Missing Mom's Early Romance Hid Dark Future Ahead

By all accounts, Stacy Peterson once loved her husband, 53-year-old police sergeant Drew Peterson.

But by the time she vanished from her home in Bolingbrook, Ill., three weeks ago, friends say she had grown fearful of the man they say mentally abused her, and had decided to end the marriage.

"She would always look over her shoulder," said family friend Bruce Zidarich of meeting Stacy in the weeks before she went missing. "She said, 'I'm gonna tell him that I want a divorce.' ... It came up more and more often."

It wasn't always that way. Stacy Peterson's disappearance, say her relatives and friends, capped an explosive seven-year relationship that started with a teenage girl swept off her feet with attention and gifts from a man 30 years her senior, then turned progressively sinister as her once-loving husband grew increasingly controlling and suspicious, forbidding her to see family and friends, and accusing her of infidelity.

Since his wife's disappearance, Drew Peterson has said Stacy left voluntarily, and told him she "found someone else."

But authorities have named Peterson a suspect in his wife's disappearance, and friends and family have scoured the Bolingbrook area looking for any trace of the missing mother of two.

So far, the search has turned up nothing.

Stacy Cales was just 16 years old when she met Drew Peterson, according to her sister, Cassandra Cales. She had recently graduated high school a year early and was working the night shift as a receptionist at a local hotel.

"He was a night commander," Cales said of Drew Peterson, who was in his late 40s at the time and a two-decade veteran of the Bolingbrook Police Department. "He used to go in there and check on her -- you know, sweep the hotel and make sure that everything was okay."

The pair started dating. But Stacy, still underage, didn't immediately tell her family about the new man in her life. Drew Peterson was married at the time to Kathleen Savio, his third wife.

Savio would later be found dead in her bathtub, in what the coroner at the time ruled an accidental drowning.

When Stacy finally did introduce her new boyfriend to her family and circle of friends, Cassandra Cales said, she was 17 and Peterson was 47 or 48.

Cales said the 30-year age gap made her and other relatives "uncomfortable," but that she wanted to support her sister.

"I said, 'I don't mind just as long as you're happy,'" Cales told ABC News. "Age doesn't matter as long as you're in love and happy with that person."

"And," Cales added, "she was."

Friends and family describe Stacy's early relationship with Drew Peterson as that of a young girl impressed by a man who could provide everything. Living with her older, married sister at the time, Tina, who died from colon cancer in 2006, Stacy saw life with Peterson as a "way out," Cales told ABC News.

"He was a gentleman, I guess," said Cales of Stacy's early relationship with Drew. "He bought her an apartment, furnished it, paid for everything -- TVs, VCRs, Kirby vacuum. You name it, she had it."

The pair married in 2003, about a year after their first child, Anthony, was born. Pictures show a smiling Drew Peterson, holding his young son, and Stacy wearing a flowing white gown.

But the romance soon ended. Drew Peterson became controlling, say Stacy's closest relatives and friends, growing suspicious of Stacy's relationships outside of her marriage and accusing her of being unfaithful.

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