The stepdaughter of Drew Peterson said today that she endured years of abuse at the hands of a man accused of killing his third wife, but hours later Peterson denied that he abused his stepdaughter and said instead he raised a "nice well adjusted woman."
Peterson spoke up after Lisa Ward, the daughter of Peterson's second wife, Vicky Connolly, told "Good Morning America" today that the near decade she spent under Peterson's roof were filled with physical, mental and emotional abuse that ended only when Connolly confronted him about his cheating.
Ward said that the years of alleged abuse at the hands of a man now accused of killing his third wife had made her realize that "anything is possible with him."
"I always thought he was a jerk," Ward said.
When Ward heard about the 2004 death of Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio, although she didn't immediately suspect her former stepfather, said, "That thought kind of goes through your mind."
Hours later, ABC News was contacted by Peterson's lawyer to deny any wrongdoing in the nearly 10 years he raised the girl.
"His reaction [to Ward's allegations] was that he raised this girl. He gave her a moral basis. He was a strict father," Peterson's attorney Joel Brodsky told ABC News after consulting with Peterson. "There were no black eyes, no broken bones, no guns, no knives, no physical abuse absolutely... He thinks he did a good job with her. She seems to be a nice, well adjusted woman now."
Brodsky said that Peterson categorically denied Ward's allegations of abuse, but said corporal punishment was not unheard of when Ward was a child, including spankings. He said it is suspicous the abuse claims only came out after Ward landed a book deal for a story that reportedly will detail the years of alleged abuse and bullying under Peterson.
"This has nothing to do with the truth. This is all about money, all about the book deal. There'd be no money if they came out and said that Drew [Peterson] was a good dad... that wouldn't make a story," Brodsky said. "Suffice it to say, if Vicki Connolly or Lisa Ward took the stand and said the things they're saying now, I would have a field day cross examining them."
Peterson, 55, has been charged in Savio's death and is a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.
Ward described Peterson, who married her mother when Ward was 8, as "very strict" and controlling. Although she did not learn about the threat until after Peterson was arrested, Ward said her mother had said that he'd threatened to kill her.
Co-author Michelle Lefort said Peterson's abuse of Ward's mother had started almost immediately.
"Within a month of being married, at that point he put a gun to her head after she informed him she would not love him more than she loved Lisa," she said.
Brodsky claimed Lefort's involvement is suspect as well, saying she recently broke up a deal to write a book that cast a "fairly positive" light on Peterson, and says that the incident with the gun "absolutely did not happen."
Peterson, a former cop, was also so jealous of Ward's relationship with her biological father that he would try to thwart their visits, Ward said.
"Drew did not want me to have anything do to with my father," she said. "He wanted to be my father. He would pull my father over when he was coming into town and delay his visitation with me."
Ward said she's speaking out now, for the first time to let other abuse victims know that they need to get out of unhealthy relationships.
"I think that all these people, all these men and women that are being abused, need to stop that violence," she said.
Peterson, who has gained about 20 pounds since entering prison, was in court Friday when a judge ruled that the statements Savio wrote before her death would be admissible in court.
Attorneys for Peterson, a former police officer in Bolingbrook, Ill., had sought to exclude from the trial Savio's writings in which she expressed fear for herself and her children.
Peterson is being held on $20 million bail after he was accused of murdering Savio, his third wife. The woman was found face-down in an empty bathtub in March 2004, her hair soaked with blood from an apparent head wound.
The medical examiner had initially ruled Savio's death a drowning incident but after the October 2007 disappearance of Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy, Savio's body was exhumed and reclassified a homicide after a new autopsy was performed.
Peterson was arrested in May and pleaded not guilty to the first degree murder charge.
Stacy Peterson Is Still Missing
Peterson's defense team has argued that he could not receive a fair trial in Will County because he is a 30-year local law enforcement veteran and because of the intense media exposure, according to the Chicago Daily Herald.
As Peterson sits in jail on murder charges for his third wife's death, his stepbrother could provide important information regarding the disappearance of Stacy Peterson.
Thomas Morphey, his stepbrother, said he helped Peterson move a large blue barrel from Peterson's home on the last day Stacy Peterson was seen alive.
The day before he helped move the barrel, Morphey said, Peterson confronted him. "He said, 'How much do you love me?'" Morphey told "Good Morning America" in March. "I said, 'I do.' And he said, 'Enough to kill for me?'"
Neither Stacy Peterson nor her body has ever been found, nor has the mysterious blue barrel.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.