Daily Record (Morris County, NJ), November 29, 2007, O3
Peterson, like O.J., comes off too cool
When O.J. Simpson was on the lam from the police following the murder of his wife, Nicole Simpson, and her companion, Ron Goldman, his friend and attorney Robert Kardashian read a public letter from Simpson.
Even, or especially, if Simpson's claim of innocence was true, the letter was stunning for its total absence of regard for Nicole, whom he claimed he still loved. Instead, he argued that their fights and her calls to t he police represented "no more than what every long-term relationship experiences." He even suggested that she caused him to assault her. Simpson displayed no concern that his children were now motherless.
We are reminded of Simpson's baffling attitude by the television appearances of Illinois police Sgt. (now resigned) Drew Peterson. Peterson is a suspect in two potential homicides involving the Oct. 28 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, and the earlier death, originally ruled accidental, of his then-estranged third wife Kathleen Savio.
Peterson continually denigrated his two former spouses in his Nov, 14 interview, sans attorney, with Today co-host Matt Lauer. He described the two relationships almost identically. At first his marriages with two beautiful women were exciting and romantic, but then due to their circumstances -- the death of Stacy's sister, Kathleen giving birth -- the women changed. According to Peterson, Stacy lost her religion and had a breakdown requiring medication.
Peterson surmised that Kathleen's "hormones kicked in" following child birth. When Lauer reported that Stacy told relatives she wanted to divorce him, Peterson claimed this was due to "her menstrual cycle." Both women, he said, were on "emotional roller coasters" because of their troubled and abusive childhoods. Peterson's primary defense in the disappearance of Stacy was his assertion -- without evidence -- that she had deserted him for another man.
Asked why he didn't enter Kathleen's home when she was discovered dead, Peterson retorted he couldn't because "Kathy was always accusing me of things" -- baselessly, of course. As for Stacy, Peterson reported their only physical altercation was when Stacy hit him with a frozen steak.
Peterson's affect throughout the interview was bizarrely cool and self-centered. Although Peterson -- after being asked by Lauer -- said that Stacy was a great mom to their two small children, he expressed no concern that they were without their mother. He could offer no explanation for why a loving mom would leave her toddlers behind without a word. He said he tells the 2- and 4-year-old that mom's "gone on vacation."
Lauer confronted Peterson with his strangely detached demeanor. Typically, Peterson shifted attention to how he was being abused. Peterson claimed he was "being hounded by the media," who are making him look guilty. He was "doing I all can, my God, to get the media off my back."
Peterson was preoccupied throughout the Lauer interview with his needs, including acquiring legal help. He asked for lawyers to come forward to let him know "what you can do for me." Lauer asked Peterson to look him in the eye "and tell me you had nothing to do" with the two cases. When Peterson readily complied, Lauer commented that, in Peterson's situation, he "would be a little more rattled."
Peterson's best defense is that people simply cannot imagine being as cool as he is, including attacking a dead woman and the missing mother of his children, if he were guilty. But this is because people can't comprehend that such killers are able to justify any behavior because they feel they are the aggrieved parties. Since they don't accept any responsibility for their actions, they can look people in the eye and deny that they have done anything wrong.
Stanton Peele, of Chatham, is a psychologist and attorney.