An Illinois judge Monday denied Drew Peterson's request to force investigators to return property, including 11 guns and two vehicles that were seized during the search for his missing wife.
Peterson also had planned to ask the judge to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate leaks of grand jury testimony arising from an investigation into the disappearance of Stacy Peterson, his fourth wife, ABC News Law & Justice Unit has learned.
"I am America's No. 1 hated person now," Peterson told ABC News. "They are looking at this as a witch hunt — and I'm the witch! I have never seen anyone attacked like this before. I am public enemy No. 1."
Peterson, a tough, veteran former cop caught squarely in the center of a major missing-persons investigation, has begun to play hardball with authorities.
He has has grown increasingly aggressive in defending himself as the investigation has moved forward with apparently only circumstantial evidence.
As some widely reported claims have later appeared to be false — like earlier police allegations that Peterson and another man asked two truck drivers to transport a blue container the night after Stacy disappeared — Peterson has dramatically ratcheted up his criticism of the investigation.
Peterson and attorney Joel Brodsky also planned to issue a formal complaint about what they say have been numerous law enforcement leaks to the press about the case.
"It is obvious to anyone who watches the television news-based entertainment media, especially certain television cable channels, that there is a serious and continuing leak of information emanating from these special grand jury proceedings concerning Sgt. Drew Peterson," Brodsky wrote in a letter to the judge, according to the Associated Press.
A grand jury has been hearing evidence pointing to authorities' theory that Peterson was involved in the disappearance. An investigation was opened into the death of Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio, whose death had been ruled an accident. Savio's remains have been exhumed, and that investigation is ongoing.
Peterson has vehemently denied any involvement in the disappearance. He has said he believes Stacy ran off with another man. As interest in the case has exploded nationwide, pressure has mounted on prosecutors to solve the case or make an arrest.
Peterson has long been the primary target of the investigation. When called to testify before the grand jury, he exercised his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself and did not answer questions, sources told ABC News.
An impatient public and media, combined with relentless and often public pressure from the family of Stacy, has driven the investigation forward with an intensity not often seen in the courtrooms of Joliet, Ill.
Earlier this month, police released a statement saying that they believe Peterson was one of two men who approached a pair of truck drivers the day after Stacy disappeared and asked them to transport a large blue container to an undisclosed location, where it would be retrieved.
"On Oct. 29, 2007, at approximately 3:30 a.m., two truck drivers were approached by two men at a truck stop in Bolingbrook, Ill. One of the two men is believed to be Drew Peterson and the other described as a white male, early 50's, salt-and-pepper hair, with a stocky build. The two men request the truck drivers to transport a package to an undisclosed location. Upon reaching the location, the men would regain possession of the package and continue transporting it to a location not accessible by semitrailers," according to a statement from the Illinois State Police.
But after releasing that tantalizing clue, state police later said they investigated that story and determined it was unfounded.
Rick Mims, Peterson's longtime friend, told a grand jury last week that he and Peterson bought three such containers for about $100 from AmeriCable, where they both worked part time in 2003, according to a source close to the investigation. Peterson put two of the containers on a shelf in his garage, but after Stacy vanished, so did the containers, Mims testified.
A search warrant issued last week for Peterson's two vehicles mentions "blue plastic" and "scuff marks" left by a "large storage container," lending credence to reports that investigators think Peterson, 53, might have loaded into his sport utility vehicle a blue container holding Stacy's body. She disappeared from their Bolingbrook, Ill., home Oct. 28. Peterson is a suspect in her disappearance, but he has not been charged.
This weekend, news reports attributed to unnamed investigators surfaced saying that Peterson had written large checks, one for more than $250,000, to his son from several bank accounts, including joint accounts Peterson held with Stacy.
In a telephone interview with ABC News Saturday, Peterson offered a blanket denial of some of the leaked allegations tying him to the disappearance.
"Everything being said is not true," he said, expressing frustration with the way investigators are handling the case. "As more things come up, more things get knocked down," Peterson said. "The whole incidence is losing credibility."
While he denied a report that aired this weekend on a Fox station in Chicago that insinuated that the alleged transfer of money was nefarious, Peterson seemed to indicate in an interview with ABC News last week that any moving of money was part of steps taken to protect his children's future.
"The kids are taken care of," Peterson told ABC News Law and Justice senior correspondent Jim Avila. "If I'm hit by a bus or arrested, I have arranged care of the children — set up trusts and who will care for them."
Peterson and his attorney have complained about reports that Stacy told her pastor he killed Savio and that Stacy, who reportedly knew Peterson when he was still married to Savio, says she saw him dressed in black ninja-style clothing in his basement washing clothes the night before Savio was found dead.
Peterson's attorney will tell the judge, ABC News has learned, that his client is a victim of a systematic campaign of illegal and prejudicial leaks and innuendo by the Illinois State Police and only a special prosecutor could get to the bottom of it.
Lawyers contacted by ABC's Law and Justice Unit say its unlikely a special prosecutor will be appointed, but there are other options for the judge.