Ill. Cop Under Fire Proclaims Innocence

The Illinois cop suspected in the disappearance of his fourth wife and possibly in the death of his third wife flatly denied any involvement in either case this morning, instead describing both women as emotionally unstable.

"I can look you right in the eye and say I had nothing to do with either of those instances," Drew Peterson said in an interview this morning on NBC's "Today."

The police sergeant from Bolingbrook, a Chicago suburb, told NBC he believes his wife, Stacy, ran off with another man, and pleaded during the interview for her to come home.

"She 'found someone else,'" Peterson said. "Those were her exact words."

Since the woman was last seen, Peterson's status has been upgraded by investigators from a "person of interest" to a "suspect." It's a change that comes as no surprise to Peterson, who is currently on unpaid leave from his department.

"I think they've always considered me a suspect," he said. "You know, the husband always did it."

Peterson said that his wife's emotional state declined after her sister lost a cancer battle and that she was taking new medications and struggled with depression.

He dismissed a comment from Kerry Simmons, Stacy's stepsister, who said that the Stacy told her that if there was ever an instance where she didn't answer her phone, that Simmons and others would have to go searching for her. He also called an e-mail allegedly sent by Stacy in which she describes her relationship as "somewhat abusive" a "fabrication."

Peterson admitted to having verbal confrontations with his wife, but said that he never raised a hand to her, even after an instance in which she threw a frozen steak at him. He also said that Stacy frequently asked him for a divorce. "Stacy would ask me for a divorce after her sister died on a regular basis," he said. "I'm not trying to be funny here, based on her menstrual cycle."

The televised denial of his involvement comes one day after authorities exhumed the body of Kathleen Savio, Peterson's third wife, who was found dead in a bathtub in 2004. The decision to reopen that case came after Stacy's disappearance.

Results from an independent doctor regarding Savio's manner of death could take several weeks, but a grand jury reportedly is considering charges connected to Savio's disappearance.

In that case, a coroner ruled Savio's death an accidental drowning, even though there was no water in the bathtub, and her hair was soaked from an apparent head wound. Authorities theorized that the water had drained from the tub. Peterson was the duty sergeant working the night that her body was discovered.

Investigators say a $1 million life insurance policy, which is protected and can only be accessed by Peterson's children, had been taken out on Savio's life. In 2002, according to court records, Savio had gotten an order of protection against Peterson.

"It's a shame that her rest in peace has to be disturbed for something like this," Peterson said when asked about the decision to exhume the woman's body.

Peterson described Savio, as he did Stacy, as emotionally disturbed. "She came from an abusive home life, she had abusive stepparents," he said about Savio. "After she had children, hormones kicked in, and again, an emotional roller coaster with her."

Peterson, who claims that he cooperated with the police in their initial interview about Stacy's disappearance but stopped talking to investigators at the advice of attorneys, said the media spotlight -- not the investigative spotlight -- has agitated him and made life a challenge for his family, which includes two teens from a previous marriage and two young children from his marriage with Stacy.

The media attention, he said, is one of the reasons he has not participated in the ground search for Stacy. "Number two," he said, "why would I search for someone I don't believe is missing?"

Peterson said he feared the legal costs that may be associated with defending himself in these cases. When asked if he was worried that any potential legal proceedings might take him away from his children, Peterson said he did not fear being found guilty and having to face life in prison or potentially the death penalty because his children would be provided for and cared for by his family members.

As for Stacy, he had a simple message. "Come home," he said. "Tell people where you are."