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Most men and women who aspire to be police officers begin their careers with a noble dream of community service, upholding the law, and helping those in need. Yet over time the rigors and emotional strain of dealing with society’s worst element wear on even the most idealistic officers like a sheet of sandpaper, until what used to be a compassionate human being is slowly rubbed away. A few become corrupted and slip into criminal behavior, directly contradicting their oath to guard the public. Even worse, there ...
Most men and women who aspire to be police officers begin their careers with a noble dream of community service, upholding the law, and helping those in need. Yet over time the rigors and emotional strain of dealing with society’s worst element wear on even the most idealistic officers like a sheet of sandpaper, until what used to be a compassionate human being is slowly rubbed away. A few become corrupted and slip into criminal behavior, directly contradicting their oath to guard the public. Even worse, there are some who hide behind their badges to commit the most heinous crimes imaginable.
In a shocking true-crime narrative that reads like a thriller, former police officer, former detective, and mystery writer Stacy Dittrich tells eighteen stories about cops who kill. From the brutal to the bizarre, the senseless to the extreme, these men and women abused their power, took human life, and are now (except for one) paying the consequences. Some killed for love, others for money, and still others because of seemingly trivial personality conflicts. Dittrich profiles, among others:
• New Orleans cop Antoinette Frank, who brutally murdered three innocent people, including a fellow officer.
• Canton, Ohio police officer Bobby Cutts Jr., who murdered his former girlfriend when she was nine-months pregnant.
• California highway patrolman Craig Peyer, who pulled over San Diego State college student Cara Knott over a frivolous traffic violation, then murdered her.
• Columbia, Missouri officer Steven Rios, who slit the throat of his gay lover, after he threatened to tell everyone of their relationship.
As a veteran police officer with seventeen years of experience, Dittrich is careful to emphasize that the vast majority of law enforcement officers dutifully uphold their oath to protect the public trust. The fascinating stories she tells are examples of the few whose character flaws turned them into the very criminals they themselves at one time pursued.
DREW PETERSON POLICE SERGEANT, BOLINGBROOK, ILLINOIS
Unquestionably, the center of the most profiled alleged murder-by-cop mystery of this century, Drew Peterson is the only cop within these pages who hasn't been convicted of murder. Although he has been indicted, he is innocent until proven guilty.
Why has he been included?
It is doubtful that one could find anyone in a local coffee shop who hasn't heard of Peterson, especially one who doesn't think he is guilty of murder. His unceremonious mockery of the system that has, so far, allowed him to walk freely for almost two years before an indictment has compelled a majority of talk shows, news organizations, and radio stations worldwide to follow his story.
Drew Peterson, a fifty-three-year-old Bolingbrook, Illinois police sergeant, became the focus of media attention when his beautiful, twenty-three-year-old wife, Stacy, was reported missing by worried family members on October 29, 2007.
Stacy Peterson, formerly Stacy Ann Cales, grew up in a troubled family, plagued with traumatic events. Stacy, the third of five children born to Anthony and Christie Cales, lost two of her elder sisters—one to a fire and the other to sudden infant death syndrome. Both were under two years old when they died. Unable to cope with the loss of two children, Christie Cales abruptly left her family for parts unknown, leaving Anthony to start a new life somewhere else.
Anthony wasn't without his own troubles. He moved the family between twenty and thirty times according to Cassandra Cales, Stacy's younger sister. Anthony also fought alcoholism constantly, and often became verbally and physically abusive in his drunken rages. Stacy and Cassandra bonded even closer, as only two sisters who only had each other could, when their brother was convicted for aggravated sexual abuse of a minor. Finding herself back in Illinois from yet another move, Stacy took a job at a local hotel. It was there that she first met Drew Peterson.
Stopping in frequently during his shift while in uniform, suave Drew Peterson won the heart of troubled seventeen-year-old Stacy Cales. Capitalizing on Stacy's troubled life of financial instability and lack of parental love, Drew showered her with jewelry, expensive dinners, and compliments. There was a minor problem, however—Drew Peterson was married. Kathleen Savio, Peterson's wife, learned of his affair with Stacy, who was now pregnant with his child. Savio quickly filed for divorce, and Stacy and Drew married later that year. To Stacy, Drew was her knight in shining armor—her savior.
