The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

February 21, 2013

Peterson screams, then gets 38 years for murder

(Continued)

JOLIET, Ill. —

Savio's family members told the judge they hoped she was somehow watching Thursday's proceedings.

"I hope ... she is watching his descent into hell," said Henry Savio Jr., the victim's brother. And he added about Drew Peterson, "I hope she is haunting him in his dreams."

Sister Anna Doman said she couldn't help thinking about what her sister went through in the moments before she died: "The horror and the betrayal she felt when she realized that someone she had trusted and loved more than anything was killing her."

Prosecutors had no physical evidence tying Peterson to Savio's death and no witnesses placing him at the scene — something Peterson alluded to in his statement. During last year's trial, they relied on typically barred hearsay — statements Savio made to others before she died and that Stacy Peterson made before she vanished. Illinois passed a hearsay law in 2008 tailored to Drew Peterson's case, dubbed "Drew's Law," which assisted in making some of the evidence admissible.

The hearsay — any information reported by a witness not based on the witness' direct knowledge — included a friend testifying that Savio told her Peterson once put a knife to her throat and warned her, "I could kill you and make it look like an accident."

A turning point at the trial came when the defense called a divorce attorney who said he spoke to Stacy Peterson before she vanished. Rather than blunting her credibility, the witness stressed to jurors that Stacy Peterson seemed to truly believe her husband killed Savio.

Earlier Thursday, the judge denied a defense request to grant Drew Peterson a retrial. Peterson's current attorneys contended his former lead attorney, Joel Brodsky, botched the initial trial and had been the one to decide to call Smith to the stand. Brodsky stepped down from the defense team in November.

Prosecutors suspect Peterson killed his fourth wife because she could finger him for Savio's death. Peterson has maintained his fourth wife ran off with another man and is still alive.

Peterson's attorneys have said they might appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on grounds Illinois' hearsay law is unconstitutional.

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