Drew Peterson guilty of first-degree murder

September 6, 2012 8:29:46 PM PDT
Drew Peterson was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2004 death of his third-wife, Kathleen Savio.

A gasp could be heard in the courtroom as the verdict was read. Peterson, 58, was watching the jurors intently as they were polled by the judge; all answered "yes" when asked if guilty was their answer. Juror Ron Supalo told ABC 7 he was the only one who wanted the second day of deliberations; and the others had made up their minds by the end of Wednesday.

Peterson, who was shackled and led out of the courtroom, faces 20 to 60 years in prison. Sentencing is set for November 26, 2012.

The jurors -- seven men and five women-- reached the verdict after 13 hours and 52 minutes of deliberations. They did not talk after the verdict was read at around 2:30 p.m., but jurors released a statement, which was read by Will County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Ken Kaupus. "After much deliberation, we have reached a decision that is just," he said.

"The feeling is bittersweet. I will never have my sister again. At least I know she got justice," Nick Savio, Savio's half-brother, said. "Unfortunately, it had to take Stacy to disappear."

"Finally, someone heard Kathleen's cries. Those 12 people did the right thing, thank God," Marcia Savio, Savio's stepmother, said. She said her family will visit Savio's grave.

"The defendant in this case was a coward and a bully, and when Stacy Peterson disappeared in October 2007, we reopened the file on the death of Kathleen Savio. It was obvious to me, it wasn't an accident," Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow said. "He was a thug. He would threaten people because he had a gun and a badge. And nobody ever took him on. We took him on now. And he lost."

Glasgow said the case is a win for all battered women. "This has been a case that transcends the criminal justice system. It is an incredibly positive statement by our society that we will not tolerate this kind of bullying, tormenting of women and indiscriminate murder."

Peterson's defense attorneys were booed as they came outside the Will County Courthouse.

"Drew said to me, 'Whatever the verdict is, we did the best job we could... Walk out with your head held high,'" Joel Brodsky, defense attorney, said. Brodsky said there will be an appeal, focusing on the use of hearsay evidence in the case. "Believe me, there are several world class appellate lawyers waiting to get their teeth into this case."

"The whole world has been waiting, following Drew Peterson to be convicted. They hate him. They hated him since day one," Brodsky said.

"For some reason this guy has become the favorite target of the media, the favorite target of the people. They passed a law specifically to get this individual. Do you really think that somebody can take on the government and win in a case like this? It's almost impossible," said Joe Lopez, defense attorney.

Peterson did not testify at the trial.

Are charges next in Stacy Peterson disappearance?

Savio's body was found in a bathtub in 2004. Her death was originally ruled an accident, but the case was reopened after his fourth-wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in 2007. Stacy Peterson's family has been present throughout the six-week murder trial.

"This man always thought he would get away with it -- one time, two times. I don't think he ever faced reality and that's why he did it twice. Today he is facing reality," Pam Bosco, Stacy Peterson family spokesperson said. "Stacy's case is next. No matter what, he still has to pay the price for Stacy."

Peterson has not been charged in Stacy's disappearance, but is considered a suspect.

"We are going to aggressively review that case with an eye towards potentially charging him," Glasgow said.

"Game over, Drew. You can wipe the smirk off his face, and it's time to pay," Cassandra Cales, Stacy Peterson's sister, said.

Peterson maintains Stacy ran away with another man; her body has not been found.

Following Stacy's disappearance, the cul-de-sac where the Petersons live in Bolingbrook was jammed with media.

Reporters were present as Peterson's children were escorted home from school by school district employees.

Peterson's adult son said from behind a window, "back off," when ABC7 knocked on the door of the home.

Two neighbors who declined to go on camera said they were relieved and felt justice had been served in the Savio murder. Another woman who lives nearby said she is pleased with the verdict, although thinks it was a complicated case.

"It was a very difficult case because they didn't have really any real proof," she said.

Hearsay evidence plays major role in Peterson conviction

Prosecutors argued that Peterson murdered Savio and then staged her body in the bathtub to make it look like an accident. Defense attorneys argued she fell and drowned.

The prosecution's case was based heavily on hearsay evidence, in which friends of spoke about what Savio and the still missing Stacy had told them. Witnesses for the prosecution told the jury that Savio said Peterson threatened her. Stacy Peterson's friends testified that she told them Peterson had murdered Savio, and she had lied to police for her husband.

The defense argued there was no physical evidence in the case indicating it was a crime or connecting Peterson to the scene.

"Jurors were able to connect the dots. They did not need a smoking gun," Alan Tuerkheimer, legal expert, said. "The jurors have spoken. They took it very seriously, and they did not just come back after a couple of hours.

They took a couple days. They ask for certain pieces of information. They asked for certain testimony. They saw that this was a pretty solid verdict. I am not that surprised."

Jurors asked four questions during the two-day deliberations

During their two-day deliberations, jurors had four questions for the judge. On Thursday, they asked, "Just to be clear, Judge, What does unanimous mean?"

Judge Edward Burmila replied, "The word unanimous has its common meaning, it indicates the agreement of all on the matter at hand. Your verdict must be unanimous and signed by all."

On Wednesday, they had asked for phone records, testimony transcripts, part of a police report, and autopsy and crime scene photos.

"I am confident they will do everything methodically. That is what it comes down to. Everybody tried to read something into the first request, but by the time we got to the third, we saw that they're still considering all questions and probably going through everything methodically, just not in the order we think they should. They're the jury and they get to decide," defense attorney Joel Brodsky said.

Peterson's life behind bars

Thursday is Drew Peterson's 1,218th night in jail. The guilty verdict changes little about his day-to-day life.

"He's presently back in his cell which he was assigned to before. He will remain in that cell until sentencing," said Paul Kaupas, Will County sheriff.

His cell is five feet wide by eight feet deep. Peterson spends an hour or two a day out of the cell in an adjoining day-room. There's a TV but not much else.

Peterson is housed in the medical unit of the Will County Jail. He's there so he can be kept away from other inmates who may want to do him harm, not because of any health concerns.

"Just the nature of the case, his status being a former police officer. We would want to make sure no one wants to get a reputation down there," said Kaupas.

Peterson won't be transferred to state prison until after his sentencing in late November.


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