told him that he couldn’t get involved in this, and Peterson said he understood.

Morphey was scared that Peterson was going to kill someone, but he himself was also scared. He now had a family, a long term girlfriend and her children, who he had been with him for nine years, and didn’t want anything to happen to them. In addition, Peterson was a cop, and Morphey didn’t know where to turn for help.

The next day, Peterson came over again, and he and Morphey went to a Starbucks, got coffee at the drive-through, and then headed off to a park by Weber Road. This would be around the time that Peterson said he was out looking for Stacy, just after 9 p.m.

At the park, Peterson handed Morphey a cell phone, told him not to answer it if it rings, and then he left. Morphey hung around in the dark, waiting for Peterson to return, wondering what Peterson was doing. The phone rang a couple of time, and as instructed, Morphey did not answer it, but did notice that the phone displayed “Stacy” as the caller.

Peterson returned to the park and picked up Morphey. Peterson asked Morphey for a favor, he needed help moving something. They drove to the Peterson house, and Peterson led Morphey upstairs to the bedroom. Peterson told his stepbrother to be quiet as the children were asleep, and Morphey saw that the kids’ bedroom doors were closed.

Peterson pushed a blue container out from the bedroom and asked Morphey to help him get it down the stairs and out to Peterson’s GMC Yukon Denali. Morphey helped, later describing the container as quite warm, and weighing somewhere between 120 to 150 lbs.

Peterson then drove Morphey home, gave him some money, and said, “This never happened.” In answer, Morphey told him that he wouldn’t say a word. Peterson dropped him off just before 10 p.m.                               

But Morphey had no intention of keeping this to himself and didn’t stay inside his house for long. He headed to the house of his friend, Walter Martineck, and there, he told Martineck that he thought he has just helped Peterson dispose of Stacy’s body. Morphey was clearly frantic and distressed. He stayed with Martineck until Morphey’s girlfriend, Sheryl Alcox, called and asked him to come home. Morphey told Sheryl what had happened.

The next day, Morphey called Peterson, distraught, and told him that he wanted to hang himself. Peterson told him not to worry. But Morphey couldn’t stop worrying. That night, he started drinking and called his real brother and told him what had happened. His brother told him to call the FBI.

Morphey didn’t call the FBI. Instead, frantic and worried, Morphey decided to take his own life, and swallowed a number of Xanax pills. But he was found and taken to the Edward Hospital in Naperville.

On October 30, Peterson came over to Morphey’s house and was told by Sheryl that Morphey was in the hospital after attempting to commit suicide. Peterson went over to visit his stepbrother and spoke with Morphey, though Morphey, under sedation, does not remember much about this visit.

While Peterson was at the hospital, Walter Martineck came over to Morphey’s house, and he and Sheryl drove to Crest Hill and talked to the State Police. It was clear to the police that the disappearance of Stacy Peterson was more serious than a runaway wife. They headed over to the hospital to talk to Morphey, arriving just after Peterson had left.

State Attorney James Glasgow
State Attorney James Glasgow

The next day, October 31, Morphey was visited by Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. He offered Morphey immunity, and Glasgow started asking questions. That same day, Morphey received a phone call from Peterson, and Peterson warned him about discussing anything on the phone and told him not to talk to the press or the police. The Illinois State Police recorded the conversation.

At the beginning, Peterson was cooperative, and allowed a limited search of the house and the GMC Yukon Denali, though he didn’t allow them to search Stacy’s car, a Pontiac Grand Prix. The police found this suspicious. Three days later, on November 1, they were back, this time with search warrants. They took away the computers and a number of firearms, including a military style assault rifle which had a much shorter barrel than was legal. Peterson would eventually be charged with the possession of illegal firearms, a charge that would later be dropped. Stacy’s car was also taken, towed away to a police crime lab. A second search warrant was issued a few days later.

By now, no one believed Peterson’s story that Stacy had run off with another man. This was no longer a missing person case; it was now regarded as a murder. The Illinois State Police named Peterson as a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, and labeled the investigation a potential homicide.

 

Exhuming Kathleen’s Body

As bad as things were looking for Drew Peterson, they were about to become much worse.

In the light of Stacy’s disappearance, State’s Attorney Glasgow had been looking at the death of Kathleen Savio and had examined the photographs taken at the scene and the autopsy. With almost 30 years experience behind him, Glasgow said, “There’s no doubt in my mind it wasn’t an accident.” On November 9, Glasgow announced that the body of Kathleen Savio was going to be exhumed, as the circumstances surrounding that death were suspicious. There would be a second, independent autopsy.

