Secretly monitored conversations in which Drew Peterson allegedly talked about the death of his third wife and his missing fourth wife could be the break investigators were waiting for, according to MSNBC senior legal analyst Susan Filan.
"This I would consider a breakthrough," Filan told TODAY’s Amy Robach Thursday after The Chicago Sun-Times reported that two of Peterson’s friends wore wires to record his conversations with them from last November until mid-June. "We don’t have a body. We don’t have a lot of clues. But if these are in fact taped statements, they are incriminating, they are damaging and I think they are helpful."
Filan said there is still little evidence connecting Peterson to the suspicious death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, and the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. "There’s a lot of suspicion, not a lot of evidence," she said. But, she added, if the tapes contain the information that the informants say they do, it is a significant piece of evidence.
"You build cases brick by brick by brick," said Filan, a former prosecutor. "This is a good brick. I like this brick, but it doesn’t mean we’ve got the whole house — yet."
Denial by Peterson
In an earlier interview on Thursday, Peterson told TODAY’s David Gregory that he never made statements attributed to him by Len Wawczak, 42, and his wife, Paula Stark, 38, who said they have known Peterson for 16 years. Wawczak told the Sun-Times that he approached Illinois State Police and volunteered to wear a wire while talking to Peterson.
Wawczak claimed that Peterson, a retired Bolingbrook, Ill., policeman, called police who investigated Savio’s death "idiots," preceding the word with an expletive. Peterson also allegedly said he should have had Savio’s remains cremated so that investigators could not exhume her remains and change the initial finding — that her death was due to accidental drowning in her bathtub — to homicide.
" 'I should have had that b**** cremated. It would have cost me less and I wouldn't be going through this trouble,' " Wawczak quoted Peterson as saying.
He also said that Peterson said he expected that he would be tried and acquitted in the murder of Stacy Peterson before her body was found. Then, if the remains were discovered, he would be free because he could not be tried twice for the same crime.
"I never made any statement like that," said Peterson, who continues to maintain Stacy Peterson ran away with another man and is alive.
"That’s got to be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard," Peterson’s attorney, Joel Brodsky, told Gregory. "That somebody would have a plan to commit murder, to be arrested, tried and acquitted before a body was found. That’s just insane to think that somebody would make that kind of plan."
Peterson and Brodsky suggested that Wawczak and Stark are trying to profit from their relationship with him, as he said they have before. The couple are in severe financial straits and see this as their ticket to solvency, Brodsky said.
"I know that Paula, for example, has filed for bankruptcy five times in the last nine years," Brodsky said. "Len has filed bankruptcy twice since 2004. These are people that are in a very bad financial situation, they’re about to be thrown out of their house, and they need money. They are trying to make money as other people have made money off of this case."
Illinois State Police have declined to comment on the possible existence of taped conversations. But, Brodsky said, if they do exist — and he is not convinced of that — and the couple went public with the information on them, they could be in serious legal trouble.
"The Illinois State Police and the prosecutors, if there are tapes with anything incriminating on them, would never allow these people to go on the media and talk about it," Brodsky said. "It’s a felony. To taint their entire investigation like this would be nuts."
Peterson said he has known the couple for 25 years instead of the 16 years Wawczak told the Sun-Times. "Lenny Wawczak is somebody I met by arresting him. I arrested him on a couple of