Monday, July 28, 2008

No More Sweet Dreams

by Susan Murphy-Milano

Two young boys, ages nine and eleven, lost their loving mother in the winter of 2004. Her death was an accident, they were told.

Never again will their mother greet the boys in the morning when they wake. In the afternoon when they return home from school, Mom will not be waiting for her boys. She will never again ask either of her sons "How was your day at school?" She will not be in the kitchen preparing dinner while they do their homework.

And Mom will no longer kiss them on the cheek, wishing each of her boys sweet dreams, as she had done thousands of nights.

The boys miss their mother, deeply. They are not "allowed" much time to grieve. You see, their father has already made other plans.

The boys I am talking about are the children of Drew Peterson and Kathleen Savio, Peterson's third wife. Their older son, Thomas Peterson, now fifteen, was eleven at the time of his mother's death. Younger son Kristopher, now thirteen, was nine.

Immediately, the boys were whisked into Dad's new home with his teenage pregnant new wife. And Dad's wife is the direct cause of Mommy and Daddy's divorce.

Over time the boys have adjusted. They are excellent students and active in sports. Stacy gave birth to a son. Two years later a daughter was added to the less-than-happy family.

According to sources, the year prior to Stacy Peterson's vanishing, Drew Peterson began to track his child bride's activities. He monitored her cell phone activity via the Web site of the phone company provider. While she was at Dominick's Food Store, her step-sons received calls in fifteen minute intervals as Drew requested an accounting from his boys on "What is Stacy doing? or "Who is she talking to?” This went on until they reached the driveway of their happy home.

Once news of Stacy's untimely disappearance hits the airwaves, the lives of Thomas and Kristopher Peterson were, again, abruptly altered. This time, the pain and humiliation associated with their father's behavior will affect them for the rest of their young lives.

Whatever dark secrets they know, will remain buried deep within the souls of these young men.

Fear of the unknown . . . What will happen if they tell the truth . . . These are not chances they are likely to take any time in the near future.

Any child whose mother is suspected of being murdered by their father is forced to cope with the trauma of violence. The sheer grief associated with the loss of a parent is devastating.

What goes wrong in this type of dysfunctional family?

Parents hurt their children more by omission than by commission. Children often take on adult responsibilities, such as watching and caring for their younger siblings. As an example in this case, both boys have been thrust into the adult world, made to testify before a grand jury. These children have been robbed of their childhood. Not once, but twice in their lives. No doubt their mixed feelings and roller-coaster emotions will continue into adulthood.

Consider for a moment what it must be like for them to attend school. What are other kids saying to the Peterson boys? Whether allegations against Drew Peterson are true or not, his sons must endure and defend the circus-like activity displayed by and surrounding their father on a regular basis.

Please tell me what parent in his or her right mind is going to allow a teenage daughter to go on a friendly date with either of these teenage boys?

These two boys are not at fault. Neither is to blame. But, if they are to have any chance at normal lives, it will be when they each turn eighteen years of age. Hopefully, before going off to college, they will petition the courts for a legal name change.


Unknown said...

Great post, Susan. I've often wondered how these boys would fare in life. I'm afraid you are right. It's most definately going to be a rough road ahead.

Hopefully, when they grow up they will put their own life boundaries in place. Then.... don't let anyone cross them... not even their dad.

Only they can change their future and how they respond to the past.

Anonymous said...

This article is excellent. I have felt strongly since this all happened that the children should have been removed. Hopefully this article will fuel important dialogue when a parent is a suspect in a family murder.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post Susan. This is an area that has never been sufficiently covered by the press.

I hate to think of the damage that these children have sustained as a result of all they have been through.

I know first hand the kind of lifelong guilt a child suffers by being an unwilling accomplise, or pawn in the psychological warfare of a parent.
When this parent is murdered, I have to wonder how these children can ever go on to have normal life.

These children too are victims of murder; the lives that they may have had, should have had, died the day their mother was murdered. Any hope of resurection from that death was destroyed when their father used them to destroy their step-mother.

There is no doubt in my mind that Drew Peterson is a narcissist in the true sense of the word, this will utimately be his downfall. I fear however, that there will never be justice for those kids.

I see the same thing in the case of Wendy Thibeault. Her murderer, Randy Thibeault, used and manipulated her only child into facilitating his own form of psychological terror in the weeks preceeding her death. What part this child actually played in her murder, we may never know. What we can be sure, is that this boy will never lead the life his loving mother envisioned for him. God only knows the damage that has been done him by the father he so adored. Also alarming is the lack of remorse or emotion shown at the death of his mother. This to me indicates that extent of the damage already suffered by this child.

Anonymous said...

Psychopaths don't care if they hurt other people. Its a non-issue with them. Its all about them!

Anonymous said...

The boys are victims of crime the court should order a therapist for the boys? Has child protective services done anything? It should be mandatory for an investigation to be done and children should receive counseling.

