While continuing to assert that he had nothing to do with the death of one wife and the disappearance of another, Drew Peterson said he’s mentally prepared to be charged and put on trial in connection with one or both cases.
“I’m prepared for anything,” Peterson told TODAY’s Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
Asked if that meant the possibility of life in prison, the former Chicago-area police sergeant said, “My main concern about anything is my children. Psychologically and physically, if my children are OK, I’m OK.”
Peterson has been a suspect since November in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, who hasn’t been seen since Oct. 28. Last week, authorities declared that the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, ruled an accident in 2004, was actually a homicide.
Peterson has not been named a suspect in that death, but he conceded it’s possible he will be.
“It was kind of shocking,” the Bolingbrook, Ill., resident said of the autopsy report. “We believed for the last four years that her death was accidental and now all of a sudden with this new autopsy with an old body, it’s a homicide. We’re a little suspicious of it. We think it should be scrutinized a little closer.”
Peterson’s attorney, Joel Brodsky, who joined him in New York for the interview, agreed that there is much anecdotal evidence that would seem to make his client a suspect. Both Savio and Stacy Peterson, 23, had told family members that they feared for their lives, and both had accused him of being abusive and controlling.
“Suspicion isn’t guilt,” Brodsky said.
Peterson, who is growing a beard to go with the mustache he has worn for years, was calm under Lauer’s questioning. When told that his former wives had accused him of being controlling, he replied, “I controlled my family. I think more people in America should control their family.”
He has maintained that Stacy Peterson ran off with another man, and said that he has told her two young children that she is on vacation. He also has two teenage boys by Savio.
“The older two boys, they know exactly what’s going on,” he said.
Lauer asked Peterson if he has any regrets about anything he’s done in the four months since Stacy Peterson disappeared.
“Letting Geraldo Rivera in my house,” he said. “Nothing other than that.”
Peterson, 54, retired last year from the Bolingbrook, Ill., police department as a sergeant after 29 years of service. The retirement came shortly after Stacy Peterson disappeared, and Peterson reportedly collects a $5,800 monthly pension.
He has been married four times. His first wife, Carol Brown, divorced him in 1980 after six years of marriage, partly because he was unfaithful, media reports say.
His second marriage, to Vicki Connolly, ended after 10 years. Connolly later told reporters that he had physically abused her during the marriage.
His next wife was Kathleen Savio, with whom he had two sons, now in their mid-teens. The union began to disintegrate in 2002, when Savio said that her husband took up with the 17-year-old girl who would become his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.
During a two-year period at the end of the marriage, police were called to the home 18 times because of domestic disturbances, and in 2002 Savio got an order of protection against her husband, charging him with threatening to kill her and physical abuse. No formal charges were ever brought against him.
He and Savio were in the process of finalizing their divorce in 2004 when she was found dead on March 1, 2004, in a bathtub at her home. The tub was dry and there was clotted blood on the back of Savio’s head, but medical examiners ruled that she had fallen accidentally, with the tub draining itself after her death. She was 40 years old.
Peterson was living with Stacy, who was pregnant, in another home by then, and they married shortly after Savio’s death. He had two more children with Stacy, Anthony, 4, and Lacy, 2. All four children are living with him.
By 2007, Stacy Peterson was telling friends and family that she feared that her husband would kill her. Like Savio, she complained that he was distrustful of her and controlling.
On Oct. 28, just days after she had asked him for a divorce, she was supposed to go to her sister’s house to help paint, but she never showed up. The following day her sister reported her missing.
Peterson has maintained that Stacy ran off with another man. But on Nov. 9, Illinois State Police named him a suspect in her disappearance.
The next day, the minister at her church said that she had told him that Peterson admitted to her that he had killed Savio.
On Nov. 16, investigators exhumed Savio’s body and two autopsies were conducted, one by local authorities. The other was performed at the request of the family by New York medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden. Both autopsies concluded that Savio’s death was a homicide. State authorities have reopened their investigation into her death, but no suspects have been named.
Police have called Peterson the prime suspect in Stacy Peterson’s disappearance. He denies any involvement, and claims she likely ran off with another man.