Investigators hope a massive ground search set for this weekend in the case of Stacy Peterson, the 23-year-old pregnant Illinois woman missing since October, will lead to clues to her disappearance.
Authorities in particular are looking to recover a blue plastic barrel that police suspect may have been used to move Peterson's body from the home she shared with her husband, former Illinois cop Drew Peterson, who remains a suspect in the case.
Investigators also want divers to search for the barrel in the Calumet Sag Channel, a waterway a few miles from the Peterson home. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been asked to clear out submerged cars that have prevented divers from safely entering the water.
The plastic drum allegedly was moved from the Peterson's Bolingbrook, Ill., house by Drew Peterson and his stepbrother the night that Stacy disappeared. The stepbrother, who has not been identified, later reportedly attempted suicide.
Walter Martinek, a friend of Peterson's stepbrother, told ABC's "Good Morning America" this week that the stepbrother spoke about the barrel the night he said he helped Drew Peterson move it. "A blue tote," Martinek said. "A sealed blue tote, and this is where he really got shook up, he goes, 'I know she was in there.'"
Martinek said he asked the stepbrother, "What do you mean you know she was in there?" And, Martinek continued, "he goes, 'It was warm to the touch.'"
But Joel Brodsky, Drew Peterson's attorney, said the barrel is just another rumor in a case that has generated intense scrutiny for his client. "There is no container," Brodsky said. "There is no blue barrel."
Family and friends of Stacy Peterson, however, have gone on the offensive, claiming that they know a blue barrel exists, and suggesting it might be a key to breaking the investigation wide open.
"He says there was no barrel," said Cassandra Cales, Stacy's sister. "I saw it with my own eyes."
Cales also challenged the 53-year-old Peterson to take a lie detector test. "I'll take a lie detector test," she said. "I feel that Drew should take a lie detector test also."
A pastor at the Peterson's church, meanwhile, publicly said Thursday that Stacy Peterson confided to a clergy member during an August meeting that she feared her husband.
Peterson requested a meeting with a member of the Westbrook Christian Church pastoral staff after the church called to see why she and her husband had not attended services recently, Rob Daniels, the church's pastor of spiritual formation, told The Associated Press.
"She feared for herself because of her husband," Daniels said, adding that Peterson feared her husband may physically harm her.
Daniels said that the church made the decision to pass the information to authorities, although the church would not be legally bound to do so. He would not address a report in the Chicago Sun-Times that claimed that Stacy Peterson told a clergyman in August that her husband had confessed to her that he killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
Savio died in 2004 under mysterious circumstances. Her body was found in a empty bathtub. She had a flesh wound on her head. Although the cause of death was ruled "accidental," state officials decided this month to exhume her remains and reopen the case.
Stacy's family could not confirm the report in the Sun-Times, but the thought of Peterson killing Savio did cross their mind. "We always wondered ourselves, but she never confirmed any of that or said 'yes,'" Pamela Bosco, a family spokeswoman for Stacy Peterson, said, adding, however, that they think Stacy likely would have believed anything her husband told her. "I think she stood by what she was told back then by Drew," Bosco said.
Bosco also said Thursday that Stacy made a "frantic" call to her sister in August in which she said she wanted to take her two children to live with her in California.
Drew Peterson has resigned from his job on the Bolingbrook, Ill., police force. He has denied all wrongdoing, saying that he believes Stacy left him for another man and is alive. He has admitted publicly that he may have been controlling in his relationship with Stacy, but was not abusive.
It was revealed Thursday that Bolingbrook police were called to Drew Peterson's house 18 times in a two-year period between 2002 and 2004 on domestic dispute calls involving Savio. Savio never got authorities to arrest him.
Savio accused Peterson of beating and threatening to kill her. While he was never arrested, Savio twice faced domestic battery charges stemming from the calls. She was acquitted in both cases.
The Bolingbrook Police Department, which has been accused of protecting one of their own, defended the department's conduct in those domestic dispute calls, but acknowledged the citizens in the town are largely distrusting of the police force. The Illinois State Police are now leading the investigation into Stacy's disappearance.