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Fatal Vows: The Tragic Wives of Sergeant Drew Peterson Excerpt from Fatal Vows: The Tragic Wives of Sergeant Drew Peterson

by Joseph Hosey


Walter Martineck hardly knows Drew Peterson, a retired police sergeant in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook, but he's a good friend of Peterson's stepbrother, Tom Morphey. So it was that Martineck found himself unwittingly drawn into the events of October 28, 2007, the day Peterson's young wife, Stacy, was last seen. The prologue that follows is a dramatization based on an account Morphey reportedly gave to police, as well as statements Martineck made in the media regarding his strange run-in with Morphey late that day, before Martineck had heard a word about Stacy's disappearance. In the months that she's remained missing, numerous stories have flooded out from both those who knew her well and those who barely knew her; stories that the police, and everyone following the case in the national news, are sorting through to answer the vexing question: What happened to Stacy?

Drew Peterson set a cup of coffee in front of his stepbrother, who was slumped in a stuffed chair in the back of Starbucks, away from the wide windows looking out onto busy Weber Road. Tom Morphey sipped the coffee and waited to hear why Peterson had summoned him there.

But Peterson only said, "Drink this. You look like you need it."

Morphey could believe he did. He'd woken up that morning with a familiar dull ache behind his eyes and burning in his stomach after spending the day on the couch, watching the Bears give away a game to the Lions. Then he dozed off and might still have been asleep if his stepbrother hadn't called at 5 o'clock that evening, asking to meet him at the Starbucks midway between their homes in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook.

Peterson told Morphey to be there at seven; it was important.

Morphey heaved himself off the couch and, since he had nowhere else to be, headed over to Starbucks, happy for the chance to help his stepbrother for a change. Usually it was Peterson coming through for him with things like money, furniture, or work. Just the other day Peterson had told him he could probably line up something at the local Meijer department store; Morphey needed the job, and it would not have been the first that Peterson had helped him get.

When Morphey walked into Starbucks, he was early for their meeting. Peterson was already there, sitting in back, reading the paper.

After getting Morphey coffee, Peterson asked, "How's things at home?"

Morphey just shrugged and asked about Peterson's three boys, daughter, and wife, Stacy. Peterson gushed about the kids: Tom at the top of his class and playing trumpet in the school band, Kris a champion junior high wrestler, Anthony and Lacy adorable and growing up fast. About Stacy -- his fourth wife, mother to Anthony and Lacy, stepmother to Tom and Kris -- he said nothing. He fell silent and stared across the table.

"Why aren't you working tonight?" Morphey asked.

"Taking the day off." More silence. Then: "I need something."

So he didn’t just want to talk, to get something off his chest. He -- Drew Peterson, Bolingbrook police sergeant, enforcer of law and order -- needed something from his troubled, unemployed stepbrother. It was the best Morphey had felt in a long while.

"What?" he said quickly.

"Stacy," Peterson said. "She said she's leaving me again. You know how she is."

Morphey said he knew.

"It's like this every month," Peterson said. "Right around her period. It's getting to be too much. Especially since Tina."

Stacy's half sister, Tina, had died about a year before. Peterson had told Morphey how hard Stacy had taken it, about her depression, her pills. Morphey, too, knew a little something about depression and pills.

"You know what else?" Peterson said. "I think she's running around on me."

"Get out of here."

Peterson pulled out his wallet and opened it to a picture of Stacy, in a tight party dress, leaning over Drew as he sat on a chair. "You'd say no to this?"

"She's a fox," Morphey agreed, "but that doesn't mean she's running around."

Peterson put the wallet away. "It's getting to be a problem," he said. "She's a problem. We got to dispose of the problem."

Morphey didn't know what to make of that. He didn't really want to know. Had he even heard his stepbrother correctly? He didn't try too hard to figure it out.

Peterson rubbed his temples and pushed back his hair. "I need you to wait here for a little while." Then he reached into his jacket, pulled out a cell phone and handed it to Morphey.

"Take this. Whatever happens, don't answer it. Just stay here. Don't fall asleep. Get another coffee, whatever. Just don't leave and don't answer the phone. And don't call anybody either. Think you can handle that?"

"Yeah, Drew."

Peterson left. Morphey studied the phone. It was a nice one, but Morphey did not mess with it. He did not want to screw up. He sat there and tried to stay awake.

After about half an hour, a jolting ring made Morphey drop the phone in his lap. When he picked it up, he saw the caller ID.

Morphey stared at the phone until it stopped ringing. He didn't know what was going on, but suddenly he wasn't so sleepy.

