Drew Peterson says he keeps the photograph near him in his Will County jail cell.
The photo captured a typical suburban scene this summer in which his youngest child, Lacy Ann, clad in her soccer uniform, beams with pride while surrounded by four of her older brothers, including Stephen Peterson.
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Stephen, a 31-year-old Oak Brook police officer, is raising the pint-size Lacy Ann along with his other three younger siblings in Bolingbrook while their jailed father, Drew, awaits trial on charges he murdered his third wife in March 2004.
From his cell, Drew Peterson penned an Aug. 27 letter to the news media in which he accuses authorities of trying to shatter that photograph in an attempt to destroy him. Protective and angry, Peterson said authorities "threatened, harassed, pestered, and hounded" his family in "probably the largest, most obsessive and expensive investigation in U.S. history."
His letter, obtained by the Daily Herald, also took Oak Brook Police Chief Thomas Sheahan to task for placing Stephen Peterson on paid leave Aug. 26 after the six-year police officer admitted under oath that he stashed Drew's favorite guns days after his father's fourth wife, Stacy, 23, vanished in October 2007.
"I'm not looking for any sympathy for me," Drew Peterson wrote. "I can handle myself. But I am asking the media to closely watch over these proceedings to help protect my son Stephen, being my children's caregiver, against the malicious prosecution he is now facing."
Peterson lambasted Chief Sheahan, whom he called an "idiotic moron," and also characterized Illinois State Police as "obsessive thugs," who terrorized his children during repeated searches of his home and property in a probe that he said turned up little more than "rumors, gossip hearsay and outright lies."
"If I gave my life, which I would gladly do to protect my kids, would that stop the harassment against my family?" Peterson wrote, at the end personally addressing Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow.
Sheahan, through his attorney, Charles Hervas, declined to comment Monday. Glasgow and the Illinois State Police did not return phone messages seeking comment.
Relatives of Savio and Stacy Peterson said Drew Peterson has only himself to blame. They said he has blocked both families from having contact with the children.
"This man should have thought about this a long time ago," said Pamela Bosco, a Stacy Peterson family spokeswoman. "He pulled his family down with him for all of his own selfish reasons."
Drew Peterson denies any wrongdoing in Stacy's disappearance. The 56-year-old retired Bolingbrook police sergeant has not been charged in that case. Stacy's disappearance did, however, spark a renewed investigation the bathtub drowning of his third wife, 40-year-old Kathleen Savio.
Peterson was charged in May 2009. He remains held on a $20 million bond.
He also is facing an illegal weapons charge after being accused in 2008 of possessing an AR-15 rifle with a prohibited shortened barrel. Officer Stephen Peterson testified Aug. 23 that Drew brought two bags holding as many as three guns to his house Oct. 30, 2007 because, "these were his favorites and he didn't want anything to happen to them."
State police raided Drew Peterson's home that Nov. 1. His attorney, Joel Brodsky, said Drew Peterson voluntarily told police his son had the weapons, and Stephen Peterson promptly handed them over. At issue, however, is whether he was obligated to immediately turn them over to law enforcement upon possession. Drew Peterson called his son "a good man and a dedicated father and policeman," according to his letter.
Bosco said it's Drew Peterson, not anyone else, who dragged Stephen into the probe.
"He brought Stephen into this when he showed up at his door that night with the guns he was trying to hide," Bosco said. "This is the price he has to pay for everything he has done. The law is the law."
In his letter, Drew Peterson spoke about how Lacy started kindergarten with "her daddy unable to be at her first day of school." Anthony is a second-grader, who is "full of life and love just happy to be a kid with his friends." They are Stacy's children.
Stephen Peterson also is raising Kathleen Savio's sons, Thomas, whom Drew Peterson boasted is a high school senior and athlete who plays trumpet and was named vice president of the National Honor Society, while Kristopher is a middle-school athlete and honor student.
"All my children are exceptional kids just wanting a happy childhood after their little worlds were turned upside down almost three years ago," Peterson wrote, adding: "their "well-being and security is now in jeopardy again."
Stephen Peterson has declined to comment publicly. He has been disciplined for various infractions, dating back to 2005, ranging from running improper police database checks on village employee license plates to driving an Oak Brook squad car and appearing in uniform before a Will County grand jury investigating Stacy's disappearance.
The officer's attorney, Tamara L. Cummings, said Sheahan is unfairly targeting Stephen Peterson due to his father's criminal matters. Chief Sheahan mistakenly called the officer by the name "Drew," during a past disciplinary hearing.
Sheahan previously denied targeting Peterson.
"No, I like Officer Peterson," Sheahan testified during an Oct. 16, 2008 hearing before the Oak Brook police and fire commission regarding the database allegations. "I think he's a good officer. I think he's made some mistakes, but I think he's a good officer."
Drew Peterson is back in Will County court Tuesday regarding the illegal weapons case.