The third wife of Bolingbrook, Ill., police sergeant Drew Peterson, Savio, 40, was discovered by neighbors in her home in an empty bathtub with a 1-inch gash on the back of her scalp in 2004. Savio and Peterson were divorced, but the details of the divorce settlement were weeks away from being finalized when she died. Her death originally was ruled an accidental drowning, but authorities later said it was a homicide staged to look like an accident. Peterson is now in jail on murder charges in the death, and has pleaded not guilty.
by David Murray
Kathy had repeated contacts with the Bolingbrook police, however. In response to inquiries from reporters, the department released a list of 19 calls for service, over about two years, starting in February of 2002; most involved minor disputes over visits with the children—they had what Smith, the lawyer, calls "traditional joint custody," giving Drew the kids every other weekend and some weekdays—but several confrontations turned physical. Twice Kathy had been reported for domestic battery, but charges were eventually dropped and the record was expunged. At the very least, the complaints show two people willing to go to great lengths to torment one another.
On March 11, 2002, Kathy filed for an emergency order of protection, which was granted by Will County Circuit Court judge Jeffrey Allen. Kathy wrote on the petition that Drew had threatened her over the phone and later had run after her. "[Drew] wants me dead," she wrote on the petition, "and if he has to he will burn the house down just to shut me up." But on March 19th Drew's attorney filed a motion to reopen the order, and on March 22nd it was dismissed. Anna says Kathy reluctantly let the order drop because she was concerned the legal action would impinge on Drew's livelihood, on which she and her children still depended.
Several months later, on July 5th, an incident between Kathy and Drew came to the attention of the state's attorney's office. By then, Drew had moved to another house in the same subdivision. Their versions of what took place differ, as recorded in a Bolingbrook police report. By Kathy's account, she came down the stairs one day carrying a basket of laundry and Drew surprised her: "He pushed her backwards, causing her to sit on the stairway," the report says. "He told her not to move and when she tried to get up he pushed her back down. . . . He asked her if she was afraid and she told him she was. She finally told him to go or do what he came for, kill her. He said, OK, where do you want it. She told him in the head. He took out his knife but then said he could not hurt her."
As recounted in the same report, Drew maintained that Kathy had invited him over to talk, and he denied he had carried any weapons. He said they met on the stairway and sat on the stairs, talking. "They discussed the divorce, the children, what had gone wrong, etc. for approximately three hours. They cried, hugged, and Kathleen tried to kiss him, but he did not kiss her. She exposed her breasts and pubic area to him and asked if he missed this at all. . . ."
The Bolingbrook police submitted the report to the office of the Will County state's attorney, who at the time was Jeff Tomczak, a Republican political ally of Roger Claar (and a passing acquaintance of Drew). Kathy told her sister Anna that the state's attorney's office did nothing to help. Bolingbrook's current police chief, Ray McGury, thinks the state's attorney's office decided not to pursue the July 5th incident because Kathy had waited almost two weeks after it happened before reporting it to the police.
In November that year, Kathy frantically wrote Elizabeth Fragale, an assistant state's attorney under Tomczak: "On three different occasions I have tried to reach you over the phone," Kathy wrote. She went on to describe a number of physical and verbal altercations involving her, Drew, and Stacy, and she said of Drew, "He knows how to manipulate the system, and his next step is to take my children away. Or kill me instead. . . . I haven't received help from the Police here in Bolingbrook, and [am] asking for your help now. Before it's to late [sic]. . . . Please return my call, or write with answers to my questions."
Fragale, now a prosecutor for Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan, and Tomczak, who now runs his own law firm in Joliet, won't discuss their response to Kathy's pleas. A spokesman for the current state's attorney, Jim Glasgow, says the office has been unable to find any documents indicating how the letter and the police report were addressed. Anna, who helped Kathy write the letter, says Kathy got no response from the state's attorney. Smith, who advised Kathy throughout her separation and divorce proceedings, said the state's attorney's office invited them to come in once for what he characterized as a cursory interview that was never followed up on.
(Kathy sent a copy of the November letter to Walter Jacobson, then a Fox News Chicago anchor. A separate cover letter argued that her story was not "your typical domestic" dispute, but a story about "corruption in Bolingbrook, and Will County." Jacobson says he can't recall getting the letter.)
At one point, Kathy appealed directly to the Bolingbrook chief of police for help. She had come to know Mike Calcagno during her marriage to Drew, and considered him a friend. "If anything happens to me," she told Calcagno, according to her sister Sue, "it's because Drew's killed me." Though there was an internal Bolingbrook PD investigation in conjunction with the July 5th incident, Calcagno did not officially discipline Peterson for that incident nor for any other matters relating to Kathy, and it's not known whether or how he took things up with Drew unofficially.
Now retired, Calcagno told Chicago that it would be "inappropriate" for him to say anything about the case with an investigation ongoing. He said that he took Kathy's warnings seriously enough to give her his cell phone number. He added, with his voice full of emotion, that she was "a beautiful person."
Why didn't Mayor Claar dress down the sergeant personally for the ruckus he and his wife were causing in their Bolingbrook subdivision, the way he had confronted Drew about his affair with Stacy? Boan, the village attorney, says that the mayor "had no knowledge at the time about the number of  calls that were placed to dispatch by these individuals."
Drew Peterson offered Chicago another theory: The mayor sympathized with him because "Kathy was known as a hellcat." Drew recounted a public event in the 1990s where a drunken Kathy leaped onto Boan's lap and kissed the mayor. Boan and Claar say they don't recall this incident. At any rate, the mayor concurs with Drew's assertion that, when it came to his noisy, lengthy dispute with his third wife, "Not a word was said" to him by the mayor.
Drew's attorney, Joel Brodsky, has his own theory as to why no official intervened in response to Kathy's many cries for help: In his experience, Brodsky says, it is not unheard of for women going through divorces to claim their husbands are trying to kill them. Brodsky adds an old divorce attorney's saw: "In criminal cases, you have very bad people acting very good—'Yes, sir,' 'No, sir.' In divorce cases you have very good people acting horribly."
Veteran Chicago divorce attorney Tracy Rizzo agrees that often people going through a divorce are hysterical, but as to whether they accuse a spouse of trying to kill them, she says, "Absolutely not."