Wiretap story a money-making scheme, Peterson says

By Danya Hooker, dhooker@mysuburbanlife.com

Drew Peterson said Wednesday he was shocked to hear news that two formerly close friends and confidants reportedly acted as police spies and for seven months recorded private conversations they had with him.

Despite the betrayal, chronicled in Wednesday’s Chicago Sun-Times, Peterson remained jovial and joked with reporters Wednesday. He said Paula Stark and Len Wawczak were simply trying to make money off his notoriety by creating an exaggerated and possibly even false story.

“I think we got another Ric Mims,” Peterson said, referring to a former friend who turned his back on Peterson and sold his story to the National Enquirer. “They were desperate for money and I couldn’t borrow them any and now they’re doing this and they’re taking advantage of my family’s grief.”

Peterson referred to his attorney Joel Brodsky all questions regarding the couple’s allegations that they had recorded him making derogatory remarks about his wives and about state police.

Brodsky said the fact Wawczak and Stark gave their story to the Sun-Times proves they were not working with state police.

“There’s no way the Illinois State Police or the FBI is going to allow an extensive police investigation like [wiretapping] and then allow the informants…to disclose that investigation to a newspaper,” Brodsky said. “It’s not logical and it doesn’t make sense.”

Illinois State Police Sgt. Tom Burek declined to comment on the allegations.

Brodsky said Wawczak and Stark are in severe financial trouble and are looking to make easy money.

“They’ve probably seen several people make money off this,” Brodsky said, listing off people who have been paid by the National Enquirer and also a reporter who has written a book on the Peterson case. “I’m sure they’re thinking they can make money too.”

Although he has a feeling the alleged tape recordings do not exist, Brodsky said his client has nothing to worry about it even if they do.

“He doesn’t have to watch himself because he didn’t do anything,” Brodsky said.

But Stacy Peterson’s close friend and neighbor Sharon Bychowski said she is confident Wawczak and Stark are sincere in their words and their intentions. She said the couple contacted her more than a week ago to tell her they were informants for the police and that they were going public to show their support for Stacy Peterson. Bychowski also said the couple showed her police documents relating to the wiretapping equipment.

Although Wawczak and Stark did not appear to be at their Bolingbrook home Wednesday, Bychowski said she has been in contact when them and that they are staying at another, undisclosed location.

“They’re just not sure what to expect,” she said.

A friendship in disguise

The trio began their relationship about 16 years ago after meeting at a local bar, the Sun-Times reported. Over time, they talked about going into business together to flip houses and Peterson came to rely on them in the months following his wife’s disappearance. The couple often watched Peterson’s four youngest children, and in March, Wawczak accompanied Peterson to Illinois State Police District 5 headquarters to help Peterson retrieve two vehicles seized by police.

“The problem is, I let them get next to my kids and my kids got close to them,” Peterson said. “Especially Lacy. She was very close to Paula.”

But the friendliness was all a ruse, the couple told the Sun-Times. Shortly after Stacy Peterson’s disappearance, Wawczak and Stark began to question their friend’s denials that he was involved in the fate of either wife. Wawczak told the newspaper that police approached him in mid-November for questioning then later about the possibility of helping in the investigation.

Wawczak and Stark agreed, and the operation continued through June, Wawczak told the Sun-Times. Then the couple decided to go public with their story.

“We got him,” Wawczak told the Sun-Times.

Chilling remarks

Peterson’s third wife Kathleen Savio was found drowned in a dry bathtub in March 2004. At the time, her death was ruled a homicide. Wawczak told the Sun-Times that Peterson had mocked the police investigating his wife’s death, saying “She was in a dry bathtub, what a bunch of [expletive] idiots.”

Four years later, Peterson’s fourth wife disappeared and authorities decided to take another look at Savio’s case. Her body was exhumed in November and two pathologists, one at the request of Savio’s family and one on behalf of the state, performed separate autopsies. Both recently ruled her death a homicide.

Around that time, the Sun-Times reported, Peterson told Wawczak, “I should have had that [expletive] cremated. It would have cost me less and I wouldn’t be going through this trouble.”

Peterson is the sole suspect in his wife’s disappearance, which police are calling a “potential homicide.” Police have not named a suspect in Savio’s death. Peterson has denied any involvement and has not been charged with a crime in either case.

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