Drew Peterson found guilty of Savio murder - FOX 32 News Chicago

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Drew Peterson found guilty of Savio murder

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

After three long years, hundreds of interviews, court hearings, and speculation from a national audience, a jury convicted Drew Peterson of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio, at 2:45 p.m. Thursday. Peterson, 58, could face 60 years in jail.

READ MORE: Drew Peterson case timeline

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. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 27.

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.

PHOTOS: Drew Peterson trial

The jury deliberated for 13 ½ hours over the course of two days in the sixth week of trial. There were countless twists and turns and even one more early on Thursday where it appeared there might be a hung jury.

But, Thursday, the journey for justice for the Savio family was finally over. They released this handwritten statement:

"We would like to thank Judge Burmila, the bailiffs and the Will County Sheriff's Department for the duration of this trial. We have taken the responsibility bestowed on us by the court with a great deal of solemnity and diligence. After much deliberation, we have reached a decision we believe is just."

Defense attorneys maintained that Savio slipped and fell in her bathtub and drowned during her divorce from Peterson. But prosecutors used forensic evidence from a second autopsy to prove that Savio's injuries could not have come from an accidental fall.

READ MORE: Savio's mother to Peterson: ‘I hope he rots in hell'

They also used hearsay testimony, in effect testimony from beyond the grave, from people who Savio and Stacy Peterson confided in to convince jurors Drew had the motive and opportunity to murder.

Kathleen Savio's body was found in a waterless bathtub in 2004.

The 40-year-old's death was originally ruled an accidental drowning, but after Peterson's much-younger fourth wife Stacy Peterson vanished in 2007, Savio's body was exhumed, her death investigation re-opened and her death determined to be a homicide.

He was charged with first-degree murder in 2009.

Stacy Peterson, 23, has never been found. Peterson is a suspect in her disappearance, but has not been charged.


Henry Savio, Kathy's father, never thought this day would come.

"Everyone gets payback for what they have done for others," Nick Savio, Kathleen Savio's brother said at the podium. "Although we cannot have Kathleen back, we hope she can now rest in peace."

"It's fantastic. Finally, someone heard Kathleen's cry!" Kathy's mother Marcia Savio exclaimed, thankful for this day. "Twelve people did the right thing."

"I don't see you laughing now," Nick said, when asked what he would say to Drew Peterson. "Go, with your clown defense team, who made fun of this whole trial, as you rot in jail."


Pam Bosco, spokesperson to Stacy Peterson's family, said this conviction gave a voice to the victims of abusers everywhere and that Stacy's case is next.

She said that this case is very personal and speaks to so many people, especially silent, scared abuse victims, and not "just business" like she said the defense wants to make it out to be.

Bosco said the jury's guilty verdict gives abuse victims a voice and it gives them power - the power to overcome their fears, because their abusers will be put away for what they did. Bosco said through hearsay statements, Stacy leant her voice to help convict Drew Peterson.

"They tried to keep her out, but she made a profound statement.," Bosco said. "He thought he would silence her, but he couldn't."

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow called Peterson "a coward and a bully," and agreed that the conviction was a statement about violence against women. Glasgow plans to have his office look into Stacy's case and feels confident they can bring new charges against Peterson.

Bosco said Drew Peterson has to pay the price for Stacy next, implying that he killed her as well. Authorities presume Peterson's vanished fourth wife to be dead.

"He never thought he'd face reality," Bosco said. "That's why he did it twice."

Cassandra Cales, Stay Peterson's sister said she never doubted Drew Peterson's guilt, and said she felt her sister was at the courthouse with her Thursday, as Peterson the verdict was read.

"Wipe the smirk off your face," Cales said, when asked what she would say to Peterson now. "It's time to pay."


Defense attorneys called the verdict a great disappointment, the evidence against Peterson was garbage, they said. They vowed to appeal and said Peterson is taking the verdict in stride.

