Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Cop jailed for 38 years for murder

A courtroom sketch shows Drew Peterson address the court during Peterson's sentencing (AP/Tom Gianni)
A courtroom sketch shows Drew Peterson address the court during Peterson's sentencing (AP/Tom Gianni)

A swaggering Illinois police officer whose sensational story inspired a TV movie starring Rob Lowe has been sentenced to 38 years in prison for murdering his wife.

Drew Peterson, 59, had divorced Kathleen Savio, his third wife, a year before her 2004 death aged 40.

Prosecutors said his motive for killing her was fear that a pending settlement would wipe him out financially.

Fascination with Peterson arose from speculation he sought to use his law enforcement expertise to get away with murder.

He is also a suspect in the disappearance of Stacy Peterson, his fourth wife who was 23 when she vanished in 2007, but he has not been charged in that case. It was her disappearance that led police to take another look at Ms Savio's death and eventually reclassify it from an accident to a murder.

Peterson's sentence came moments after he shocked the courtroom with a rare public outburst of anger as he proclaimed his innocence in Savio's death. "I did not kill Kathleen!" he shouted at the top of his lungs, emphasising every word.

Illinois does not have the death penalty, and Peterson had faced a maximum 60-year prison term. The judge gave him four years' credit for time he has served since his arrest.

Jurors convicted Peterson in September. Neighbours found Ms Savio's body in a dry bathtub at home with a gash on her head and her hair soaked in blood. Before Wednesday Drew Peterson had never publicly showed concern about the serious charges and the possible sentence he faced.

The verdict was a triumph for the prosecutors who gambled by putting on a case they admitted was filled with holes. They had no physical evidence tying Peterson to Ms Savio's death and no witnesses placing him at the scene.

Prosecutors suspect Peterson killed his fourth wife because she could implicate him in Ms Savio's death, but her body has never been found and no charges have ever been filed. Jurors were not supposed to link her disappearance to Ms Savio's death, and prosecutors were prohibited from mentioning the subject. Peterson has maintained his fourth wife ran off with another man and is still alive.

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