Drew Peterson has officially been charged with a crime, but it has little to do with the investigations into his fourth wife’s disappearance and the death of his third wife.
Shortly after noon Wednesday, Peterson turned himself in to state police after a warrant was issued for his arrest. The charge, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, alleges that Peterson “knowingly possessed a rifle, namely a Colt model Sporter Lightweight…with a barrel less than 16 inches in length,” in violation of state law.
After learning of the warrant, Peterson’s attorney Joel Brodsky arrived at Peterson’s home to take his client to the Bolingbrook Police Department, where Peterson was taken into custody by state police. He was taken to the Will County jail and processed. Within hours, Peterson was free again after his son Stephen wrote a check for 10 percent of Peterson’s $75,000 bond.
“This came as a total surprise. We were never thinking that if Drew was ever arrested it would be on a bondable offense, ” Brodsky said. “I would find it hard to believe that an arrest for a murder charge would be imminent and they would bring this charge. It doesn’t seem to make sense so I think this would tend to indicate that there’s no imminent charge for another offense.”
The decision to charge Peterson came one day before a court hearing to determine whether Peterson can transfer the weapon, along with 10 others seized from Peterson’s home Nov. 1, to his son Stephen, an Oak Brook police officer. Brodsky had asked the court to force police to return all seized items. Earlier this month, Will County Judge Richard Schoenstedt appeared ready to grant Peterson’s request at a hearing scheduled for Thursday.
The guns were seized as part of the investigation into the Oct. 28 disappearance of Peterson’s wife Stacy. Police are calling the disappearance a potential homicide and have named Peterson a suspect. Police are also investigating the March 2004 drowning of Peterson’s ex-wife Kathleen Savio but have not named a suspect in the death, which was recently reclassified as a homicide.
Drew Peterson has denied any wrongdoing in either case and, up until Wednesday, had not been charged with any crime.
Brodsky said the state’s timing in charging Peterson was no coincidence and that police are simply trying to harass his client on the day before Schoenstedt’s ruling.
“I really believe that, for some reason that I cannot comprehend, the Illinois State Police seem to have an obsession with these guns and preventing Drew from getting them,” Brodsky said. “I believe [police] might believe it’s a tactic to shake [Peterson] up and it’s certainly not going to work.”
Will County State’s Attorney’s office spokesman Charles Pelkie denied Brodsky’s harassment allegations but said the possibility of the gun being released did force authorities to act.
“We’ve known it was an illegal weapon since shortly after the gun was taken into possession by the Illinois State Police,” Pelkie said. “Initially, the determination was made not to file a charge in that case … but now we’re faced with the potential that an illegal weapon may be put back onto the streets and we can’t allow that to happen.”
But Brodsky said his client broke no law by possessing the weapon because, as a police officer, Peterson was exempt from the law. Brodsky said Peterson registered the gun with the Bolingbrook Police Department and used it as one of his two SWAT team weapons. At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, state police spokesman Sgt. Tom Burek said Peterson had broken the law but declined to go into detail.
“It’s illegal to have a barrel length less than [16 inches], there are exemptions in the law and I’m not going to debate those exemptions here today,” Burek said. “In certain circumstances, that possibility [of exemption] exists but that’s not the case in this situation.”
Burek said the investigations into Savio’s and Stacy Peterson’s cases are moving forward methodically and that police continue to make progress on a daily basis.
“We’re very confident an arrest will be made in this case,” Burek said.
News of the arrest spread quickly through the once-quiet subdivision in which Peterson lives. Peterson’s neighbor Sharon Bychowski, a friend of Stacy Peterson’s, said she was notified of a possible arrest at about 10 a.m. By noon, friends and family of the missing Bolingbrook mother had gathered at Bychowski’s home while state police kept watch outside Peterson’s home.
Although the charge wasn’t quite what they had hoped for, Bychowski said friends and family remain hopeful they will find resolution.
“There are many aspects of Drew Peterson that they are investigating and this is simply one of them,” Bychowski said. “They are doing a very good job to be very thorough in this investigation. There will be an arrest in the case of Stacy Peterson.”