11/16/2007 (www.chicagotribune.com) Chicago Tribune
“Drew Peterson’s 2nd Wife Tells Her Story” (Vicki Connolly Interview)
Drew Peterson's second wife tells her story
She recalls he threatened to kill her, make it look like an accident
By Erika Slife | Tribune staff reporter
November 16, 2007
For the last two weeks, Vicki Connolly has watched in disbelief and with conflicting emotions as controversy swirls around her ex-husband, Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson.
She doesn't know whether he had anything to do with the disappearance of his current wife, Stacy Peterson, who has been missing since Oct. 28, or the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, who died mysteriously in 2004.
But in the first interview granted by one of his ex-wives since Stacy's disappearance, Connolly, 48, said Thursday that during their marriage an increasingly controlling Peterson told her he could kill her and make it look like an accident. While she couldn't believe he would ever do it, something prompted her to confide in Bolingbrook police officers who she considered friends. "So they would know he said these things to me," she said.
She said Peterson would hit her but not hard enough to go to the hospital, and not often enough for her to expect it. It made it worse, she said, that she never knew it was coming. "It was mind games; it was head games," she said.
Peterson, who did not return phone calls Thursday, has denied being abusive to Savio or Stacy Peterson.
Police have described Peterson, 53, as a suspect in 23-year-old Stacy's disappearance and are reinvestigating Savio's death. Will County State's Atty. James Glasgow said her death appeared to have been staged as an accident. Savio's body was exhumed Tuesday.
Peterson, who is not charged with any crimes, has denied involvement in both cases.
"He has the experience, the knowledge, the means, and the mind to do that," she said, her voice trailing off. "That's all I've thought about. ... I'm still working through it. I'll be honest."
This much Connolly knows: She was married to Peterson for 10 years, beginning in 1982. They raised each other's children from previous marriages. They operated a bar together. She stuck by him through his infidelities and during legal problems in the 1980s -- until she finally "caught him cheating on me with someone with my own eyeballs."
"The thing with Drew Peterson, and I'm sure if [Savio and Stacy Peterson] were here to comment they would say the same thing, when it was good, it was wonderful, it was great," Connolly said. "But when it was bad, it was really bad."
She met Peterson in a Bolingbrook bar in the early 1980s. She was there with her friends to see a favorite band.
"This man, just oozing of confidence, he wanted to dance with me and buy my girlfriends drinks," she recalled. "And he set his eyes on me and it was like he was going to get me. He couldn't get me to move in with him fast enough."
At the time, she was married, a relationship that was already ending. She said it was only three or four months after her divorce that she moved in with Peterson. He was so persistent, she said.
"He thought he took me away to a better life. He definitely felt that way. It's ironic," she said. "In his eyes, he did believe that."
It's a pattern Peterson continued in his next two relationships, she said.
Several days after his wife's disappearance, Peterson told the Tribune that when he met Stacy, he had an "uncontrollable need to take care of her." On Wednesday, Peterson told the "Today" show that both Stacy and Kathleen came from troubled homes.
Henry Savio, Kathleen's older brother, disputed that assertion. "No, we're OK," he said. "She was a very strong woman." He added that Kathleen owned her own condo and worked as an accountant.
Connolly said she also was well off when she met Peterson. She had a steady job at a bank and drove a new car. But she thought it was romantic that he wanted to save her.
In hindsight, his motive is now clear, she said.
"I believe that man had a disease to his ego. He's a legend in his own mind," she said.
The couple's honeymoon ended about two years after they were married. He worked with the Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad as an undercover narcotics officer. He was a talented officer, she said, and his success poisoned his outlook.
"He really led a double life. But what fed his ego was his line of work, how he could deceive people," she said. "When he'd come home, he'd be the exact opposite. He could do it and he could do it with no problems."
His zeal for his job, though, led to a brief downfall. According to court documents, Peterson was fired in 1985 after the Bolingbrook Fire and Police Commission found him guilty of official misconduct, disobedience, failure to report a bribe and self-assigned police action. At the time, he was working on a case against a reputed drug dealer.
Connolly declined to comment on the case, but she said it was during this time she learned of his first of many affairs. But she forgave him.
In 1986, Peterson was reinstated after a Will County judge overruled the commission's decision. And his controlling behavior intensified, she said.
"We had bugs in our house. He put a microphone in our kitchen and taped our conversations. He was cheating so much he wanted to make sure I wasn't," she said. "His whole thing with us is that, 'I need to know my family is safe at home and you're not going to be doing anything you shouldn't be doing' -- and that enabled him to do whatever he wanted."
When tensions would boil over, the police came to the house a few times, she said, but added, "the police were our friends," and no reports were filed.
Finally, about 1992, she had enough. By this time, he was already having an affair with Savio, she said, and it was easy for them to divorce. She called it amicable.
Now, although remarried and living on a farm Downstate, she still feels resentment when looking back on her life with Peterson.
"We had such a great life and he blew it. It wasn't good enough for him. He had four great wives who did everything for him. And it was never enough for Drew Peterson."
Earlier Thursday, the Bolingbrook Police Pension Board voted unanimously to give Peterson his pension, saying the law prohibited it from taking any other action, even though one board trustee expressed apprehension.
"While I understand the pension statutes, I'm not comfortable with the decision we have to make today," Trustee Alyssia Lee said, reading a prepared statement. "I am aware that if I am the only no vote, Sgt. Peterson will receive his pension. Therefore my decision is based solely on the statute."
Attorney Richard Reimer issued a news release explaining the board had no alternative but to grant Peterson's request for retirement and give him his $6,067.71 monthly pension.
"While the trustees ... are sensitive to the intense scrutiny placed on Sgt. Peterson and, unfortunately, the Village of Bolingbrook, the Board is required to grant Sgt. Peterson's benefits without delay, as to do otherwise would expose the trustees to liability for breach of their fiduciary duties ...," the release stated.
A grand jury has subpoenaed witnesses in the Savio and Stacy Peterson investigations. A source familiar with the cases said Drew Peterson exercised his 5th Amendment rights when he appeared last week.
State police searched a water-filled quarry Thursday and coordinated a ground search with about two dozen of Stacy Peterson's friends and relatives, finding nothing.