Peterson neighbor takes stand in hearsay hearing

Drew Peterson leaves his home Monday, Nov 26, 2007 file photo in Bolingbrook. (M. Spencer Green/AP Photo)

February 1, 2010 3:24:35 PM PST
Testimony at Drew Peterson's pre-trial hearing focused Monday on the death of Kathleen Savio. A neighbor who helped find Savio's body took the witness stand as a judge tried to determine what hearsay evidence can be entered at the upcoming murder trial.

Much of last week's testimony focused on Drew's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. Monday, it was back to the person he is charged with murdering, Kathleen Savio. Her neighbor took the stand to talk about the days leading up to Savio's death and the night her body was discovered.

Days before she was found dead in a dry bathtub, Kathleen Savio allegedly told her next door neighbors that she was afraid that her estranged husband, Drew Peterson, would kill her. Mary Pontarelli testified that after Peterson moved out of the Bolingbrook home he shared with Savio, Savio told Pontarelli, Peterson would "kill her one day and make it look like an accident." Her son Nick, who was 14 at the time, testified that Savio made a similar statement to him.

"Whether the statement was made or not, it doesn't mean that a normal healthy person can't slip and fall in a tub and die. That is the tragedy of this case," said Andrew Abood, Peterson attorney.

For years, the Peterson and Ponterelli families were very close friends. At the beginning of March, 2004, Peterson nor the Pontarellis could not reach Savio for two days. With the help of a locksmith, Mary Pontarelli, her husband Tom. their son Nick and another neighbor accompanied Drew into Savio's dark home.

Mary testified that she screamed when she saw Savio's body in a fetal position in the bathtub. Mary said that Savio had a cut on the top of her head with some dry blood.

Both Mary and Tom Pontarelli said they thought it was strange that there were no towels, clothes nor a bath mat in the bathroom. Tom Pontarelli also said that the bathtub was completely dry -- "no water, no ring, no soap scum and the drain was down."

"In order to conclude that it's a staged crime scene, you've gotta throw away all the evidence that they have, and they don't have any evidence of a staged crime scene," said Abood.

The original coroner's report concluded that Savio's death was an accident until Savio's body was exhumed and her death reclassified as a homicide.

The Pontarellis also testified that after Drew Peterson discovered his ex-wife's body that he seemed visibly upset and genuinely distraught. Tom said that Peterson said, "What am I going to tell my children?"

Late Monday afternoon, the paramedic that was first on the scene the night that Kathleen Savio's body was discovered also testified that he did not see a towel in the bathroom. The defense says there is a photo in evidence that shows that there is a towel in that bathroom, but those photos were taken after the paramedics and the Pontarellis left.

Testimony continues Tuesday. So far the prosecution has called close to 40 witnesses.