11/26/2007 (www.suntimes.com) Chicago Sun-Times

“Like mother, like daughter?" (Story of Christie Cales)



Like mother, like daughter?

PETERSON CASE | Stacy's troubled mom also married young and vanished

November 26, 2007

BY KARA SPAK Staff Reporter/kspak@suntimes.com

If Stacy Peterson left her family for another man, as her husband, Drew Peterson, claims, is this a case of history repeating itself?

Nine years ago, Stacy's mother, Christie Cales, disappeared, abandoning her family after the accidental deaths of two of her children in less than four years.

Both women suffered from depression. Both women married young, Stacy at 19 with an infant son and Christie at 21 and pregnant.

Both complained of troubled marriages.

But Stacy Peterson's family says that despite any similarities, there's one crucial difference between her and her mother: Stacy Peterson loved being a mother and would never have left her kids -- voluntarily.

Her family fears she's dead. Police have called her husband, a former Bolingbrook cop, a suspect.

Stacy Peterson knew firsthand the turmoil of a fractured family and the pain that comes when a mother leaves the family, according to details revealed in court records.

Toddler dies in fire

The records show Christie Cales was a deeply troubled woman who spent time in a psychiatric hospital, admitted to drinking a case of beer a day and drew convictions for many criminal charges, including contributing to the neglect of a child for letting son Yelton, when he was 7 years old, outside in bad weather when not properly dressed.

In 1990, Christie Cales initially challenged papers filed by Anthony Cales to divorce her and take custody of their living children -- Yelton, 10; Stacy, 6; Cassandra, 5, and Tina, Christie Cales' 14-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. After Christie repeatedly failed to show up for divorce hearings in court, his request for divorce was granted.

Not showing up for court was typical behavior, according to DuPage County warrants issued for her on charges including criminal damage to property, battery and drunken driving.

Christie and Anthony Cales married on May 26, 1979, two months before Yelton was born. Four years later, Christie Cales took out an order of protection against Anthony, saying he threatened her with a .357-caliber pistol. He was charged with aggravated assault, but the charges were dropped after she refused to testify against him.

Five months later, the couple purchased a ranch home in Downers Grove. In December 1983, the home burned down, and their daughter Jessica, 2, died in her bed of burns and smoke inhalation.

Mom arrested, hospitalized

The death of this child, family members said, marked when Christie Cales' life started to unravel. Eight months pregnant with Stacy, she escaped from the fire through a window, barefoot and in her pajamas, unable to save her child. Anthony Cales was not home at the time.

Six weeks later, Stacy was born. Her sister Cassandra followed the next year. The Cales' youngest child, Lacy, died Oct. 17, 1987, from sudden infant death syndrome.

Family members said Cales came undone after Lacy's death. In 1987, she started drinking heavily -- up to a case of beer a day, according to court records.

In November 1989, she pleaded guilty to shoplifting a bottle of vodka and three packs of cigarettes from an Osco in Woodridge. The day after Christmas 1989, she was arrested for stealing two cases of Old Style, a bottle of Bailey's and more cigarettes from a Cub Foods in Downers Grove.

In 1990, after a drunken driving arrest, she was hospitalized for alcoholism and depression. During her hospitalization, Anthony Cales filed for divorce and an order of protection, claiming she torched his clothes, broke the car windshield and neglected the children.

Months later, she responded by saying she was being treated for depression with Prozac and that her heavy drinking started after Lacy's death. She claimed after Jessica died that Anthony Cales, who also had a problem with alcohol, yelled at her, "You bitch, you burned my baby."

After the divorce, the Cales family, minus Christie Cales, moved to Florida, then to Louisiana, before returning to the west suburbs, where Stacy and Cassandra graduated from high school.

Christie Cales moved to the south suburbs to live with family members. She would see her children periodically. In 1998, her family saw her for the last time, when 40-year-old Cales disappeared after telling her family she was on her way to a Blue Island church.

Her family filed a missing person report, just like they did for Stacy. Christie's report never produced any solid leads. Her family fears she, too, is dead.

Go to www.suntimes.com /news/peterson for the latest on the search for Stacy Peterson, as well as links to other sites covering the story.

Stacy Peterson (above) knew firsthand the turmoil of a fractured family and the pain that comes when a mother leaves.