Today a wife beater, spouse killer, and all-around self-absorbed thug was convicted of first degree murder. Former Bolingbrook, Illinois police sergeant Drew Peterson is no longer untouchable as he faces up to 60 years in prison for killing his third wife Kathleen Savio in 2004.
Supposedly Kathleen drowned in her bathtub. But after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared in 2007, authorities began to rethink the case. Stacy was being abused and had told others that Drew had killed Kathleen. She was afraid he was going to murder her.
In 2009 Peterson was arrested for Kathleen’s murder and his flippant arrogance fueled a public desire to see him held accountable. Hypocritical police officers often stir the public’s ire; Peterson has made himself the poster boy for criminal cops. His assertions that his missing wife had run off with another man and left her children, taunts, jokes, disrespect, shameless self-promotion, and deception did nothing to help his own case.
A narcissist like this is sure to appeal the conviction. From a constitutional law perspective, this should make for interesting proceedings. Peterson was convicted using hearsay, which means information obtained from someone else. A victim’s friend telling the court that the victim confided in her and told her she thought her husband wanted to kill her is hearsay. It does not mean it’s not credible but it often can’t be verified.
As a survivor of officer-involved domestic violence who has personally and professionally been put through the wringer for standing up for myself, I have to ask skeptics what Kathleen Savio or Stacy Peterson could possibly have to gain by telling others what was happening to them. They had everything– their homes, their children, even their lives— to lose by bringing this out in the open.
People don’t do this for fun. They don’t do it for gain. They do it to stay alive. If there were a simple way to extract oneself from a bad marriage or relationship, don’t you think they’d do it? Who wants the drama, the financial trouble, the loss, the slander, the danger? It is critical to remember that the risk of homicide goes up 75 percent when a victim leaves an abusive relationship. The abuser might not want you anymore, but you can bet they still want control of you– especially if what you know could land them in jail.
Abuse is about power and control. Power and control is central to policing. This is what makes cops such dangerous abusers. They are trained to– their lives even depend on– maintaining control over others. Some won’t turn it off when they get home. Drew Peterson appears to be one of them. I’ll bet that he had control issues before he joined the military and became a MP and that every one of his female partners experienced his control issues in some form.
Uniformed abusers are arguably the most dangerous kind of abusers. They can be adept at keeping up an everybody’s buddy/officer of the year/ideal family man persona while raining down hell on their family at home. Who is their family going to tell? The police? Their tormentor IS the police. So can they trust the police? Or are the crimes being committed going to be swept under the rug? Will the officer be believed or will they?
Despite the prevalence of domestic violence in police families– an estimated 20 to 50 percent depending on which study you read– it is a little studied subject with scarce resources to help its victims. While writing my dissertation on the necessity and effectiveness of officer-involved domestic violence policies last year, I picked through 6000 published articles to find a mere seven that dealt directly with officer-involved domestic violence.
Many police departments don’t even have officer-involved domestic violence policies. Those that do sometimes have policies centered on what to do with the suspect, not how to help the victims. Policies can also be a smokescreen to make it look like an impartial investigation will occur if an allegation of domestic violence comes up. It would be interesting to delve into the specifics of what Bolingbrook knew at what time and how they handled it.
One very exciting possibility that could result from today’s conviction is that light could be shed on what happened to Stacy Peterson. I wonder if Drew Peterson will be offered a reduced sentence if he opens up about her case. I hope that his accomplices are held accountable too. This could be just the beginning of an even larger helping of justice for Kathleen and Stacy.
One more point I’d like to touch on is why it is so important for rogue cops like Drew Peterson to be held accountable. They make the policing profession look bad. They make life dangerous for the good cops out there. They are a cancer that spreads unchecked through the morale of a police department until someone in administration has the backbone to investigate them and stop the very behaviors they arrest others for committing. They’re like schoolyard bullies that get away with hurting others until an adult steps in and shuts them down.
City managers, police chiefs, sergeants, captains, lieutenants, OICs, mayors– I know this subject intimately and that goes far beyond the original circumstances that led to my interest in this subject. Please listen to what I am saying. If you allow a thug to operate in your department, sooner or later they’re going to do something that can no longer be covered up and you will likely have to face the public for it. It will come back to bite you. You are allowing a situation that is unsafe and demeaning for your good officers. And if you allow unethical behavior, they won’t respect you either.
If you desire respect for your officers, which is a significant factor in their safety, you must take allegations of wrongdoing seriously and weed out those who think they’re above the law. I realize that police unions are a formidable force and internal investigations and firing can have costly consequences. But you can’t have the same people who beat down their family members out there regulating the rest of society’s behavior on the taxpayer’s dime. It will end up being an expensive and image-damaging hypocrisy and is a disservice to the people you serve.
Drew Peterson, you had it coming. I realize there are probably legal battles ahead and you are unlikely to ever change your tune. You won’t get the death penalty; they don’t have that in Illinois. You could have a very long time to think about what this did to your children, and your victim’s families, and your friends, and your neighbors, and your department.
But you probably won’t think about them. You’ll think about you. That’s what narcissists do– they believe they’re the victim and that they’ve been wronged. They’re O.J.s. They believe their own lies. They become their own gods.
I hope that Drew Peterson makes things right with his Creator because the second he leaves this earth he’ll be standing before Him being asked why he treated his wives the way he did. It’s not hard to imagine that the very horrors we inflict on others in this life will be visited upon us exponentially in the next if we don’t repent and make it right.
Thank God justice has prevailed so far. Thank God that there are police officers and prosecutors who had the fire, fearlessness, and fortitude to stand up to this coward and hold him accountable for his years of secrets, threats, and violence. Thank God for a jury who was able to sort through this case and come to a rational conclusion. Thank God for witnesses who stood up to speak for the victims when they couldn’t speak for themselves.
I’m also thankful for the Document the Abuse website that is teaching victims how to bring the hammer down on abusers no matter how far they go: http://www.documenttheabuse.com/. If you are being abused, it is imperative that you have documentation in place to protect you and your family. Properly documented incidents go a long way in making sure the criminals hurting you can’t get away with it.
And Neil– more than anyone else today I am thinking of you. I admire how you took the disappearance of a friend and turned that pain into a principled and dignified crusade for other victims and survivors of violence. I know it’s not easy to stand tall on this topic and am well aware of the threats and harassment that can come from speaking out. But our Father said that if He is for us, who can possibly stand against us?
We are more than conquerors. I admire your courage and pray His blessing upon you as you continue to find justice for Stacy and her children. This is a huge step forward, brother, and I am hugging you from here.
When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been murderers and tyrants, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it, always. -Gandhi
You might also be interested in my article on the Drew Peterson: Untouchable movie, https://wildninja.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/drew-peterson-untouchable/.
©2012 H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com.
One thought on “Drew Peterson: Guilty”
Excellent commentary on several levels. Officer’s spouses have very little in the way of resources, most coming from surviving victims who know first hand the intricacies of leaving that relationship safely.
People across the country can become involved and certified to assist victims with safety planning using the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit found at Document the Abuse. Com. All the details are there.
Had Kathleen Savio or Stacy Peterson prepared an EAA, there would have been no need for hearsay laws or hearings, there would have been millions of dollars of Illinois taxpayers money saved, and the public would not have been tortured by Drew Peterson and his merry band of thug lawyers for the last 5 years. What better incentive do we need to promote the EAA for victims of abuse~!