BOLINGBROOK, Ill. – A relative of former police officer Drew Peterson reportedly helped him move a large, heavy container out of his suburban home the day his wife vanished, an allegation that sparked a furious denial from Peterson's attorney.
Peterson and his stepbrother removed the container from an upstairs bedroom and put it in his sport-utility vehicle, according to media reports that cited anonymous sources close to the investigation into Stacy Peterson's disappearance last month.
• Click here for photos of Drew Peterson.
• Click here for photos of Stacy Peterson.
The stepbrother, Thomas Morphey, later became distraught after learning that Stacy Peterson was missing and tried to kill himself, the Chicago Tribune and The (Joliet) Herald News reported Wednesday.
Authorities say Drew Peterson is a suspect in his fourth wife's disappearance and have called her case a possible homicide. Investigators are also re-examining the 2004 death of Drew Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio. Police have said her death may have been a homicide staged to look like an accidental bathtub drowning.
Peterson, 53, has denied wrongdoing, saying he believes the 23-year-old Peterson left him for another man and is alive.
Peterson's attorney, Joel Brodsky, denied that anyone helped Peterson move a container from the home and claimed the stepbrother has a history of mental problems.
"I don't know what world Thomas Morphey is living in, our world, his world or if he's veering back and forth between the real world and whatever fantasy world he's living in," Brodsky told The Associated Press.
Steve Carcerano, a friend of Drew Peterson's, said Peterson told him he had called Morphey to confront him.
"He called him and said, 'Why are you saying this stuff?"' Carcerano told the AP.
There was no answer when a reporter knocked on the door of Morphey's Bolingbrook home Wednesday morning. Later, a woman who pulled her car into the garage talked briefly to reporters in the driveway. She refused to give her name, but when asked about Morphey said "he's in treatment" before declining further comment.
A spokesman for Will County prosecutors declined to comment on the media reports, and Illinois State Police did not return messages. There was no answer Wednesday when a reporter knocked on the door of Morphey's home.
Peterson took a day off from the Bolingbrook Police Department on Oct. 28, the day Stacy Peterson was last seen by her relatives. He had been scheduled to work at 5 p.m. that day but called in, saying his wife was missing and he had to watch the kids, according to police.
Peterson has since resigned from the police force.
According to the Tribune, Peterson picked up his stepbrother about 7 p.m. that day and took him to a coffee shop. Peterson reportedly told the man he had to go somewhere and left him with a cell phone, instructing him not to answer it.
The phone did ring while Peterson was gone, the Tribune reported. The caller ID said "Stacy."
Peterson came back to the coffee shop and drove Morphey to Peterson's home. Peterson reportedly asked the man to help him move something from the house. After moving the plastic container to the SUV, the two left and Peterson dropped the man off at his own home, according to the Tribune.
Sharon Bychowski, Peterson's next-door neighbor, said she baby-sat for Drew Peterson's children three days later, on the morning of Oct. 31, for 90 minutes. She said Peterson told her he had to visit a relative in the hospital who had tried to commit suicide.
When Peterson returned to pick up his children, she asked how the relative was doing. "He said, 'Lost his job, lost his family,"' Bychowski told the AP.
Police Lt. Ken Teppel said Bolingbrook Fire Department logs show a report of a drug overdose involving sleeping pills for Morphey around 11 p.m. on Oct. 29. He was stabilized and taken to a hospital. The logs indicate Morphey never talked to a police officer, and the Tribune reported that it was a friend of Morphey's who contacted police.
A volunteer who has helped look for Stacy Peterson said searchers were told by police to watch for a large blue plastic barrel.
"They actually even gave me a picture of what we might be looking for," said Tim Miller, founder and director of Texas EquuSearch. "It was certainly large enough to put her body in. She only weighed about a hundred pounds."
Pamela Bosco, a friend acting as a spokeswoman for Stacy Peterson's family, said Wednesday evening that she learned of Morphey's story through media reports. She said it corresponds with the timeline of when Stacy's family last had contact with her and their fears about her fate.
Bosco also said Illinois State Police long ago told family members that searchers were instructed to look for a round blue container.
"We believe in the end we will find her, one way or the other," Bosco said.