Len Wawczak admitted he had posed as a woman named Ashley and began an online romance with Drew Peterson in order to gather information on the former Bolingbrook police sergeant suspected in the Oct. 28 disappearance of his wife, Stacy.
Drew Peterson said Thursday he was impressed by former friend Len Wawczak’s online impersonation of a woman for two months and called the stunt “comical.”
Earlier Thursday, Wawczak admitted he had posed as a woman named Ashley and began an online romance with Peterson in order to gather information on the former Bolingbrook police sergeant suspected in the Oct. 28 disappearance of his wife, Stacy.
“I was very taken,” Peterson said. “I’ve been playing practical jokes for most of my life and for someone to get me like that, I’m impressed.”
The revelation came just one day after news broke that Wawczak and his wife, Paula Stark, at the alleged behest of state police, had been secretly recording their conversations with Peterson for nearly seven months.
“My idea was to show people that he really is what they think he is,” Wawczak said of the online affair. “He’s a liar.”
The idea for the online spoof came when Peterson showed Wawczak chats he was having with other women online. Wawczak said he memorized Peterson’s username, went home to set up his own account and began creating his alter ego, Ashley, a 29-year-old Web designer from southern Illinois.
Ashley’s last name, Gabrys, was really the name of someone he used to know. He picked Granite City as Ashley’s hometown because he knows someone who lives there who could provide local information if needed.
“I had everything covered,” Wawczak said.
Within days, Peterson started opening up to Ashley. The chats, which Wawczak has posted clips of on a blog he created, show Peterson expressing his love for Ashley, asking to meet her and making several racy comments.
“One day I went over to his house and he said ‘Hey, look at this, look at this chick I’m talking to.’ And he pulls out the picture of Ashley,” Wawczak said. “I found it hard to keep a straight face then.”
The online romance ended in May when Ashley told Peterson that she had driven by his house and saw him sitting with another woman on his porch. Wawczak said he had heard that Peterson was with this woman and that he decided to make Ashley seem jealous.
Wawczak said police have seen the chats and that he published them online after receiving approval from state police. He said they also asked permission to go public about the wiretapping operation, which ended in June.
Illinois State Police Sgt. Tom Burek declined to comment Wednesday.
Peterson would have found out about it shortly anyway, Wawczak said, because authorities are required to notify the subject of such investigations after the recording ceased. Although the notification would not identify Wawczak and Stark, he said they were the only ones around Peterson enough to make the operation useful.
“It wouldn’t take him very long to figure out that it was us,” Wawczak said.
But the couple was also motivated to come forward because of decreasing media coverage of the investigations into Stacy Peterson’s disappearance and the March 2004 murder of Kathleen Savio, Drew Peterson’s third wife.
“Obviously it did what I wanted it to do, which was it got it back out in the news,” Wawczak said. “It got Stacy back out there; it really did in a big way, and Kathleen, too.”
Drew Peterson is the sole suspect in his wife’s disappearance, which police are calling a “potential homicide.” The case also prompted police to reopen the case of Savio’s drowning, which was originally ruled an accident. Authorities exhumed Savio’s body in March and two pathologists, one at the request of Savio’s family and one on behalf of the state, performed separate autopsies. Each recently ruled the death a homicide. Police have not named a suspect in the death.
Peterson has maintained his innocence and has not been charged with a crime in either case.
Peterson and his attorney Joel Brodsky said the couple are simply looking to profit off Peterson’s notoriety. Peterson lambasted the couple for befriending his children and then ceasing contact with them.
“It’s a shame these people warmed up to my kids and now my kids are missing them,” Peterson said. “They used my kids to get to me. But, when people smell money, there’s no parameters of who your victims are going to be.”
Wawczak said he and his wife have not profited from the publicity and that the hardest part about going public about the undercover operation was losing contact with Peterson’s children.
“They’re great kids. Tom and Kris (Peterson’s sons) probably aren’t too fond of me right now,” Wawczak said. “Hopefully, somewhere down the road they’ll see my point, they’ll see why I did it.”
Chicago Suburban writer Danya Hooker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org@mysuburbanlife.com