Stacy Peterson wanted out of a marriage to a police sergeant 30 years her senior, but she would not have left her suburban Chicago home without her kids, her half sister told TODAY on Wednesday.
“I don’t believe she would ever leave her children,” Kerry Simmons told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira. “She loved those kids to death.”
The 23-year-old Peterson is the fourth wife of Bolingbrook, Ill., Police Sgt. Drew Peterson, 53. Stacy Peterson’s disappearance has prompted new questions about the death of Peterson’s third wife, Kathleen Savio, who was found dead in her bathtub shortly after Peterson told her he was having an affair with Stacy and had gotten her pregnant.
The 2004 death was ruled an accidental drowning, although the tub was bone-dry when Savio's nude body was found in it.
Stacy Peterson had two children by Drew Peterson, Anthony, 4, and Lacy, 2. She was reported missing to Bolingbrook police on Sunday, Oct. 28. Her husband said that she had told him two days earlier that she wanted a divorce. He said she went to help friends paint their house and never returned.
Police initially treated it as a missing person’s case, not searching the couple’s home until last Thursday. Her family and friends, though, are convinced that the young woman is dead and that her husband is responsible.
“She told many [people] that if anything happened to her, it was not an accident,” one relative told NBC News.
Simmons confirmed that, telling Vieira, “It was the end of pretty much every conversation that we had when we were together or when we spoke on the phone, that one day if she never answered her phone or if we ever couldn’t get ahold of her, we would need to look for her, that something happened.”
Debby Forgue, Stacy Peterson’s stepsister, told Vieira that the missing woman had said the same things to her.
Friends and family members have told the media that Stacy Peterson, who had been abandoned by her own mother in 1998, had fallen in love with Drew Peterson when she was 19. They have said that the marriage was happy at first, but after the birth of her two children, she had complained that her husband was controlling and abusive and would not allow her to go anywhere without him. They said she kept a journal documenting the deteriorating marriage.
Stacy Peterson’s family has been searching for her from the beginning, recently enlisting the help of EquuSearch, a Texas-based volunteer search and recovery organization. More than a week after she was reported missing, the Illinois State Police joined the search, although they are still treating the disappearance as a missing person's case. In addition to two searches of the couple’s home, police divers have also searched a pond at a nearby airport where Drew Peterson has a small airplane.
The police sergeant has not helped in the search, maintaining that his wife told him she was leaving him. “I believe she's not missing,” he told reporters in Illinois. “She's where she wants to be. I have no reason to suspect foul play."
Drew Peterson still has custody of the children, and Forgue and Simmons said they have not been allowed to speak with them. Nor have they spoken with Drew Peterson.
“We haven’t spoke to him, we haven’t heard from him, he hasn’t been out there helping,” Simmons said. “Nothing.”
The sisters said that they are satisfied that police have finally taken the disappearance seriously, but admitted to frustration at the delays in starting a criminal investigation. Once Drew Peterson was considered a suspect, police also reopened the investigation into the death of his third wife. When Savio died, he collected a million-dollar insurance settlement.
While maintaining his innocence, Drew Peterson has taken to wearing sunglasses and a bandanna over his face when he goes out and has told reporters it’s to protect his identity.
Asked if he’s concerned about being the focus of the investigation, he told “The Chicago Tribune,” “Why should I be nervous? I did nothing wrong.”
Simmons and Forgue said if Stacy Peterson were still alive, she would have contacted friends and family.
“Hopefully, we’ll find her,” Simmons told Vieira, “but it doesn’t look good.”