Missing Mom's Early Romance Hid Dark Future Ahead

Drew Peterson a 'gentleman' at first, sister says, but marriage turned sour.

ByABC News
February 19, 2009, 3:20 AM

Nov. 18, 2007 — -- 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.