Cop now suspect in missing wife case

Drew Peterson, 53, a Bolingbrook, Ill., police officer, and wife Stacy Peterson, who was reported missing on Oct. 29.
Drew Peterson, 53, a Bolingbrook, Ill., police officer, and wife Stacy Peterson, who was reported missing on Oct. 29.

BOLINGBROOK, Ill (CBS/AP) -- Authorities probing the disappearance of a police officer's wife said Friday he is now considered a suspect and that the case has shifted from a missing persons investigation to a potential homicide.

They also received court approval to exhume the body of the previous wife of Bolingbrook Sgt. Drew Peterson after a coroner said her death was mistakenly ruled an accidental drowning.

The review of Kathleen Savio's death comes as investigators search for Peterson's current wife, Stacy, 23, who was last seen Oct. 28.

But after Stacy's family filed a missing persons report, police conducted two separate searches at the Peterson home, on the house, the vehicles, and a trailer, Illinois State Police Capt. Carl Dobrich said at a news conference Friday.

"Subsequent to that search warrant, we went back several days later on another search warrant based on information was learned after the first search warrant," Dobrich said.

Based upon the information learned since then, Dobrich said Peterson, 53, has moved from being a person of interest in the disappearance of his wife to "clearly being a suspect."

Stacy Peterson's friends and family consider her disappearance highly suspicious.

Peterson has said his current wife phoned him and told him she had left him for another man. His attorney did not immediately return calls for comment.

In the 2004 death of Savio, his third wife, a coroner's jury ruled it an accident, even though there was no water in the bathtub where the 40-year-old's body was found face-down, her hair soaked in blood from a head wound. Investigators theorized the water had drained.

But in a petition the Will County state's attorney filed Friday listing the reasons authorities want to exhume Savio's body, prosecutors said a review of evidence in the case "is consistent with the 'staging' of an accident to conceal a homicide."

Prosecutors said they reviewed photographs of the crime scene and autopsy, the autopsy protocol, and police reports.

"... The one-inch gash in the back of Kathleen Savio's head did not render her unconscious, which would have been necessary for her to accidentally drown in the bathtub," the petition stated.

Will County Circuit Court Judge Daniel J. Rozak signed the petition granting the exhumation Friday. It was not immediately clear when the body would be exhumed.

No charges were filed in Savio's death, but "at the very least, her death should have been ruled 'undetermined,"' Will County Coroner Patrick O'Neil said earlier this week.

Meanwhile, search crews continue to look for Stacy Peterson, and are asking for more volunteers.

"Today the search will continue, and tomorrow if we don't find anything today," search team member Lisa Loper told CBS Station WBBM correspondent Rafael Romo. "But we're also in great need of food and drinks for the volunteers."

As part of the search on Friday, volunteers will be using a powerful sonar boat in the historic Illinois and Michigan Canal, and a number of lakes yet to be determined.

Sonar boat owner Dennis Watters explained how he intends to help in the search.

"God forbid that she's in a lake or whatever," Watters said. "If she's in there, we will see her body. If we run across a car we see a car, we see boats."

Gary Peterson is a member of Equusearch, a volunteer organization from Texas helping in the search for Stacy Peterson. He said they will bring in a drone Friday afternoon that will be flying in the marshy area near Lemont.

"Each morning I pick three of four target areas, target priority areas that we want to search and we assign people and they go out and they search these pieces of property," Peterson said.

Posted by LS

CBS and Associated Press contributed to this report.