Kyle Piry was just 20 when she broke off her engagement to a handsome and charming Chicago-area cop named Drew Peterson. She says it was just a lot of little things he did that made her uncomfortable.
But 26 years later, as police look for that man’s fourth wife and take a new look at the untimely demise of his third bride, Piry tells TODAY she probably should have been more afraid of Drew Peterson than she was when they dated.
“I look back, no, I wasn’t afraid — probably naively,” Piry told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira on Monday of her experience with Peterson.
Asked to describe her reaction to news stories that Peterson is being investigated in connection with the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, and the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, Piry said initially she was in disbelief.
“I was shocked,” Piry said.
Peterson has not been charged with any crimes, but has said he expects to be arrested. He has been described by relatives and friends of both women as being possessive and controlling. Both women reportedly told friends and family that Peterson was capable of killing them.
Piry told Vieira that the man she knew showed some signs of the behavior his third and fourth wives described, but she never thought he was dangerous.
“To look back, I don’t think at that time I would have thought he was capable of it,” she said. “But after I’ve heard the stories and things that have occurred with previous wives, they’re just very, very similar to the things that occurred with me. It seemed like it started with me. I heard his first wife said there was no abuse of any sort — and maybe snowballed — with each woman got a little worse.”
Piry is 46 now and married with a family of her own. She had met Peterson while she was working at a gas station and Peterson, seven years her senior, had come to investigate a crime.
“He was attractive. He was funny. He had a good wit about him,” she told Vieira. “He was complimentary and that sort of thing. He was charming.”
Peterson had already been married once and divorced and had children by that marriage. But Piry was smitten and soon accepted his proposal to marry.
“We hadn’t set dates or that sort of thing, but we were engaged for about four months before I decided there were too many things that just made me really uncomfortable,” Piry said.
None of the things that troubled her were major issues, she said. Rather, it was a cumulative feeling that gave her a gut sense that this was a future she did not want for herself.
“There wasn’t anything great happening or flashing red lights,” she said. “There were little things that just made you think, ‘Hmmm, something’s wrong here.’ If I wanted to go out with my friends on the weekend, he didn’t like that, he was upset with that. As the relationship went on, it got to be worse and worse.”
Jealous and possessive
He grilled her about places she went and people she saw, and, she discovered, he sometimes followed her when she went out. When he got angry, he called her names and was verbally abusive, but he never threatened her physically until she had broken up with him and went back to his house to pick up some of her things.
“It turned into an argument,” she said. “He pushed me over the cocktail table, got me on the ground, straddled me with his arms — put my arms against the ground with his legs. That upset me. I had never had anyone treat me like that before.”
Piry even filed domestic abuse charges with the Bolingbrook police, but, she said, his friends on the force encouraged her not to pursue them. “I can’t say they were covering up,” she said. “They just wanted it to go away.”
For a time, she continued, Peterson continued to harass her, following her when she went out on weekends and pulling her over to write what she called frivolous traffic tickets for such violations as having bald tires.
But Piry said she didn’t think of Peterson as dangerous. “Hearing all the details now, it’s a different person than I knew,” she said.
Piry is a private person and when the news of Stacy Peterson’s disappearance first broke, she didn’t feel it was important for her to speak out. “I didn’t think it would help find Stacy or help with Kathleen,” she told Vieira.
But she came forward because she believes there is a lesson for other young women in her own experience. She followed her gut instinct to break off an engagement that many others might have gone through with, she said.
If she hadn’t listened to her gut, she said, she realizes now as she watches the continuing coverage of the case, “That could have been me.”
Stacy Peterson, 23, has been missing since Oct. 23.
This weekend, the FBI joined the search, agreeing to provide technical assistance to the Illinois State Police. The results of a second autopsy performed on the recently exhumed body of Kathleen Savio have not yet been released.