Another half hour passed before Peterson reappeared. When Morphey asked where he had gone, Peterson told him that he just went to run an errand.

Morphey handed back the phone. "Your wife called."

Peterson put the phone in his pocket without looking at it. "I know," he said. "You did a good job."

Out in the parking lot, Peterson said, "Give me a call tomorrow. I might have something on that Meijer's thing." He got in his GMC Denali and drove off.

A few hours later, he called Morphey again. "You think you can come over here? I need a hand moving something. The Denali and the Grand Prix are in the driveway, so just park in front. You're all right to drive, right?"

Morphey put on his jacket and headed for the door. He told his girlfriend Sheryl he'd be back in a minute; he had to go to Drew's.

When he got to Peterson's house, his stepbrother opened the front door before Morphey had a chance to ring the bell. As Morphey stepped inside, Peterson glanced around the sleepy cul-de-sac. It was a few days before Halloween. The air was crisp, the house almost as dark as the street.

The kids were sleeping, and Peterson said Stacy was out with her sister. Morphey thought that was strange, since both cars were parked in the driveway. Maybe Stacy's sister had picked her up from the house.

Morphey followed Peterson upstairs and into the bedroom. He noticed a blue plastic barrel next to the bed. The barrel was tightly sealed and had two plugged holes in its lid, maybe openings for a pump. It looked a little smaller than a fifty-five-gallon drum.

Peterson squatted and put his fingers under the edge of the barrel's bottom. "I'll tip it," he said. "You take it from the top."

He pushed the barrel over, and Morphey accepted its weight. It was warm against his hands. Peterson backed out of the bedroom and toward the stairs. Morphey walked after, holding up his end. The barrel was not very heavy, and now Peterson bore all of its weight as he stepped backward down the stairs.

Morphey asked what was in the barrel.

"Chlorine," Peterson said.

Morphey thought it was strange that Peterson would have a barrel of chlorine for his swimming pool all the way upstairs, next to his bed. He wondered for what reason it needed to be moved late on a Sunday night, not to mention why it felt warmer than the air in the room. But he didn't ask any of these questions. He told himself to just believe his stepbrother, to go along with it and show himself capable of helping with this simple task.

Once downstairs, they carried the barrel through the attached garage and out to the driveway, where Peterson set it down to open the back of his Denali. The two men hoisted the barrel into the car. Peterson wedged a piece of wood against it to keep it from rolling around.

"Well, I better get this out of here," he said.

"Where you going?" Morphey asked.

"I know a guy wants to buy some chlorine," Peterson said.


"He wants it pretty bad." Peterson pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket and palmed it into Morphey's hand.

"Ah, Drew, come on," Morphey protested. "You don't have to."

"Got to run," Peterson said as he climbed into his Denali and closed the garage door from inside his car. Morphey watched the door go down, then drove home.

In his kitchen, he sat down and had a few drinks. His head throbbed. Dispose. Problem. He had a few more and then walked up the street to the home of his pal Walter Martineck. Lights shone through the front window, so he knocked on the door.

Wally opened the door, and Morphey blurted out, "I think I just helped move Stacy with Drew."

Wally tried to follow what he was saying, but Morphey was drunk and rambling, nearly incoherent. He kept trying to push a handful of money onto his pal. Wally refused and asked where the cash had come from. Morphey wouldn't say. He left his friend standing mystified in the doorway and walked back to his own house.

When he woke up the next morning, his girlfriend told him something that he already knew, no matter how much he tried to convince himself otherwise. So he went back to bed and tried to forget; he tried to pretend that it had never happened.

When he awoke the second time and couldn't fall back to sleep, Morphey swallowed a handful of pills and chased them with what was left in a big plastic bottle of liquor. The rest of that day, October 29, 2007 -- the day that Stacy Peterson was reported missing, as his girlfriend had informed him in the morning -- was largely lost to Morphey. And as he gratefully drifted off again, he hoped the whole thing had been a bad dream.

Waking up in a hospital room in Naperville, the next town over, was no dream. Through his haze, he heard people saying he had tried to end it all with liquor and pills. He believed what these people were saying, never mind that he could not quite make out what they looked like. Whether he had intentionally tried to kill himself, which was entirely possible, or had simply overdone it trying to block out the terrible thoughts racing through his mind, Morphey didn't know or care. They gave him drugs to sleep, which was nice, but when the drugs wore off, an unwelcome consciousness returned.  He slept and woke, and upon one woozy resurfacing, Drew Peterson had materialized next to his bed.

Peterson, catching Morphey's eye, leaned over and asked, "How you feeling?"

Copyright © 2008 Joseph Hosey & Phoenix Books, Inc.