Now a mother to two young children, Stacy Peterson's dreams had come true—a beautiful home in a nice neighborhood, money, and the father figure she never had while growing up. She was happy, if only for a short while. Stacy's family and friends felt that her situation was entirely too good to be true. They felt Drew was too old for her and that his previous marriages suggested he could not commit. Stacy shrugged off the comments and advice until she began to see the darker side of Drew Peterson, a side she had never seen—one that frightened her. Recognizing the signs of abuse and feeling premonitions of disaster, Stacy planned to leave Drew once and for all. Unfortunately, on October 28, 2007, it was too late. Stacy, who was supposed to help her sister, Cassandra, with some paint work that day, never showed—and was never seen again.
Drew Peterson was not one of the family members who filed the report of Stacy's disappearance, merely insisting that she had "taken off," leaving their two young children behind. It was Cassandra Cales who actually reported her sister missing. With no physical evidence to suggest a crime, what was it that led investigators to believe Stacy had succumbed to foul play?
Kathleen Savio, Drew Peterson's third wife.
On March 1, 2004, months after her divorce from Drew Peterson was final, Kathleen Savio was found dead in the bathtub of her Bolingbrook, Illinois, home. She was discovered lying in a dry bathtub with a head laceration. Kathleen's death was ruled accidental by Will County coroner Patrick O'Neil. Prior to the ruling, an inquest convened into Kathleen's death under strong pressure from her family members. During the inquest, Kathleen's sister, Susan Savio, testified that Kathleen had predicted her own murder: "She just told me last week, and she was terrified of him [Peterson]. He always threatened her. He did many, many, things to her. He wished only for her to go away," she informed the coroner's jury. Many inquiries were also made into a series of domestic calls—nineteen in total—that involved Savio and Peterson and were handled by the Bolingbrook Police Department. Bolingbrook police chief Raymond McGury issued a statement that each incident was investigated fully, and there was no cover-up.
The Savio family, stunned at the ruling of their loved one's death, only learned after Stacy Peterson's disappearance that the jury—or the coroner—had no other option but to rule the death as accidental. One of the six members of the jury spoke out after Stacy's disappearance, stating that he would have ruled the death of Kathleen Savio "undetermined" but was not given the option. The coroner had to rule the death based on the jury's recommendation. Under extreme scrutiny for his ruling on the death, O'Neil passed the blame onto the law enforcement agency who "investigated" the death. "I asked them [Bolingbrook Police] if the suspicious death protocol should be followed—they said no," he claimed. "It's up to them to decide whether or not to use the protocol." O'Neil stood by his inquest and stated that the proper procedure was followed. Coroner candidate Charles Lyons said the Illinois State Police officer who testified at the inquest hadn't even been to the death scene, a fact he referred to as a "travesty of justice," and one that shouldn't have been overlooked by O'Neil.
Kathleen Savio's body was exhumed in order to search for more clues surrounding her—and Stacy Cales's—mysterious death.
Dr. Larry W. Blum performed the autopsy on Savio's body after it had been exhumed, on November 16, 2007, and in the subsequent report delivered to theWill County Coroner's office on February 21, 2008, declared it undeniably as a homicide. The family of Kathleen Savio took the exhumation a step further when they hired famed forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden to perform an independent autopsy. Baden stated there were "indications then of multiple blunt force traumas, of being beaten up. Those bruises were still there and could be seen from the naked eye. They were still fresh."
One wonders how such a flagrant display of evidential violence was missed by a coroner who boasted in presiding over forty thousand death investigations.
