Drew Peterson, former suburban Chicago police officer, has been convicted of first-degree murder in the death of his third wife. After more than 13 hours of deliberations, a jury has convicted Drew Peterson of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
Peterson, 58, sat stoically looking straight ahead and did not react as the verdict was read. Several of his third wife’s relatives gasped before hugging each other as they cried quietly in the courtroom.
Illinois has no death penalty, and Peterson now faces a maximum 60-year prison term when sentenced in Kathleen Savio’s death on Nov. 26.
The trial was the first of its kind in Illinois history, with prosecutors building their case largely on secondhand hearsay thanks to a new law, dubbed “Drew’s Law,” tailored to Peterson’s case. That hearsay, prosecutors had said, would let his third and fourth wives “speak from their graves” through family and friends to convict Peterson.
One question at trial was how much Peterson’s personality might influence the jurors. Before his 2009 arrest, the glib, cocky Peterson seemed to taunt authorities, joking on talk shows and even suggesting a “Win a Date With Drew” contest. His notoriety inspired a TV movie starring Rob Lowe.
It all began with a gruesome discovery.
They had no physical evidence tying Peterson to Savio’s death and no witnesses placing him at the scene. They were forced to rely on typically barred hearsay — statements Savio made to others before she died and that Stacy Peterson made before she vanished. Illinois passed the hearsay law in 2008, making the evidence admissible at trials in rare circumstances.
The hearsay included friend Kristin Anderson testifying that Savio told her Peterson once warned her at knife point, “I could kill you and make it look like an accident.” Savio so feared for her life that she kept a knife under her mattress.
Stacy Peterson’s pastor, Neil Schori, testified she told him that her husband got up from bed and left their house in the middle of the night around the time of Savio’s death. Drew Peterson later coached his fourth wife on how to lie to police, Schori said.