JOLIET, Ill. — Prosecutors on Monday rested their case against former suburban Chicago police officer Drew Peterson after entering a dramatic letter from his third wife, who wrote that she feared he would kill her.
They wrapped up their presentation after calling more than 30 witnesses over four weeks to support their claim that Peterson, 58, killed Kathleen Savio in 2004. He was only charged after his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing in 2007.
In her frantic, sometimes rambling letter to a Will County prosecutor, which was written during acrimonious divorce proceedings with Peterson, Savio accused her estranged husband of breaking into her house and threatening her with a knife at her throat.
"He asked me several times if I was afraid," according to the letter, excerpts of which were read to jurors by the judge. "I started to panic! He pulled out his knife that he kept around his leg and brought it to my neck. I thought I'd never see my boys again."
Two years later, the 40-year-old Savio was found dead in a bathtub at her suburban Chicago home — a gash on the back of her head and her hair soaked in blood. Her death was initially deemed an accident but was reclassified a homicide after Peterson's fourth wife disappeared.
After prosecutors rested, Judge Edward Burmila rejected a defense request that he acquit Peterson even before the case goes to jurors. To grant a directed verdict — which are commonly asked for, but rarely granted — he would have had to conclude that the state fell so far short of proving their case there was no need to go on.
Defense attorney Steve Greenberg told Burmila in making his request that prosecutors hadn't entered any evidence putting Peterson in Savio's house the night she died or provided any detail about how Peterson might have killed her.
"We have no theory about what happened to this lady?" Greenberg said, his voice rising. "There's nothing here! Nothing! ... They just hope this jury dislikes Drew Peterson — so let's presume he did it."
The defense was expected to begin presenting its case in the afternoon.
Without any physical evidence following a botched initial investigation, prosecutors had to rely heavily on hearsay evidence, mostly comments that Savio made before she died and that Stacy Peterson made before she vanished. A friend of Savio's, Kristen Anderson, testified that Savio told her Peterson had said to her, "I could kill you and make it look like an accident."
Hearsay — statements not based on a witness's direct knowledge — is normally barred in trials in the United States, but Illinois passed a law tailored to Peterson's case, dubbed "Drew's Law," allowing hearsay in rare circumstances.
There was some strong testimony not based on hearsay. A former co-worker of Peterson's, Jeff Pachter, testified that Peterson once offered him $25,000 to hire a hit man to kill Savio, though he never acted on the request.