Two years ago tomorrow, Drew Peterson climbed inside his missing fourth wife’s Pontiac Grand Prix, pulled out of his cul-de-sac and drove away to run some errands.
Peterson didn’t make it a mile before a small army of state cops descended on him, pulled him out of the car, snatched off his sunglasses and took him to jail.
Peterson has sat there since, waiting in the Will County Adult Detention Facility to be tried on charges he killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
In the two years Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police sergeant, has been locked up, one of the sons he had with his slain third wife was named valedictorian of Bolingbrook High School. A son he had with his first wife lost his job as an Oak Brook police officer due to his involvement in allegedly obstructing a state police search of Peterson’s home. That son’s marriage ended in divorce while Peterson has been incarcerated. He now lives in his father’s Bolingbrook home where he takes care of his four younger half-siblings, two of whom were born to Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, the driver of the Grand Prix, who vanished in October 2007.
Less than two weeks after Stacy disappeared, the state police named Drew Peterson as their sole suspect in making her missing. They also went so far as to say they believe the young woman, who was born 30 years after her 57-year-old husband, may have been slain and that Drew Peterson had a hand in it.
Despite their suspicions, the state police have not charged Peterson with harming Stacy, and judging from a status update provided by Master Sgt. Tom Burek, a state police spokesman, that agency’s investigators have made little, if any, progress in the nearly four years she has been missing.
In an emailed statement about the Stacy case, Burek simply wrote, “Nothing to report.” He did not respond to further questions.
The waiting game
While Stacy remains missing and the state police appear stymied, it was her dramatic disappearance that forced those same state police to re-evaluate Savio’s mysterious March 2004 death, an incident investigators at the time quickly wrote off as a freak bathtub accident.
The state police closed the book on the Savio case just months after the 40-year-old was found drowned in a dry bathtub. But within weeks of Stacy disappearing, Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, who was not in office when Savio died, declared she was the victim of a homicide staged to look like an accident.
Glasgow then successfully petitioned to have Savio’s body dug out of its grave and subjected to a second autopsy, the results of which apparently showed that her death was no accident.
A year and a half after Savio’s corpse was exhumed, Peterson was charged with killing her. He was in jail for eight months when Will County Judge Stephen White presided over a hearing to determine what hearsay evidence would be allowed at the murder trial.
The hearing lasted a month and featured testimony from more than 70 witnesses. At the conclusion, White sealed his decision, but it was later revealed that he permitted three of a possible 13 statements to be used against Peterson.
The trial was set for five months later, but one day prior to the scheduled start, Glasgow appealed White’s ruling.
The matter was argued before a trio of appellate judges in February. Their decision is pending, and all the while Peterson has remained in jail, where he is being held on a $20 million bond.
“Somebody needs to go in there and shake them up or something, because this is ridiculous,” Savio’s sister Susan Doman said of the long wait for the appellate judges to make up their minds. “It just makes you want to go in there and knock on their door and hold a gun to their head.”
As frustrated as Doman may be with the appellate court, she has faith in the state's attorney.
"I have every confidence in James Glasgow to send him away," she said.
When Glasgow gets his shot at that, it's a mystery who will preside over the trial. Judge White retired in November and it is not known who will be assigned to replace him when the case comes back to Will County. No one knows for sure when that will be either.
“It’s in the hands of the appellate court right now,” said Charles B. Pelkie, the spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office. “We expect a decision to come back any day at this point. The office is prepared to move very quickly once a judge is assigned and a trial date set.”
But even if the appellate court were to return its decision today, the side on the short end could petition the state supreme court to review it, which would leave Peterson locked up even longer.
“The waiting game is enough to kill anybody,” said Joseph “Shark” Lopez, one of the attorneys representing Peterson.
Time and punishment
Lopez, who called the case against Peterson a “travesty of justice,” said that the longer it draws out, the better his client looks.
“I’ve seen that public opinion has really turned,” said Lopez, telling how when he joined the case in April 2010 he heard questions like, “How can you defend that guy?” but that he is now asked, “How come they don’t let him out?”
“He’s doing time,” Lopez said of Peterson’s continued incarceration while a prosecution appeal is sorted out.
“There’s no reason he should not have been allowed out on a (lower) bond,” Lopez said. “The bond’s way out of line. The whole thing was a publicity stunt. The bond is outrageous.”
Pelkie disagreed, saying, “The bond was set by a judge and at every step of the way throughout the entire pretrial process, every aspect of (Peterson’s) detention has been argued before the trial court, and the appellate court as well, and the bond has been upheld.”
Doman also wants Peterson out of jail — but just so he can be put in prison.
“I want him hurt worse,” she said, then wondered if the retired Bolingbrook cop receives preferential treatment at the jail where he used to bring the men and women he arrested.
“When I go to the court hearings I see him talking away, laughing,” Doman said.
“He has a lot going on for him over there,” she said. “I’m sure he wiggles his way around.”