I think it's amazing Drew Peterson hasn't been charged with a crime, any crime. What is the Will County DA James Glascow thinking? They always want it handed to them on a silver platter. United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald should do something! This is Barak Obama's home state and it's criminal justice system is not in good shape. Remember the Kimberly Vaughn and her 3 children shot to death on I-55 last summer in Will County too.

Illinois just suffered a 4.6 million cut in funds and are turning victim's away. Chicago Tribune states "Last year, Illinois courts granted more than 60,000 orders of protection. Each day, 600 requests for help in Illinois go unmet, said the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence." The major form of federal assistance, funded through the Victims of Crimes Act, was cut by Congress to $550 million this year from $625 million." are victim activists they are helping to change laws.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully these 4 young children of DPs will have good and loving relatives that can help them overcome all the trauma that they have had to endure.

Anonymous said...

Murp..Great post!

Anonymous said...

Great post! What Drew Peterson has done to those children can never be changed.

The legal system needs to review murder suspects who retain custody of their childing during an investigation involving their spouse.

Anonymous said...

Well the law states-innocent until proven guilty.
Just because he is a suspect (undoubtably the cause of his wife's death.) does not give the law reason to remove the children from his home.
It is a sad reality.
As much as we would like to protect the children it cannot be done without infringing on a suspects rights.

Delilah said...

I pray that something breaks in this case soon to stop the insanity surrounding it, get these children into a safe environment, and find their missing mother.

Stacy Dittrich said...

Great post, Susan!

TxMichelle: Yes, he is innocent until proven guilty. However, being a suspect in a murder absolutely gives the Department of Child Services authority for a removal. If you watch the case of Nancy Cooper in North Carolina, custody of the two girls was removed from the father; there is less evidence against him than Drew Peterson.

A parent does not have to be charged with any crime for Child Services to remove children from the home. I have, personally, removed children due to a variety of reasons: filthy living environments, neglect, mental instability of the parent, and all have held up in court.

The circus that continues around Drew Peterson, and the mental trauma inflicted on the children as stated in Susan's post, along with the overwhelming evidence that Drew Peterson is responsible for two murders, is more than enough to remove the children. Any judge can reason that, although Drew hasn't been charged, the investigation is still ongoing. So why take a chance with the children's safety? As is with the Cooper case in North Carolina.

I hope this sheds some light on your thoughts....

Robin Sax said...

Susan, great post (as always) and Stacy is absolutely correct. From the vantage point of the criminal justice system, we have 2 separate responsibilities and issues. One, is the protection of the children who are living under a "suspected" murder's roof. The second issue is the protection of the community at large by investigating, solving, and convicting the perpetrator. While family courts (dependency courts, children services courts etc.) have different standards of proof than criminal courts, there is a still a standard that must be shown to a judge who authorizes the removal from a home. Clearly, in this case the judge felt that it was in the children's best interest to be removed. And, on a side note the dependency courts usually have a preference for keeping children together as that is the goal if child protective services---an ultimate reunification. Enough rambling.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the insight. I know the courts can remove children from homes for a variety of reasons, but I assumed (aparently incorrectly) that they didn't remove the children from DP because he hasn't shown cause other then being a murder suspect.

Maybe you can answer a couple of questions that popped in my head as I was reading your post.
Why do you think they haven't removed the children? As you said you have taken children out with much less proof.

Also, do you find that sometimes although we see removing the children to be the right thing it makes the children more resentful? For example: the case here in Texas where they removed over 400 chilren from the camp.
Do you think taking the children from DP will open the door for a lawsuit against the county? Seems to me that is exactly the sort of thing he would like for the publicity and rubbing their noses etc.

Thanks again

Anonymous said...

Geraldo Rivera swears Peterson will be arrested & charged before summer. The article makes interesting points-well done!

Stacy Dittrich said...

TXMichelle: I can't answer why DP's children haven't been removed. Drew may give the impression as a "good father" but, again, the media circus, harassing environment at school, etc..only are small factors to be added to the likelihood this man is a multiple murderer. Like North Carolina, child services and/or the judge should at least make the recommendation to place the children with other family members until the investigation is over. Stacy Peterson's own family is questionable so maybe the DCS is looking at Drew as the lesser of two evils? Wrong choice if that's the case...

I would like to hear their responses when, yes I say when, Drew is convicted of two murders and they left the children with him this entire time.

Personally, as far as lawsuits against counties, I really could care less. As the case in Texas, I firmly believe those children should not have been released to their parents. These women allowed sexual abuse of various children for years and, will no doubt, allow it again. The children, in the long run, would be much better off.

At this point, DP has more on his plate than suing the county for child is the time they need to act...

Anonymous said...

I agree those children never should have gone back to the parents.

Drew does have a lot on his plate, but it is just like him to do something like sue the county if they took his children. Every action from him is purely to thumb his nose at the police and to stir the media. At least that is the way I see him. This is a game to him.

Anonymous said...

My experience leads me to believe that any type of government agency [except the IRS] is always careful about going after someone else that is associated with government. That is why they took the FLDS and not DPs. In the case of the NC murder, the husband is mentally unbalanced [and not a cold blooded sociopath] and therefore they could remove those children without any fallout. It's all calculated.