But as the lawsuits mount, Blake & Davis employees say the "Wizard of Oz" is retreating further behind his curtain. Attorney Steve Cohen says he had to hire a special process server to deliver notice of Harris' suit.
"We tried serving him at his place of business and his residence, but couldn't get him there," says Cohen. "Finally we tracked him down at a party where we knew he'd be in attendance."
Is this the grin of a successful businessman or a snake-releasing psychopath? Steve Peterson's former employees say it's the latter.
In court filings, Peterson's current address is listed at any number of places, including his sister's farm in Defiance and a condominium in Chesterfield that belongs to a family friend. In May he supposedly purchased a $575,000 home at 2 Maryhill Drive in Ladue. But like other investments, the house is not registered in his name. Instead, the St. Louis County Department of Revenue lists the owner as Selfridge Revocable Trust and gives the same mailing address as his mother's in Nevada.
Still, employees say, Peterson can be found most days at either the Clayton or Chesterfield Blake & Davis office. After an eventful couple of weeks this summer, the St. Charles office closed quietly last month. Karen Lupo, who ousted the copperhead from the office just weeks prior, said management sent out an urgent e-mail on Friday, September 23, requesting that all employees show up for a mandatory noontime meeting that day. Lunch would be provided.
But Lupo says Peterson accompanied by his cohorts Irina Kish and Kelly Shaw didn't show up until 1:30 that afternoon and they didn't bring lunch. By the time Peterson arrived, Lupo says she was one of a just a few people remaining in the office that day.
"They told me that if not enough agents wanted to stay on, they were going to shut the office down," she recalls. "On Saturday morning I drove by the office and saw them packing up equipment. That was the end."