Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Drew Peterson: A View From Two Perspectives

by Susan Murphy-Milano

Part 2: "The Violence Expert's Perspective" (Read Part 1: "The Prosecutor's Perspective," here.)

Twenty years as a violence expert was never an intended career choice. It did not evolve from sitting behind a desk, researching the subject, blogging or reading journals from a crime periodical. It was harvested like a crop in the fields. Like adding another candle on a birthday cake every year, the violence escalated in my home and the screams for help turned into an important lesson in survival.

My own
Mother died on my watch, so to speak. After years of violence by my father, a Chicago police detective, they finally divorced. Within 6 months of my mother’s false belief she was safe, I discovered her dead body in the kitchen of the former marital home she and my father once shared.

Similar to
Drew Peterson and other perpetrators of violence in the home, my father was not going to allow my mother to benefit in any way from the divorce. This included her own personal freedom which he owned like the title to a car, until the day she died.

We have not heard much about Kathleen Savio other than she died of an accidental drowning in a bathtub. Her body exhumed 4 years later only because Stacy Peterson had vanished after a botched investigation.

In 1992,
Kathleen Savio was an accountant in her late twenties when a mutual acquaintance who happened to be a police officer’s wife set up a blind date for her to meet Drew Peterson. Friends and family members recall how happy Kathleen was with Drew. A few short months after the couple began dating Drew popped the question. Kathleen felt safe and secure knowing she was marrying a man who made her feel safe and secure. Shortly after the couple’s second child was born, the marriage began to crumble. Drew was beginning to shout the national anthem, a theme used among most abusers maintaining power and control. “Bitch,”, you “whore.” "You look like a dog." You f..king slob.” When that did not have the affect Drew was looking for, with his open hand he punched and slapped her as evidenced by medical reports and photo’s taken after a violent outburst.

Similar to other abusers Peterson began setting the stage with his fellow officers in his department, and later on, under his command. Carefully strategizing how “crazy” Kathleen had become in an effort to minimize police response just in case she called and tried to report him for threatening and physically harming her. Obviously his plan worked because when officers from the Bolingbrook police department responded to the 19 documented calls and another 78 calls magically removed from the police log as responding officers did nothing more than as if someone was trying to "band aid a boo boo.” This case is just one example of the clear reluctance on the part of responding officers to use their police powers in the homes of fellow officers. The hesitation to deal professionally with this crime in my opinion increased the danger to Kathleen’s life. Looking the other way enabled Drew Peterson to increase his threats and violence to his then wife.

Once the couple filed for divorce,
Drew continued his threats of violence and terrorism. Kathleen took out an order protection and was pressured into dropping it. And she did write in her own words on more than one occasion that Drew had “threatened to kill her.” He was furious at the thought of splitting his hard earned assets with Kathleen. This included the bar jointly owned in Montgomery, IL, sold for $325,000 and the martial residence sold at $287,000, half of his pension and shelling out monthly child support payments for his children.

Peterson had a history of abuse from undocumented allegations from Vicki Connely, wife #2 to a serious relationship with a girlfriend who claimed Peterson was stalking her. It is a fact, many officer related cases where violence erupts during the marriage dies with the victim similar to Kathleeen Savio.

Drew Peterson’s motive in 2004 for murder fell on deaf ears after the coroner’s inquest ruled “accidental death,” silencing, Savio’s family members from providing information or ever speaking out. Or the facts of the bogus hand written Will emerging after this healthy mother of 2 “accidently” drowned in a tub she never used when she was alive.

Silence behind the blue wall is also a common theme across the country. Back in 1989, had I not been spared by fate or divine intervention, I too, would have been killed that night. In working to solve cases where a woman has been murdered by an ex-lover or husband each case has characteristics specific to the relationship and the alleged crime. In creating a detailed work- up on a case, often I am able to pin point a direction not considered by police or a Prosecuting attorney to determine motive. And not every case has intent or motive. Each time a woman is murdered I do not assume anything about anyone until information and documents are provided to me. Sometimes relatives or police ask me to review a file on a
missing person or murder case and I do not always have the answers.

I take what I do very seriously and it has saved many lives. My
training and expertise began with a teacher with whom I studied under and feared for many years. As a seasoned veteran Chicago police detective, my father had two professional career’s one as Police detective, the other as a serial abuser.