"He thanked us for our service. He was very happy with what we did. There was not one thing we would have done differently in this case," said Joel Brodsky, an attorney for Peterson.

Defense attorney Joel Brodsky called the jury's guilty verdict the "first step in a successful appeal."

Brodsky said there are appellate lawyers who can't wait to sink their teeth into this case, and with the lack of hard evidence, there's little chance it would hold up in court.

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.

But throughout the trial, there was no legal precedence for actually hearing the hearsay evidence in court, so the judge, defense and prosecution had a time of it trying to sort through and made the correct decisions regarding hearsay.

Defense attorney Joe Lopez said the media and the public "hated Drew Peterson from day one," and made him into a favorite target. He said the fact that Illinois legislators made a special law just for his case showed they pinned him from the beginning.

The defense said the jurors were under a lot of pressure, and did the best they could with the evidence they had, especially with the pressure of such a high-profile case. But they will appeal.

Defense attorney Stave Greenberg called Drew Peterson a dream client - appreciative, attentive, engaged and cooperative. He said the guilty verdict was a huge disappointment, but Peterson will get a "top notch" appeal.

FOX Chicago legal contributor Karen Conti said the defense may file for a judgment notwithstanding verdict, which would ask the judge to rule above the jury's verdict. But these are infrequently successful in cases like this, because there's a lot of political pressure on judges to uphold juries' verdicts.

Prosecutor Glasgow said he thinks the murder conviction will withstand appeal, because her death was obviously not an accident, despite what the defense maintains.

"He was a thug, he would threaten people with a gun and a badge and nobody ever took him on, but we took him on now and he lost," Glasgow said.


On the second day of deliberation, the jury asked a strange question of the judge after lunch Thursday.

"Just to be clear judge what does unanimous mean?" the jury asked Judge Edward Burmila.

The judge sent a note back to the jury, offering up the word's common definition: Of one mind; in complete agreement; agreed.

"The word unanimous has it‘s common meaning," the note read, "and indicates the agreement of all in the matter at hand. Your verdict must be unanimous and signed by all."

Judge Stephen White, who presided over Peterson proceedings in 2010, speculated that the reason the jury asked this question was because they all might not have agreed on intent.

White said they could have disagreed on whether or not Drew Peterson intended to drown his wife, or perhaps threaten her with her head underwater. He said either way, Peterson's actions caused her death in those scenarios.

The jury may have been unsure about whether they had to unanimously agree on intent as well as action to convict with a proper verdict.


On the first day of deliberation, the jury made requests to see transcripts of testimony, phone records, handwritten letters from Kathleen Savio and photos of her body.

The asked to go over testimony from Stacy Peterson's old pastor Neil Schori and divorce attorney Harry Smith, who both made hearsay statements on her behalf when they took the stand.

The jury grappled with statements the two wives allegedly made to others implicating Peterson.

Stacy Peterson cried in a meeting with Schori not long before she vanished, he testified. She told Schori that Peterson got up from bed in the middle of the night and left the house around the time of Savio's death. At dawn, she saw him putting woman's clothes into a washing machine that weren't hers, Schori said.

"She was very scared," Schori told jurors.

Smith testified that Stacy Peterson called him three days before her disappearance seeking advice on divorcing Peterson.

Smith was called by the defense in a bid to dent Stacy Peterson's credibility. He told jurors she asked about whether she could extort her husband by threatening to tell police he killed Savio.

But Smith's testimony seemed to backfire on the defense as he repeatedly stressed to jurors that Stacy Peterson sincerely believed Drew Peterson had killed Savio.

Judge Jeanine Pirro said the hearsay statements were the tipping point in this case.

"They knew it was homicide," Pirro said. "But they just didn't know if he did it."

Judge White said the prosecution couldn't have won without the hearsay evidence. He said Harry Smith's testimony put Drew Peterson in the house the night Savio died.

Drew Peterson could still win release someday. His attorneys have said they will appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on grounds Illinois' hearsay law is unconstitutional.

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