By David Heinzmann, who can't seem to fathom the technical complexity of Blogger, today...
David Alwan was hustling around Peoria, Illinois on Friday, making all the last-minute arrangements for the grand opening of his new restaurant, when he got a phone call from the FBI. A couple dozen investigators were on hand and they thought a murderer had buried a woman’s body on his farm just north of town.
And they wanted permission to start digging.
And not just any body. They were looking for Stacy Peterson, the third wife of former Bolingbrook police officer Drew Peterson, who’s murder trial for the death of his second wife is about to start next month.
Alwan, whose family has been prominent in the food service business in Peoria for decades, had never met Drew Peterson, and he was floored. But the investigators explained that they had a tip the body was buried near a gun club and shooting range, which happens to be surrounded on three sides by Alwan’s farm. A team of dogs trained to sniff out human remains had gone crazy for a little patch of pasture on his rustic spread of fields and timber along the Kickapoo Creek.
So soon the investigators were digging by hand. They dug all day Saturday but found nothing. No mysterious blue barrel that Peterson was supposed to have been seen loading into his vehicle. Not even the remains of a deer carcass. This week they’ll come back with scanning equipment to try to pinpoint what the dogs smelled.
Is this it? Will the crime be solved on the banks of the Kickapoo Creek, a two-hour drive from the suburbs where Peterson and his wife lived? We don’t know.
The tip about the gun club location allegedly came from some kind of mysterious “jailhouse informant,” which set off all kinds of speculation and denials because Peterson has been in solitary confinement since he was arrested in the murder of his second wife, Kathleen Savio. His defense lawyers have mocked the tip as a red herring and a publicity stunt by prosecutors who aren’t confident they can convict Peterson in the Savio case.
As I’ve noted before I grew up around Peoria. Mr. Alwan and I know a lot of the same people, and I grew up eating steaks from his family’s Alwan Brothers Meats Co. So it wasn’t a shocker that I was drawn into working on this story this weekend, albeit from home because I was alone with two little kids while my wife attended a bridal shower for my niece in… Peoria.
Anyway, Sunday morning I was sitting on the front porch drinking coffee and reading emails when I received a note from a reader who said the story reminded him of a TV plot he’d seen once. He had a theory on what happened out on that farm in Peoria. It was a pretty intriguing theory. Sorry, my journalist’s hat won’t let me speculate about guilt or innocence, so I won’t go into the details. But I’ll invite Outfit readers to tap their mystery-thriller instincts and offer up some ideas of their own. What’s buried out there amid the alfalfa and oak trees on the banks of the Kickapoo, and how did it get there?
You fill in the blanks…
One postscript: I am securely and happily on the Blackhawks bandwagon. After last night’s blazing and bruising win over the Flyers, the Stanley Cup is within reach. And I’ve gone from a take-it-or-leave-it attitude about hockey to shouting at the TV as clocks run out amid frantic, frenzied scrambles around the net. And every time Antti Niemi drops on his ass and splays his legs and skates and pads trying to stop the puck I think of Gus Carpenter, the tragic-heroic goalie and newsman-sleuth in Bryan’s Starvation Lake.