Third wife was 'terrified'
Savio feared husband, sister told inquest
By Matthew Walberg and Erika Slife | Tribune staff reporters
November 9, 2007
Susan Savio told a coroner's jury in 2004 that her sister Kathleen
Savio believed if something should happen to her, her death would only
look like an accident.
Kathleen Savio, 40, was found dead in her bathtub in March 2004, her
hair soaked with blood, just weeks before a financial settlement of a
divorce with her husband, Bolingbrook Police Sgt. Drew Peterson, was
to be finalized.
Susan Savio told the six-person jury when she learned of her sister's
death, "I asked if her ex-husband killed her," according to a
transcript released Thursday. "The reason I asked that is ... they
were divorced, but they did not settle anything [financially] ... and
she was terrified of that -- him and him threatening her."
The jury ruled the death was accidental. On Wednesday, Will County
Coroner Patrick O'Neil -- who conducted the inquest -- questioned the
ruling, saying the death at least should have been ruled
O'Neil's statement prompted one juror Thursday to ask why the coroner
did not express misgivings at the time.
"If the coroner thought we were wrong, why didn't he say something?"
Walter James asked. "The choices we had were that it was accidental,
homicide or suicide. But now I'm hearing ... that you can say
'undetermined.' And I don't think [O'Neil] indicated that at the time
I was on the inquest. I think if that had been brought up, or had been
available at the time, that's the way I would have gone myself."
Kathleen Savio was Peterson's third wife. His fourth wife, Stacy
Peterson, 23, has been missing for nearly two weeks, and the extensive
search for her continued Thursday.
Drew Peterson, 53, told police he last saw her the morning of Oct. 28,
and last spoke with her by cell phone that night. He said his wife
told him she was leaving him for someone else.
Authorities have said Peterson is cooperating with police. A source
close to the investigation said Thursday that Drew Peterson's two
teenage sons from his marriage to Kathleen Savio voluntarily talked to
police about Stacy Peterson.
Her disappearance has prompted intense scrutiny of her husband's
background, bringing Kathleen Savio's case to light once more. The
state's attorney's office said it was carefully reviewing whether to
exhume Savio's body.
"The decision hasn't formally been made yet, but we're talking very
seriously about the legal steps that need to be taken to move forward
with an exhumation," said Charles Pelkie, spokesman for State's Atty.
James Glasgow. "We want to make sure that we're taking the right steps
and that it's done in a dignified and proper way."
Anna Marie Doman, another sister of Kathleen Savio, confirmed she
spoke with Glasgow Thursday.
"That's exactly what [Glasgow] told me," Doman said. "He said no
papers have been filed, but they're checking out all the legal
avenues. They need a court order, and they haven't done that yet. It's
looking like they probably will."
Glasgow reopened the Savio case, citing the unusual circumstances of
her death. The state's attorney at that time was Jeff Tomczak.
"We know definitely that Illinois State Police sought the direction of
the Will County state's attorney's office in this case within days of
Kathleen Savio's death," Pelkie said. "We don't know to what extent
[the state police case] was reviewed by Tomczak's people. There is
documentation here in the office that the state police had consulted
with Jeff Tomczak's administration, but it's very scant." Kathleen
Savio was found face down in an empty bathtub at her Bolingbrook home,
her hair soaked in blood from a head wound. An autopsy determined she
died of drowning, and a forensic pathologist concluded the wound was
likely the result of a fall.
At the inquest, the jury was told that Kathleen Savio had more than $1
million in life insurance naming her sons as beneficiaries, and that
she would have received the couple's $300,000 home in the divorce
Illinois State Police Special Agent Herbert B. Hardy told jurors that
the sergeant's "whereabouts were totally accounted for" at the time of
Kathleen Savio's death.
"We had all kinds of evidence, and all of us went through it," James,
the inquest juror, told the Tribune. "We came to the conclusion that
it was accidental due to the fact that the evidence we looked at did
not indicate a homicide."
But James said the bloody bathtub gave him pause.
"I had some doubt as to what happened because the pictures that we did
see, the tub was empty, but there was all kinds of blood still in the
tub and all around the drain and the rim of the tub," James said. "I
thought in the back of my mind that if there was water in the tub,
that would have probably diluted some of the blood and the blood would
have gone out with it. But as we looked at the pictures, there was
still a lot of blood inside the tub.
Meanwhile, state police joined forces Thursday with Texas EquuSearch,
a volunteer group that began looking for Stacy Peterson this week at
her family's request. They are coordinating searches of key areas of
interest based on the investigation, a police statement said.
Texas EquuSearch spokesman Gary Peterson said about 70 volunteers
searched 30 to 40 areas by boat and foot Thursday but found nothing of
Pam Bosco, a spokeswoman for the Peterson family, said that the
searches are not in vain and that the family remains hopeful.
"We know obviously where she's not. It helps us plan for tomorrow,"
she said. "There's always tomorrow."
More information has surfaced on Drew Peterson. According to court
documents, Peterson was fired in 1985 after the Bolingbrook Fire and
Police Commission found him guilty of official misconduct,
disobedience, failure to report a bribe and self-assigned police
action. At the time, he was part of the Metropolitan Area Narcotics
Squad, working on a case against a reputed drug dealer.
In 1986, Peterson was reinstated shortly after a Will County judge
overruled the commission's decision, said Gerard Nowicki, who served
on the panel. When asked if the commission agreed with the court's
ruling, Nowicki flatly replied, "No." He declined to elaborate.
- - -
Nov. 7: Will County Coroner Patrick O'Neil disputes ruling that the
death of Kathleen Savio, Sgt. Drew Peterson's third wife, was an
Nov. 6: Volunteers from a private group called Texas EquuSearch join
effort to locate Stacy Peterson (above).
Nov. 1: Stacy Peterson's family says she wanted a divorce and was
afraid for her safety.
Oct. 30: State's Atty. James Glasgow says he is re-examining Savio's
Oct. 29: Stacy Peterson is reported missing after not showing up at
her sister's home.
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