Over the years of studying and working these types of cases, I have been able to develop specific procedures that work well to take a woman safely from a violent situation and to help get her abuser behind bars. My success rate has been phenomenal.


Andrea Campbell said...


Thank you for sharing your family experience; I know you speak from the heart and are a great advocate for abused women, giving them the courage to take action for themselves. I am proud to be your colleague here on Women in crime ink.

Sara Huizenga Lubbers said...

Your own testimony makes this too horrific story real and that is without a doubt what changing lives is all about. Something you are a natural expert at...thank you...

Anonymous said...

Susan, you probably do not remember but you helped me as you have with so many a few years ago leave my husband who was an Investigator with the State.

I often think about you and the woman who gave you life. How strong and courageous she was to have raised a remarkable angel on earth reaching out and pulling women into safety who might otherwise have died without you.

Thank you and God Bless you!

Anny Jacoby said...

I am honored as God has crossed our paths. I thank you as so many others do for your persistence and advocacy. You have and continue to make a difference. You have turned negatives from your own life experience into positives; you continue to reach out and touch so many lives with such grace, dignity, empowerment and professionalism.
Don't ever give up - you are truly needed. You are the voice for those living in fear.
May God wrap His loving arms around you as He protects and guides you on your journey.

Anonymous said...

Dear Susan,
It is very heartening to know that you are the voice for many women, who suffer from different forms of abuse.
May God bless you, loveyou and protect you.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Susan,

You helped my child when no one else would. You were a big part of God's miracle in saving her life and my grandsons.

You were the reason the light was shined on her case and it helped to change the outcome. (Hawthorn Theory)Because of YOU - the Chicago Tribune wrote this compelling coverage and got it right:,0,389866.story

You don't always get the recognition you deserve, but God sees and I think your Momma is there next to him rooting for you.

We will never forget you or what you have done for us. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

God Bless You Real Good,
Cherry & Regan

Delilah said...

I've always felt that you are the "writer" of wrongs in the vast field of social injustice, especially domestic violence and officer involved domestic violence. However, you not only write about these injustices, you actively walk the walk.

As many come forward to thank you for literally saving their lives, and as you continue to perfect the tools which can be used by women everywhere, it's a testament and an honor to you. Accept it, revel in it, and let it fuel your being.

You are not one to sit back on your laurels, but are always striving to go to the next level, take the next case, and save lives along the way. God is always holding your hand, hold on tight.

Tara said...

What a beautiful legacy to your mom your life has been.

I totally respect you for taking all the best from that experience and using it to reach out to others.

I think all of your readers must be as I am, humbled by your gift to humanity. Your life could have gone in an entirely different direction and the fact that it has gone in the direction it has is a testimony to both yours and your mother's character.

However shortened your mother's life was, clearly she accomplished great things here in this life in raising you to be who you are today.

Anonymous said...

A woman's skeletal remains have been found on the bank of the Des Plaines River. An autopsy is being performed today, Thurs. to see if it may be Stacy or Lisa Stebic.

Larry Simpson said...

Body found in Des Plaines River - No one would go through such a grizzly activity and take the time to cut up the body in that manner unless their intent was to make the body difficult or impossible to identify. Stranger abductors wouldn't bother only someone who is closely connected to the individual and who's disappearance and identifiable body would lead to them. AKA the husband did it.

jaemi levine said...

You are a gift Susan to all of us who have been abused. A beacon lighting the way safely to dry ground to safe ground . You are so courageous to revile those painful memories so we can learn. Life has not been a kind or easy teacher to you my dear but you have been a fearless student and the valedictorian of women s safety.You new book is a concrete easy to follow path out of the dark may you teach us more everyday for a very long time It is an honor to be your friend and student
Jaemi levine
President Mothers Against Predators

Anonymous said...

I Think this lady Heather Thompson could use a violence expert though I'm not sure what anyone can do for her because her abuser/ex-husband is about to get out of jail & while his lawyer says the man doesn't want anything to do with the ex-wife the letter he'd sent her years ago that started with "Dear Slut" says she & her daughters will all die at his hands. The article was on AOL yesterday and was the scariest thing I've read all week. This poor woman is living in such fear and her daughters too. I thought maybe you could come up with some kind of help for her...|htmlws-main|dl5|link3|
And if anything let's all say a prayer for her...