11/17/2007 (www.suntimes.com) Chicago Sun-Times

“The Story of Drew’s First Wife” (Carol Brown Story)



The story of Drew's first wife

November 17, 2007

BY KARA SPAK Staff Reporter

Dave Brown has Drew Peterson, in part, to thank for a fantastic 26-year marriage.

“I’m so glad Drew let her go,” Brown said of his wife, Carol, who was married to Peterson from 1974 to 1980. “She’s the most leveled-headed and good-looking person on the planet.”

Carol Brown, now 50, was the first wife of Peterson, the former Bolingbrook police sergeant named a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife.

Attention has turned to Peterson’s first two wives after Stacy Peterson vanished Oct. 28 and the body of Peterson’s third wife, Kathleen Savio, was exhumed Tuesday. Authorities are taking a new look at her 2004 death, initially ruled an accidental bathtub drowning.

In a published report, Peterson’s second wife, Vicki Connolly, said Peterson had struck her when they were married and told her he could kill her and make it look like an accident. Peterson denied that Friday, saying, “Vicki is just mad because I cheated on her.”

Carol Brown’s husband does not allege Peterson abused Carol Brown during their marriage. “Drew did not physically abuse her,” Dave Brown said Friday.

Carol Brown divorced Peterson, though, because he cheated on her — with a woman who wasn’t Vicki Connolly, Dave Brown said.

State Police interviewed Carol and Dave Brown on Thursday night, asking them if they thought Peterson was capable of harming somebody. The Browns were told not to discuss the interview.

Carol Brown declined to be interviewed. She is worried about the effect it would have on her children with Peterson — Eric and Steve — as well as on her relationship with business clients.

Peterson, Carol Brown and Dave Brown are all graduates of Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, where Peterson ran cross country. Peterson and Dave Brown graduated in the 750-member class of 1972. Carol Brown is three years their junior.

Dave Brown, 53, a remodeling contractor, has known Peterson since junior high, when both were in accelerated classes together. They weren’t close but did play tennis together after high school.

The two both noticed a young Carol when she was a freshman at Willowbrook and they were seniors. “She was the prettiest girl in the freshman class,” Dave Brown said. “She’d look at you, and you’d think ‘wow.’ ”

Peterson joined the Army after high school and married Carol when he was 20 years old. They lived for a while in Virginia, where he was stationed to get military police training. “He always wanted to be a cop,” Dave Brown said.

The Petersons moved back to Illinois in the mid-1970s. Dave Brown, at the time, was attending the University of Illinois and driving back to Villa Park on weekends to work as a bouncer at a bar called 10,000 Horses (now known as DiMito Time). “The place was packed,” Dave Brown said. “It was the best singles bar around.”

Peterson would stop by, sporting long hair as part of his look as an undercover cop. “He would come in and just hang out to see friends,” Dave Brown said.

A year after Carol and Drew Peterson divorced, she married Brown. The two raised Eric and Steve Peterson and had a child of their own, Lauren, now 23.

Peterson regularly paid child support, and either he or his second wife, Connolly, would pick up the boys for regular weekend visits. Aside from normal family hiccups, everyone got along, Dave Brown said.

“I never competed with Drew to be a dad,” Dave Brown said. “I was a stepdad. They knew that. They were loyal to their father. And that was fine with me.”

When the boys moved out of the house, the Browns saw Peterson less. They never met his third wife, Savio, but met Stacy Peterson a few times. She is more than five years younger than Peterson’s sons with Carol Brown.

“She’s a kid,” Dave Brown said. “A lot of middle-age guys act like that’s a dream. I think they’re nuts.”

The last time Dave Brown saw Peterson was at his son Steve Peterson’s wedding in August. Since the disappearance of Stacy, the Browns have been flooded with calls from the media and old friends.

“We talk all the time about it,” he said, but declined to say if they think Peterson had any role in Stacy’s disappearance or Savio’s death.

Dave Brown said Eric Peterson hates the attention with “people banging on his door.” Steve Peterson has been on vacation out of the country.

Vicki Connolly, who was married to Peterson for 10 years beginning in 1982, said in a published report that Peterson took steps to control her, including placing recording devices in their home. He would hit her and play mind games on her. The two divorced after Peterson and Savio began an affair.

Connolly’s adult daughter, Lisa Ward, who lived with Connolly and Peterson when she was a child, told reporters Friday she feels lucky that her mom made it out of the marriage alive.

“Of course,” Ward said. “My mom is a very strong woman for being able to.”

Peterson dismissed Ward’s comment on Friday, as well.

“Lisa’s mad because I'm a strong disciplinarian,” said Peterson.

Contributing: Joe Hosey of the Herald News