Witness: Ex-cop's 3rd wife died accidentally

Drew Peterson

February 18, 2010 6:00:14 AM PST
The defense has begun presenting its case in the pretrial evidence hearing for Drew Peterson. A witness testified Wednesday that Kathleen Savio's death was an accident.Peterson is charged with murder in the death of Savio, his third wife.

While the prosecution has called 68 witnesses so far, the defense has called only two.

Most of Wednesday's testimony came from a former medical examiner that handled the case against serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Dr. Jeffrey Jentzen does not believe Savio was killed. His testimony contradicts the conclusion from two pathologists who are prosecution witnesses.

Will County state's attorney James Glasgow was close to wrapping up the 16-day hearsay hearing before announcing he will call one more witness.

Dr. Michael Baden is expected to be the last of 71 witnesses. The famed forensic pathologist was one of two doctors who conducted an autopsy on Savio after her body was exhumed in 2007.

Baden concluded Savio's death was a homicide. He is expected on Friday to dispute Wednesday's testimony from Dr. Jeffrey Jentzen.

Hired by Drew Peterson's attorneys, Jenzen said, "it is in my opinion that it was an accident."

"They don't have any evidence," said Andrew Abood, Peterson attorney.

Jentzen who teaches at the University of Michigan is the former chief medical examiner in Milwaukee. While he did not conduct an autopsy on Savio's remains, he based his conclusions on photographs and investigative reports. Savio was found dead in a dry bathtub six years ago. Jentzen testified that he thinks Savio probably slipped or fainted in the tub. Besides a wound on the back of her head, prosecutors say Savio had bruises on the front of her body.

"People in their normal life suffer bruises. Our bodies are not perfect. I think that's the conclusion one can reach," said Abood.

Originally ruled an accident, Savio's death was reclassified a homicide after a second autopsy was performed three years after her death. During hearsay hearing, a crime scene investigator testified that he never took any evidence from the scene. Will County state's attorney John Connor asked Jenzten if his opinion on Savio's death would change if there was evidence of a flawed police investigation. Jentzen said, "it would invite me to review the case again."

The hearsay hearing will continue Friday morning.

After Dr. Michael Baden's testimony, Judge Stephen White will hear closing arguments. After listening to 71 witnesses and looking at more than 155 pieces of evidence, White must decide if he will allow up to 15 hearsay statements.

Both sides believe the judge plans to seal his decision.