The Messed Up Truth About Drew Peterson

"He's deluded. A psychopath. A patronizing conman. He'll spend the rest of his life in prison, and that's exactly where he belongs." Such were the words of James Glasgow, State's Attorney for Will County, Illinois, when describing Drew Peterson on NBC's "TODAY" on YouTube. Peterson, a former police sergeant in Bolingbrook, Illinois, was convicted in 2012 of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio, and sentenced to 38 years in prison. 

This wasn't an overnight case, though. Savio had been found dead in her bathtub eight years prior in 2004. Her body bore lacerations and abrasions believed to have been caused by a slip in the tub, no matter that the tub had been dry. Her back had been "extensively scraped," as Patch quotes, and her head "bore an inch-long deep wound resulting from a blow hard enough to split her scalp but not open it down to her skull." Family friend Pam Bosco said, "It looked like she was brutalized that night." And yet, her death had been ruled accidental and the result of drowning. She went missing for a night, but Peterson didn't worry. As he said on CBS (on YouTube), he blamed bungled holiday scheduling and a communication mishap. The following day, he prompted neighbors to go into his own house to look for her while he stayed outside. 

It took all the way until 2007, when Drew Peterson's next wife, Stacy Ann Peterson, vanished, for police to start suspecting one of their own.

An uneventful early life twisted by the desire for power

As Biography says, Drew Walter Peterson was born in 1954 and attended Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, Illinois. There are no reports of any tearful backstories about abuse or early childhood suffering to account for his later psychopathy. He joined the military straight out of high school in 1972, served for four years as a military police officer, and then left to become a civilian police officer at the Bolingbrook Police Department in 1977. He married his high school sweetheart, Carol Hamilton, and three years later they divorced. They had two children. 

We can assume the cracks were there in Peterson's psyche, deep, years prior. It was after his first divorce, though, that those cracks breached the surface and started fracturing his mustachioed veneer. 

He dated Kyle Piry, who called it off after mere months because he wielded his status as a police officer in an abusive and power-mad way. He then married Vicki Connolly, who eventually divorced him in 1992 because he became "unfaithful and controlling," to the point where he bugged their house to monitor her. Meanwhile, at work, Peterson was investigated for misconduct and found guilt of numerous offenses included "disobedience" and "failing to report a bribe." He was fired, but appealed the case and got re-hired the following year.

Even at this point, Peterson's story is an example of a truism: anyone who craves power most likely ought not to have it.

A chain of marriages characterized by abuse

It was very shortly after his second divorce that Peterson married his first official victim, Kathleen Savio, with whom Petersen had been having an affair when married to Vicki Connolly. Peterson's inclinations had gone unchecked until now — personally and professionally — and he'd been left without any permanent consequences for any of his actions. It makes sense that this, when combined with his ever-growing self-aggrandizement and love of authority, contributed to whatever drove him to commit murder.

As Biography tells us, Peterson and Savio were married for about 10 years until Savio got an order of protection from him citing physical abusive. They got divorced in 2003 and were in the middle of resolving their financial disagreements when Savio's body was found in the bathtub. As stated, her death, despite numerous details to the contrary, was ruled an accidental drowning. 

Three years later in 2007, as NBC describes, a crane lifted her casket from the Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery outside of Chicago. Peterson's fourth wife, Stacey, had vanished. He went on a spiel on CBS (on YouTube) about Stacey's problems with her family, how the two of them were planning to move to California, how she "loved" (past tense) her kids, and how she'd been under "psychiatric care" after her sister had passed away. It was all too unlikely, and Peterson's previous wife, Savio, was exhumed for reinvestigation. Her death was ruled a homicide, and Peterson was brought up on charges.

A media firestorm feeds Peterson's ego and lies

By 2008, Peterson was everywhere on the news. Footage from NBC (on YouTube) shows him goofing around with reporters by filming them with his own camcorder and drawing attention to himself by wearing an American flag bandana like a facemask beneath sunglasses. Plenty of other pictures online show him grinning, making silly faces, and seemingly reveling in the attention, or at least appearing inappropriately nonchalant. 

He took a lie detector test in May 2008 about his missing wife, Stacey, saying that she'd called him up and declared that was she leaving him for another man, and also leaving their kids in the process. He stated that he didn't know her whereabouts and talked about when he'd seen her last. On all three points, he failed the lie detector test. He was already on trial for the murder of his previous wife, Kathleen Savio, and told his then-girlfriend Christina Raines that Stacey had fled with "25,000 in cash and a couple bikinis," as Raines recounts on Lifetime's "Cellmate Secrets" (on YouTube). When Raines tried to move in with him, she found all of his missing wife's belongings in his closet. Peterson just shoved it all to the back to make room for her stuff.

Later on, Peterson told her that he put Stacey's body in a blue barrel and drove two and a half hours to dump it. He even demonstrated how to "snap someone's neck in seconds."

Convicted, sentenced, then sentenced again for putting out a hit from prison

Over the next few years Stacey never showed up, but the evidence against Peterson regarding the death of Kathleen Savio mounted. The core of the case consisted of the aforementioned wounds inflicted on Savio's body, as well as, per the San Diego Tribune, "hearsay testimony" presented at court. Under "Drew's Law," passed in Illinois in 2008 in response to Peterson's case (per NPR), jurors could hear testimony from the deceased or missing via friends, relatives, acquaintances, etc. Even though Peterson's defense lawyer Joe Lopez called such evidence "garbage," in September 2012, the jury convicted Peterson of premeditated murder. The judge sentenced him to 38 years in prison. 

As for Stacey, State's Attorney for Will County, Illinois, James Glasgow, stated his personal belief on "TODAY" (on YouTube) that Peterson murdered her to make her unavailable to testify in court. To this day, Stacey's sister Cassandra Cales holds out hope for finding her, as the Chicago Tribune reports.

Unbelievably, in 2016, Peterson was convicted of putting out a hit on Glasgow from prison. "So how long before you think your uncle can take care of business?" Peterson asks the informant on a hidden recording. "It'll be done by Christmas," the informant replies, to which Peterson says, "It'd be a nice Christmas present." As a result, Peterson was sentenced to 40 more years. On the Chicago Tribune, Cales said, "I hope he sees that he's never getting out of jail."

Documentaries and a continued string of appeals

"Drew Peterson: Untouchable," a dramatization about the Peterson case released in 2012, starts off with Rob Lowe, as Peterson, getting prepped for an interview. Lowe, in a smooth, accurate, disturbingly detached rendition of Peterson, jauntily brags to the interview crew about losing weight and almost getting hired by Playgirl magazine, saying, "I am the most researched man in America. I have a wife run off, and I'm interesting."

If you think that this sounds oddly unaware and carefree for a guy who was then on trial for murdering his former wife, consider that in 2019 WGN9 Chicago reported Peterson saying from prison, "I get love letters from women — a couple a week — and I try to write every one back," continuing, "I married these women [his former wives] and tried to compare them to my mom and my aunt who were all very good housekeepers, great people, honest in their marriages. When these women failed in that, I became disappointed in my marriages, and they fell apart."

The Chicago Sun Times reported that in 2018, the Supreme Court rejected Peterson's attempt to appeal his sentence. Almost a year later to the day, he appealed again, as NBC Chicago reports, clearly seeking any kind of niggling legal recourse. This time, Peterson's attorney Steve Greenburg attempted to invoke the writ of habeas corpus to invalidate hearsay testimony from Peterson's still-missing wife Stacey.

Peterson is currently eligible for parole in 2081, at the age of 127.