The next day, the body of Kathleen Savio was removed and taken to the Will County morgue, where, on November 13, a new autopsy was carried out by Dr. Larry Blum. The results were vastly different to the ones from the previous autopsy. Dr. Blum issued a statement that read, “Compelling evidence exists to support the conclusions that the cause of death ... was drowning and further, that the manner of death was homicide.”

Blum wasn’t the only one conducting an autopsy. Three days later, a third autopsy was carried out on behalf of the Savio family. This one was conducted by Dr. Michael Baden, a renowned pathologist and former chief medical examiner for the state of New York. He told Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, “To a reasonable degree of medical certainty is the standard we usually use. It's my opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that it's a homicide, and that's what I would have put down on the death certificate.”

 

Drew Peterson – Media Sensation

For the next 18 months, while prosecutors carried out their investigation and built their case, Drew Peterson became a media sensation, at least in his own eyes. He appeared on numerous television shows, including Larry King Live and Dr. Phil, was front page on many magazines, and in every case seemed to be unconcerned about anything that was going on, even amused by the whole procedure. On a radio interview, he even suggested a contest: Win a Date with Drew.

And he didn’t shy away from making unkind remarks about his wives, saying about Kathleen, “Anybody that knew her wanted to kill her.” When asked about Stacy’s plans for divorce, Peterson said that it revolved around her menstrual cycle and that other times they were madly in love.

As the now former cop swaggered around in front of cameras and the media, he had some friends he could count on for support, including 42-year-old Len Wawczak and his 38-year-old wife, Paula Stark. They all met often and chatted about what was happening. But, according to the couple, unknown to Peterson, they were wearing wires provided by the police. Allegedly, on one tape, Peterson said, “I should have had that bitch cremated. It would have cost me less and I wouldn’t be going through this trouble.”

The tape also has Peterson ridiculing the officers involved in the original investigation into Savio’s death, saying, “She was in a dry bathtub. What a bunch of fucking idiots.”

Christina Raines
Christina Raines

Also allegedly on the tape, Peterson talked about Stacy, and said that he wasn’t worried about Stacy turning up dead as by the time they find her body, he would have been tried and acquitted of her murder, and you cannot be tried twice for the same crime

It was also alleged that during this period, Peterson propositioned Paula Stark, and asked her to model bikinis that belonged to Stacy.

By the end of 2008, Peterson was engaged to his new girlfriend, Christina Raines, though she would later say on television that it was all just a stunt to keep Peterson’s name in the media spotlight. Once again, she was younger than he was, this time by 33 years.

On May 7, 2009, Peterson was indicted for the first-degree murder of Kathleen Savio, and that same day, he was arrested. Bail was set at $20 million.

 

The “Hearsay” Evidence Debate

It would be three years before the case came to trial in a state courtroom in Joliet, the process held up by numerous debates as to whether hearsay evidence could be used in the trial. The problem for the prosecutors was that although there may be plenty of circumstantial evidence, there was no physical evidence. Peterson’s defense team was very confident that he would be acquitted.

When the trial did proceed, with Peterson pleading not guilty, it was clear that the original investigation into Kathleen Savio’s death was handled with complete incompetence. The lead investigator, Sergeant Patrick Collins, collected no forensic evidence at all, didn’t collect fingerprints or clothing, and didn’t ask if the body had been moved.  The investigation Collins conducted left a wide array of important questions unasked and unanswered. With her corpse bent forward in the bathtub, how could Kathleen have hit the back of her head when falling, but be in a fetal position on her front when she was found. Why was the bathtub not wet if she supposedly drowned in there? There was blood from the wound in her hair, why had it not washed away if the bathtub had drained? If it had not washed away, it should at least have been diluted. Even if there was a reasonable explanation for all this, it should still have made the investigating officer question whether it was accident or something else.

Sergeant Collins also didn’t seal the scene of the death, which allowed anyone to go in afterward and possibly change something or remove evidence that may have been crucial.

Even more disturbing was that when Collins interviewed Stacy Peterson, he allowed Drew Peterson to sit with her while she answered questions, with Peterson even reminding Stacy of what had happened at one point, essentially coaching her.

The prosecutors wanted to present Peterson as a man who would threaten anyone who got in his way. On the second day of the trial, they presented Thomas Pontarelli, who had been one of the people in the house the day Kathleen Savio’s body was discovered. Pontarelli told the court that on one occasion, Peterson told Pontarelli not to install a deadbolt on Kathleen’s bedroom door, which she had requested. According to Pontarelli, Peterson added, “Any friend of hers is an enemy of mine.” Pontarelli changed the locks anyway, and later found a .38 caliber bullet on his driveway.

