By Don Grigas
Framed against the topic of domestic violence during the 2008 Annual Community Service Council of Northern Will County Benefit Brunch on Sunday, CSC Board President Carol Penning said she believes the missing person case of Stacy Peterson eventually will be resolved.
“I have faith it will be resolved, but it may take some time,” said Penning, who is also Bolingbrook’s village clerk.
“I believe with every fiber of my body that Stacy was a victim of domestic violence–it has not been proven–but time will tell,” said Penning, who spoke to an audience of about 150 attendees of the event.
In an interview following the luncheon, Penning said she does not hold out hope Stacy is still alive and has run away with another man, as was suggested by her husband, Drew Peterson.
Penning said she developed a personal relationship with Stacy Peterson six years ago when Stacy worked for two months for the Village of Bolingbrook.
At the time Stacy was 17 years old, and Penning said she mentored Stacy while working closely with her, and continued to do so until Stacy disappeared in late October.
“She really was wonderful; a good worker,” said Penning.
After Stacy no longer was employed by the village, Penning said, Stacy regularly kept in touch, even after she married Drew Peterson.
Stacy visited Penning one week before her disappearance, and was a constant source of comfort and friendship, Penning said.
Penning suffered an illness two years ago, and Stacy was a frequent visitor to Village Hall to bring Penning lunch, gifts and comfort.
“She never had to, but she went out of her way to visit me and make sure I was OK. She was very special, a wonderful kid, and I loved her dearly,” said Penning.
Stacy’s disappearance brought intense law enforcement and media scrutiny to the former police sergeant, who has denied any involvement in the case.
State investigators said in November Drew Peterson is considered a suspect in the Stacy Peterson disappearance.
Penning said she does not agree with Drew Peterson’s claim that Stacy ran off with another man.
“Stacy was an excellent mother who never would have left her children,” Penning said.
Penning also said she spoke with state police investigators following Stacy’s disappearance, although Penning would not divulge the content of her interview other than to say, “I really think Stacy was the victim of foul play.”
During conversations with Stacy over the last five years, Penning became aware of what she called Drew Peterson’s constant attention that became unbearable to Stacy.
“Stacy often visited me and spoke with me, and she told me of the verbal abuse and the constant stalking by Drew,” Penning said. “Stacy told me that was no way to live; that’s what she told me.
According to several of Stacy’s friends and family, Stacy was preparing to file for divorce from Drew Peterson in the weeks prior to her disappearance.
According to Stacy’s sister, Cassandra Cales, Stacy was last heard from at about 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, by telephone. After continued attempts to reach Stacy were unsuccessful, Cales filed a missing persons report in the early morning hours of Monday, Oct. 29.
An intensive search for Stacy ensued, but she has not been found.
The home of Drew and Stacy Peterson was searched and several items removed by Illinois State Police, including two cars belonging to the couple.
Subsequent published reports indicated Stacy Peterson and Drew Peterson had a relationship that had become strained, and Drew often followed Stacy. Stacy, Drew Peterson’s fourth wife, is 30 years younger than Drew Peterson.
Drew’s behavior, Penning said, was typical of an abusive relationship.
“It hasn’t been proven whether or not it was a physically abusive relationship or not, but Drew’s constant following of her and stalking her every step she took, that is consistent with an abusive relationship,” said Penning.
During the luncheon, a presentation on domestic violence given by Bolingbrook Police Chief Ray McGury outlined many facets of abusive relationships, some which sounded hauntingly familiar to the Peterson case.
“In cases where the relationship is about power and control, not all elements are just physical abuse,” said McGury.
McGury said too often parents in a power struggle use children during a break up “like pawns in a game.”
McGury said a large number of calls to police coming from the Peterson home he shared with his third wife, Kathleen Savio, were related to child custody issues, not physical violence.
“The Savio/Peterson case is a classic example of parents using children … that’s the horror of what children have to go through. The kids still love their parents–they may not like what is going on–but they love the parents, and the children suffer,” McGury said.