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Peterson claims desertion, meets with divorce lawyer

  • Story Highlights
  • Peterson says he's looking into options since wife deserted him a year ago
  • Peterson: Neighbors are making it unsafe for family to live in home
  • Stacy Peterson left him October 28, 2007, husband says
  • Police have said Drew Peterson, an ex-cop, is prime suspect
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By Mallory Simon
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(CNN) -- Drew Peterson has met with a prominent divorce attorney more than a year after his wife, Stacy, disappeared, his lawyer confirmed to CNN on Tuesday.

The investigation led authorities to exhume the remains of Peterson's ex-wife Kathleen Savio.

Drew Peterson's behavior after his wife disappeared deepened suspicion, but he says she ran off.

Peterson, a former Bolingbrook, Illinois, police sergeant, has not filed divorce papers, said his attorney, Joel Brodsky.

But Peterson told an author he would look into a divorce after Stacy had been missing for a year. He said he was considering divorce for the sake of their children.

"I can confirm that Drew Peterson did have a consultation with Jeffrey Leving," Brodsky said, adding that no divorce papers have been filed.

Leving, who bills himself as a father's rights lawyer, represented Cuban immigrant Elian Gonzalez's uncle and ultimately helped reunite the boy with his father.

Police have said that 54-year old Peterson is a suspect in his wife's disappearance, which investigators have labeled a "potential homicide."

Peterson maintains that his wife, who was 23 at the time of her disappearance, left him for someone else.

In an interview in May with Derek Armstrong, author of "Drew Peterson Exposed," Peterson hinted that he planned to divorce her after she had been missing for a year. In Illinois, willful desertion or abandonment is grounds for a divorce after a year.

The interview begins with Peterson expressing frustration with the media attention and negative reactions from his neighbors.

"We were talking about the neighbors and how it's hard to live in the neighborhood with the media trucks around and the neighbors being so difficult," Armstrong told CNN. "I asked if he was going to move, and he said, 'Yeah, when I get a chance, but Stacy's on the title.' "

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After the one-year anniversary of Stacy Peterson's disappearance passed, Armstrong said he began to make some phone calls to see whether Drew Peterson was acting on his earlier plans.

Armstrong said he called two other prominent divorce lawyers until he reached Leving's office, which confirmed the meeting.

In a phone conversation, Peterson confirmed to Armstrong that he was "getting information" and "exploring options."

Armstrong pressed Peterson, who responded, "A desertion. She deserted me."

Peterson elaborated, "I've always said that I'm mad about that. But I'm looking into this for the kids. This neighborhood is not healthy for my kids because of Sharon Bychowski."

Bychowski has been battling Peterson since his wife -- her friend and neighbor -- disappeared in October 2007. Peterson has accused Bychowski and other neighbors of harassing and threatening him.

Armstrong asked Peterson whether he thought news of the divorce might encourage Stacy to contact him. "I have nothing more to say," the former cop shot back.

Brodsky told CNN he had not been aware that news of the meeting with the divorce lawyer had become public knowledge.

"We definitely didn't advertise it," he said. "That's real thorough detective work. [Armstrong] could show police a thing or two about finding someone."

Drew Peterson said he awoke at his suburban Chicago home to find his wife gone October 28, 2007. He said she called him at 9 p.m. and announced that she was leaving him, Peterson said.

Police confirm that there was some activity on Stacy Peterson's cell phone about 9 p.m. October 28, but her family and close friends say she would never leave her two children behind or go away without mentioning it to her family.

In the days leading up to her disappearance, Stacy Peterson confided in friends and her sister. She said she was afraid of her husband and wanted to leave him, according to her sister, Cassandra Cales.

"If anything happens to me, he killed me. It wasn't an accident," Cales quoted her as saying.

At 10 a.m. that Sunday, Stacy Peterson failed to show up for an appointment with a friend. Worried, Cales called police Monday, October 29, and reported her sister missing.

The media frenzy and police scrutiny soon revealed that Drew Peterson's third wife had died mysteriously a few years earlier during a nasty divorce. Kathleen Savio died just before the division of the marital assets was finalized, making Drew Peterson the sole beneficiary.

Savio was found in the dry bathtub of her home. At the time, the death was ruled an accidental drowning. But her family continued to insist that Savio died as a result of foul play.

The investigation into Stacy Peterson's disappearance brought renewed interest in Savio's death. Authorities exhumed Savio's body, further tests were conducted, and her death has now been ruled a "homicide staged to look like an accident."

Some witness statements portray Drew Peterson as jealous, possessive and controlling. He was said to keep such close track of his wife that he frequently called her cell phone and appeared unannounced at social outings to take her home. This caused tension in the marriage, the witnesses told police.

Police named Drew Peterson as the prime suspect in his wife's disappearance in November 2007. He has not been charged in the case, but he has been charged with illegal gun possession, which could put him behind bars for up to five years if he is convicted.

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