Peterson’s defense team immediately protested, the mention of the bullet had not been discussed in pre-trial sessions and would taint the perception of Peterson. The jury was cleared from the courtroom; Judge Edward Burmilia admonished the prosecution, asking if the prosecution could show evidence that the bullet was placed there by Peterson. They admitted that they couldn’t. The judge considered whether to call a mistrial, but eventually decided on striking Pontarelli’s testimony instead. The trial continued.

 

“Drew’s Law” – Testimony from the Grave

But it was hearsay evidence that would cause the controversy that surrounded this trial.

In the case of Crawford v. Washington in 2004, the U.S. Supreme court ruled that hearsay evidence violated a defendant’s right under the Sixth Amendment to confront any witnesses that were against him. However, over the years, this ruling has been relaxed in cases where the witness may have been silenced to prevent them giving testimony. And in 2008, Illinois passed a law that would allow hearsay evidence if it is believed that the witness was murdered to prevent testimony being heard in court. It was soon nicknamed “Drew’s Law.”

Peterson’s defense said that the law unfairly targeted their client because the law was passed after the investigation into Kathleen’s death was launched. James Glasgow responded by saying the defense claim was “a thinly veiled effort to sway the court into believing that this statute pertains exclusively to this prosecution.”

In the end, the judge allowed some hearsay evidence to be heard, allowing testimony, as some put it, from beyond the grave.

It was a blow for the defense team. Now, witnesses came forward to tell what the two women had told them.

Divorce lawyer Harry Smith
Divorce lawyer Harry Smith

Among the defense witnesses was Harry Smith, a divorce attorney who handled Kathleen Savio’s divorce, and was also approached by Stacy to discuss what she wanted to do. It would be Harry Smith who inadvertently caused more drama.

Greenberg had been overheard in a hallway telling the lead defense attorney, Joel Brodsky, that they should not call Smith to the stand. Brodsky, however, was determined to do just that, knowing that Smith’s testimony, namely that Stacy wanted to use her knowledge that Peterson murdered Kathleen as leverage to get more money in the divorce, would show the jury what a calculating and greedy person Stacy was. It went against an unwritten rule that one should never use a witness who makes the dead, or in this case the missing, presumed dead, look bad.

Brodsky not only ignored Greenberg, but also fired him from the team.

Smith was called and he testified about the contacts he had with Stacy, how she hoped that her knowledge of the murder would help her in her divorce.

But Brodsky should have listened to Greenberg’s advice. The testimony of Harry Smith blew up in the defense team’s face. Although its plan was to discredit Stacy, what they had brought into evidence was testimony that said Peterson killed Kathleen. Once Brodsky realized that Smith’s testimony was damaging his client’s case, he began shouting at Smith and calling him a liar.

But the damage had been done.

Peterson did not take the stand. His brash and cocky public persona was not something the defense team wanted on display in the court. In the end it didn’t matter.

 

Guilty

The trial lasted just over five weeks, and finally, on Thursday, September 6, 2012 the jury gave its verdict. Drew Peterson was guilty of the first-degree murder of Kathleen Savio.

At least one member of the jury was uncomfortable with convicting Peterson on hearsay evidence, but he was finally convinced by other members of the jury and the other circumstantial evidence against the former cop.

Several members of the jury said Peterson’s conviction was the fault of one man – Joel Brodsky. They said the decision to call Harry Smith as a witness for the defense tipped the scales in favor of the prosecution. It was a devastating miscalculation on his part. Former defense attorney Greenberg, in a letter released after trial, wrote that calling the divorce lawyer as a defense witness was “the worst mistake by a trial lawyer since Christopher Darden asked O.J. (Simpson) to try on a glove.”

Brodsky, an immigration lawyer who had never tried a murder case, surrounded himself with good trial lawyers. But when they gave him advice, he didn’t listen to them. Brodsky’s “dream team” as he called them, ended up being just that, a dream.

Sentencing for Drew Peterson is scheduled to be carried out November 26, 2012, but a number of pre-sentencing motions by Peterson’s defense team may delay that well into the next year. With no death penalty in Illinois, Peterson, who was 58 years old when convicted, faces up to 60 years in prison. 

Drew Peterson and Stacy

Drew and Stacy Peterson

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