Body Found by Illinois River Stirs Speculation of Link to Missing Women Cases

A badly decomposed human body discovered Wednesday by a cleaning crew on the shores of the Des Plaines River prompted speculation that the find could be connected to one of the Chicago area's high-profile missing women cases, and sparked hope for families looking for closure.

Illinois State Police Sgt. Tom Burek would not speculate about whether the remains belong to Stacy Peterson — the fourth wife of recently jailed ex-police sergeant Drew Peterson — or Lisa Stebic. Since the two missing Will County, Ill., women disappeared in 2007, their cases have garnered national attention.

Police divers were searching the river in Will County as investigators in a helicopter and crews on the ground pursued clues near where the body was found.

The author of the tell-all book "Drew Peterson Exposed" said in a press release Thursday there was no sign of the blue barrel widely reported to be the container in which Drew Peterson allegedly disposed of Stacy's body with the help of his stepbrother Tom Morphey, according to accounts by Morphey.

Will County Coroner Patrick O'Neil conducted a preliminary forensic examination Thursday, but was unable to determine the sex, race or identity of the skeletal remains.

The partial skeletal remains consisted of a rib cage, spinal column and partial left and right femur bones. The head, arms and below the knee extremities were disarticulated, the coroner's office said. It was unknown if the extremities were removed before or after death.

"Positive identification may hinge on forensic DNA analysis which is being expedited through the Illinois State Police Forensic Crime Laboratory," O'Neil said in a statement Thursday.

DNA results are expected in about two weeks. The coroner's office also said the person had been dead "several months or more."

Shreds of blue jeans that contained a small amount of money were also found, the coroner's office said.

The remains were found just west of Interstate Highway 55, an area where searchers have looked for Stacy Peterson since she disappeared Oct. 28, 2007.

There was no sign of the blue container in which Stacy Peterson's body had reportedly been carried out of her home, allegedly by her husband, Drew Peterson , and his stepbrother, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Peterson's husband, Drew Peterson, is scheduled to appear in court Thursday on charges he killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004.

Savio's death, originally ruled an accidental drowning, was reclassified as a homicide after her body was exhumed and an autopsy conducted following Stacy Peterson's disappearance in October 2007.

Drew Peterson, being held at the Will County Jail on $20 million bail, has maintained he believes Stacy Peterson left him for another man and is most likely living outside Illinois.

"We've been called," Pam Bosco, a spokeswoman for Stacy Peterson's family, told the Tribune. "We're in contact by phone. We're just waiting to hear more information. For confirmation though, they said it's going to be a little bit of time."

Stebic, a mother of two, was last seen in Plainfield in April 2007. Authorities have named Stebic's husband Craig a "person of interest" in her disappearance but he is not charged with any crime. He has denied any involvement.

"If it is [her], the overwhelming feeling would be relief that we found her and that there is resolution," Melanie Greenberg, a spokeswoman for Lisa Stebic's family, told the Tribune.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.