Savio's boyfriend, sister testify in Drew Peterson's murder trial

August 10, 2012 4:43:29 PM PDT
Kathleen Savio's boyfriend said upon hearing of her death, he rushed to her house and found Drew Peterson there.

Witness Steve Maniaci said he asked Peterson, "What the hell happened?" and Peterson replied, "I don't know."

Maniaci testified he said, "Drew, I sure hope you didn't have anything to do with this." And Drew said, "I did not... She would have lost anyway."

Maniaci said Peterson was talking about the divorce. Peterson and Savio, his third wife, were in the middle of a divorce when her body was found in dry tub in 2004. Police photos show her hair was down, matted with blood, her body bruised, and the bathroom was mostly empty.

On Friday, Maniaci said that he and Savio had sex three days before her death-- and he did not see any bruises or marks on her body. He also said Savio normally removed all her jewelry and pinned her hair up when taking a bath. He also said, "Usually there was a floor mat in front of the vanity, and I believe in front of the bathtub."

Prosecutors believe Peterson wanted to make Savio's death look like an accident and the case was botched from the beginning.

In 2004, Savio's death was ruled an accident, but the case was reopened after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared. He is considered a suspect in that case, but Peterson has not been charged.

Peterson maintains his innocence in Savio's death and Stacy's disappearance.

Friend: Peterson to ex-wife, 'Why don't you just die?'

"She said that her husband said, "`Why don't you just die?"' Mary Parks told jurors Thursday, her voice quivering as she delivered more of hearsay evidence that's at the heart of the state's case.

Peterson, an ex-Bolingbrook police sergeant, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the 2004 death of his third wife, 40-year-old Kathleen Savio, who once studied nursing with Parks.

As Savio recounted the attack, she unzipped a top she was wearing to show dark red bruises on her neck, saying they were a result of Peterson's attack, Parks testified.

"She looked as if she was in shock," Parks told jurors.

She said Savio told her the incident occurred on the stairs of her suburban home the night before the women spoke around Thanksgiving in 2003.

A year later, Savio's body was found in a dry bathtub at her home -- a gash on the back of her head. Her death was only reclassified from an accident to a homicide after Peterson's fourth wife, 23-year-old Stacy Peterson, vanished in 2007. Peterson, now 58, is a suspect in her disappearance but hasn't been charged.

Parks and Savio spoke again in October 2003, with Savio describing another encounter with Peterson.

"Kathy told me that her husband ... had told her that he could kill her and make her disappear," she said.

At one point, Parks began sobbing and the judge asked jurors to leave while she regained her composure.

The hearsay testimony is critical because police who investigated when Savio was found dead quickly decided it was an accident and didn't collect any physical evidence. Illinois adopted a law in the wake of Peterson's case -- dubbed "Drew's Law" -- that allows hearsay evidence in rare circumstances.

Peterson, who has looked on intently during testimony, suddenly beamed when his and Savio's son, Kristopher, walked into court and sat behind him to chat during a break. The 18-year-old and other Peterson children are on a witness list and cannot sit in on testimony.

During the cross-examination of Parks, defense attorney Steve Greenberg suggested Savio was paranoid, and that her descriptions of clashes with Peterson may have been exaggerated to elicit sympathy.

But Savio's friend stood her ground.

"Everything that she told me, I had no reason to doubt," Parks said.

Next on the stand was Susan Doman, Savio's sister.

She testified spending time with her sister before she was found dead and having a conversation about a threat Drew Peterson made.

"She said drew held a knife to her throat and said he could kill her and make it look like an accident," said Doman in her testimony.

She later described to the attentive jury that when she and Drew Peterson were together in Savio's room collecting belongings, Peterson said to her after locating Savio's will under her floorboards, "haha - tell your sister Anna I found the will," and that their family wouldn't get anything.

In a big blow to the state's case, Doman admitted to the defense under cross-examination that she signed a book and movie deal in 2009, and she would only get paid for her story if Drew Peterson was prosecuted.

"It's obvious she's got -- they have an agenda, the agenda's to sue Drew, the agenda's to make money," said defense attorney Joe Lopez.

Doman told the state she signed the deal to give her sister a voice because she was in a domestic violence situation, and the deal had since expired.

The state indicates that it feels confident in their witness list.

Before the trial began, Judge James Burmila left open the possibility he could prohibit most or even all of the hearsay prosecutors wanted to enter as evidence. But in recent days, he has permitted several such statements, potentially boosting the odds of a conviction.

Thursday morning, Burmila refused a defense request to bar Parks' hearsay testimony. She went on to testify for more than four hours and was the sole witness of the day.

In contentious exchanges Thursday, Greenberg said Parks' accounts of what Savio told her have been inconsistent. He even asked Parks why she kept looking to her left at jurors as she answered questions.

Parks shot back, "Is it inappropriate for me to do that?" After Parks asked the attorney another question, Burmila admonished her, saying "Don't fence with counsel, ma'am."

Constant legal arguments about the hearsay have slowed the trial. Jurors are frequently asked to leave the courtroom so attorneys can argue over the admissibility of hearsay statements.

If Peterson is convicted, defense attorneys have said they could appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on grounds the hearsay should have been barred.

There was some levity amid the otherwise weighty proceedings.

As the trial got under way in the morning, Burmila announced he had received a letter from an Illinois inmate who claims to have information about a link between Peterson and Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

The judge said the unnamed inmate asked him to follow up with him if he wants more details.

"I won't be communicating with him," Burmila said, prompting laughter in the courtroom.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.


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