With each new revelation of erred justice and allegation of a cover-up, the public's perception of Drew Peterson became considerably darker and more disturbed. A man who for over twenty years possessed the ability to take away one's driving privileges, order a common citizen into submission, take one's freedom, and legally kill if need be is now the suspect in two murders—and may very well be found innocent. In the public's eyes, Drew Peterson is a monster. In the eyes of police officers across the country, he is an embarrassment to their careers in law enforcement. With no support from the community, and no backing from his brothers in blue, Drew Peterson is now isolated and alone.
In regard to Savio's murder, numerous questions began to arise, specifically what the motive was behind the killing. According to investigators, Drew Peterson and Kathleen Savio were engaged in an intense battle over the proceeds from the sale of a local tavern they owned. Kathleen was angry that Drew kept all of the money from the sale, and she took legal action to recover her half.
Did Drew confess his part in Savio's death to Stacy Peterson? Could this possibly have played a key role in Stacy's own disappearance? According to her local pastor and friend—definitely.
Approximately two months before Stacy Peterson disappeared, she requested a "face to face" chat with her pastor. Pastor Neil Schori of Westbrook Christian Church testified he met with Stacy and that she "feared for her life." Drew Peterson also took note of Stacy's meetings with the clergyman, publicly stating, "She'd get all dolled up every time she went to see him." Allegations that Stacy implicated Drew in the murder while in private talks with the pastor spread. As to why the church failed to report the threat to law enforcement, Pastor Rob Daniels was quoted as saying, "The church's clergy are only legally mandated to alert authorities of allegations of child abuse or if someone threatens to harm themselves or others."
According to Drew Peterson's attorney, Joel Brodsky, Schori testified before the grand jury that Stacy Peterson frantically tried to contact Drew via her cell phone the night of Kathleen Savio's death. Brodsky also indicated that the pastor testified that Stacy told Schori she saw Drew in a black ninja outfit the night before Savio's body was found. Brodsky cited these as "leaks," when the pastor's testimony was later discussed on the nationwide media circuit.
Throughout the ever-growing media circus, Drew Peterson continued to portray himself as a clown. Images of him parading in front of the numerous cameras and wearing a bandana across his face while cursing the media and his arrogant and incessant mockery of the lack of evidence against him further fueled the public's opinion of Peterson as a coldhearted monster. Upon exiting the room of the grand jury that had convened to indict him for the murder of Kathleen Savio, Peterson heckled the cameras about the influx of ex-wives and girlfriends who were brought in to testify. "Let's have a party! I didn't know it was going to be a reunion!" he joked.
Furthermore, the focus became narrowed on the fact that Drew still had custody of the four children he fathered with Kathleen Savio and Stacy Peterson. In a heartless and grotesque move, Peterson taped Stacy's "missing" poster to his backyard barbeque grill, telling his children that she went on vacation. In a contradictory defense, Brodsky toured the talk show circuit with the claim that Stacy was hiding out in the Philippines, having left with a secret lover and not wanting to be found.
Peterson's narcissistic attitude, even after the new ruling on Savio's death, promotes a growing discomfort that he is confident that he will beat any, and all, murder raps. The evidence, if there was any collected at all, in Savio's death is four years old, and the body of Stacy Peterson has yet to be found. So what do investigators hold to solidify the notion that Drew Peterson murdered both wives? Since the investigation is still ongoing, the testimony from a friend of Drew's stepbrother, the financial transactions Drew Peterson made days after Stacy's disappearance, and the testimony of family and friends that painted a horrific picture of Peterson certainly help, but will they be enough to bring forth a conviction?
On October 28, 2007, Walter Martineck claimed he received a phone call from Peterson's stepbrother, Thomas Morphey. According to Martineck, an acquaintance of Morphey, Morphey called in a "panic" and needed to talk. Meeting with Morphey, Martineck stated that Morphey told him a disturbing account of what allegedly transpired at the Peterson home just hours earlier. According to Martineck, Morphey took him by the shoulders and told him he could never tell anyone, but alleged that he believed that he had just helped Drew Peterson dispose of Stacy's body. He had been at Peterson's home assisting Drew move a large blue container from the couple's bedroom into the back of Drew's SUV. Morphey never looked inside the container, but it was warm to the touch and he had a "terrible feeling."
