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Peterson to remain in jail during appeal, judge rules
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff

Drew Peterson yells to reporters as he arrives at the Will County courthouse May 8, 2009, for his arraignment on charges of first-degree murder in the 2004 death of his former wife Kathleen Savio.

 

Associated Press file, 2009

Will County Circuit Judge Stephen D. White

 

Kathleen Savio

 

Courtesy Savio family

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Published: 7/8/2010 10:19 AM | Updated: 7/8/2010 10:29 PM

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Drew Peterson isn't going home, at least not anytime soon.

Will County Circuit Judge Stephen D. White ruled Thursday prosecutors presented reasons sufficiently compelling to hold the former Bolingbrook police sergeant while a pretrial appeal regarding barred hearsay statements is pending.

A stoic Peterson tapped his fingers on the defense table after learning his fate, but showed no obvious signs of disappointment.

Peterson has been in jail on a $20 million bond since May 2009 after prosecutors charged him with the 2004 murder of third wife Kathleen Savio in Bolingbrook.

His trial was set to begin Thursday, but it instead was delayed while Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow asks the Third District Appellate Court to overrule White's decision barring a majority of more than a dozen hearsay statements key to the prosecution's case.

The defense team responded by asking White to free the 56-year-old Bolingbrook man until his trial, which now is expected to be delayed six months up to two years if either side appeals further. His lawyers, confident Peterson would be freed, argued he has a clean criminal record and does not pose a flight risk.

They left the Joliet courthouse crestfallen.

"Ouch!" defense attorney Joseph Lopez said.

Added Joel Brodsky, lead defense counsel: "(Peterson) was hopefully optimistic, but he didn't count on it. He isn't devastated."

The Savio family was elated Peterson would remain behind bars.

"I'm relieved," said Sue Doman, who testified at a lengthy hearsay reliability hearing earlier this year that her sister, Kathleen, told her days before her death that she feared Peterson would kill her. "I would fear for my safety and that of other witnesses."

Savio's death was initially ruled an accidental bathtub drowning, but authorities reclassified it a homicide after exhuming the 40-year-old woman's body in late 2007, weeks after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy, 23, vanished.

In appealing White's hearsay ruling, Glasgow cited a unanimous June 24 Illinois Supreme Court decision that upheld the death sentence of Eric C. Hanson of Naperville, who was convicted with some similar hearsay evidence of killing his parents, sister and her husband in September 2005.

White's decision is sealed from public inspection until after the trial starts. The Daily Herald learned, however, that White barred the majority of testimony prosecutors argued should be admissible. For example, White barred Stacy's pastor, Neil Schori, from testifying that she admitted providing Drew Peterson with a false alibi the weekend Savio died.

"We will continue to use every legal tool available to us to ensure a successful prosecution in this case and maintain our obligation to protect the public," Glasgow said.

More than 30 potential jurors who arrived Thursday at the Joliet courthouse for questioning were sent home.

Meanwhile, Sue Doman said she visited her sister's Hillside grave June 13, which would have marked the 47th birthday of Savio, formerly of Glendale Heights. As she did at her sister's funeral, Doman left behind a note pledging the same promise.

She said: "I told her, 'I love you. I'll never forget you and I'll continue fighting for you, even if it takes forever.'"

Timeline in Drew Peterson investigation

March 1, 2004: The body of Drew Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio, 40, is discovered in a bathtub in her Bolingbrook home. Her death is initially ruled an accidental drowning.

Oct. 29, 2007: His fourth wife, Stacy, is reported missing, a day after she fails to show up at a family member's home.

Nov. 9, 2007: Illinois State Police declare Drew Peterson a suspect in Stacy's disappearance and announce they've launched an investigation into Savio's drowning death. A Will County judge signs an order to exhume Savio's body.

Nov. 12, 2007: Drew Peterson resigns from the Bolingbrook Police Department, where he had been an officer for nearly three decades.

Nov. 13, 2007: Savio's body is exhumed for a second autopsy.

Nov. 16, 2007: Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden says Savio likely was murdered.

Nov. 21, 2007: A special Will County grand jury is convened to hear evidence in both cases involving Savio and Stacy Peterson.

Feb. 21, 2008: Kathleen Savio's death officially ruled a homicide.

May 21, 2008: Drew Peterson surrenders to police on a weapons charge unrelated to the disappearance of his fourth wife.

Nov. 20, 2008: Gun charges dropped against Peterson after Will County prosecutors refuse to hand over internal investigative documents.

May 7, 2009: Drew Peterson indicted on two counts of first-degree murder for Savio's drowning death; peacefully surrenders during a traffic stop.

May 18, 2009: Peterson pleads not guilty at arraignment; prosecution seeks judge substitution. Peterson remains held on a $20 million bond.