Peterson denies this claim. On the night of Stacy's disappearance, he stated that she phoned him around 9:00 PM to inform him she was leaving; she had allegedly fallen in love with someone else. This disputes Peterson's earlier timeline. At 2:30 PM that day, Peterson phoned in to the police department, advising he couldn't work his 5:00 PM to 5:30AM shift because his wife was gone and he had no babysitter.
Furthermore, Stacy Peterson's sister, Cassandra Cales, had been kept informed about the Petersons' volatile marriage by Stacy. Cales stated she received a frantic phone call from Stacy in August—a phone call in which Stacy declared she was terrified of Drew and was thinking of taking the kids and leaving the state. This would correlate with the testimony of Stacy's conversation with her pastor, which also took place in August. The key focus of Cales's testimony is the "children." Stacy would never leave them. Nonetheless, in the early afternoon hours of October 28, 2007, Cales repeatedly tried to reach Stacy, to no avail. Frustrated, Cales went to the Peterson home and found Drew gone and the kids alone. The kids told her that their parents had fought and that Stacy had gone to Grandpa's house. Cales knew this to be false. At 11:26 PM, while sitting around the corner from the Peterson house, Cales called Drew Peterson on his cell phone. He claimed he was at home and told her that her sister had left him. Stacy had called him around 9:00 PM and said she was leaving and going on a vacation. "She left her car somewhere in Bolingbrook," he further added. "She took $25,000 from the safe, her bikini is missing, and her passport is missing.... She disappeared just like your mom." Drew referred to the disappearance of the Cales sisters' mother when Stacy was a teenager.
Confident that Stacy would never leave her children, and confirming that Drew was lying about being at home, Cassandra drove to the Bolingbrook Police Department at 1:36 AM and then to the Illinois State Police to file a report that Stacy Peterson was missing. Two days later, Drew Peterson transferred $200,000 into his older son's bank account. According to Brodsky, Drew was confident his wife was with another man and he didn't want her "cleaning him out."
By November 9, 2007, the Illinois State Police declared Stacy Peterson's disappearance as a potential homicide and Drew Peterson as the only suspect. On November 16, 2007, Kathleen Savio's body was exhumed.
Now armed with a high-powered media publicist, and with no sign of Stacy Peterson, Drew Peterson continues to evade the system in which he spent almost thirty years of his life.
His neighbors paint a disturbing account of a man crumbling, and have taken to posting signs emblazoned with slogans such as "Where's Stacy?" across the street from the home that he and Stacy shared. Drew's next-door neighbor, Sharon Bychowski, has launched a community-wide action against Peterson, posting signs in the town, on the Internet, and calling for a boycott of the tavern that Peterson frequented. Bychowski recently accused Peterson of reprogramming his garage door opener so that he can open and shut her garage door repeatedly in an attempt to harass her. Peterson maintains he cannot move because Stacy's name is on the title to their home and counterclaims that he is the one being harassed.
In March 2008, a grand jury officially convened to hear testimony regarding the death of Kathleen Savio. Ex-girlfriends, ex-wives, friends, and family members of Drew Peterson and the deceased were called in to paint a dark, monstrous portrait of Peterson for the jurors. In the meantime, the search for Stacy Peterson's body resumed. A criminal charge filed against Drew Peterson for possessing an illegal weapon was thrown out. He is currently engaged to be married to a twenty-three year-old woman. Drew filed for divorce from Stacy in the latter part of 2008, claiming abandonment.
On May 7, 2009, the grand jury officially indicted Drew Peterson for the murder of Kathleen Savio. In his trademark class clown demeanor, Peterson smiled and joked for the cameras as he was being led into the jail. He continues to maintain his innocence and no trial date has been set. Is Drew Peterson an innocent man wrongly convicted by the press and the public? Or, is he a cold-blooded killer who believes he is getting away with murder?
At this point, only time will tell.
Excerpted from MURDER BEHIND THE BADGE by Stacy Dittrich Copyright © 2010 by Stancy Ditrich. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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