Continual coverage of the trial of
for the murder of his third wife,
Jurors have been sent home, and testimony has concluded for the day. Court is scheduled to resume Wednesday morning.
Bolingbrook Police Lt James Coughlin testified he was at the Will County courthouse in February 2004, standing near the elevators with a fellow Bolingbrook officer, when he saw Drew Peterson in the hallway.
Coughlin testified that when his fellow officer commented about how Peterson's divorce attorneys, who were laughing, seemed happy, Peterson said, "That's because they're getting all of my money."
Peterson, who Coughlin said seemed irritated, then said:
"My life would be easier if she was dead - or died, I don't recall which word," Coughlin testified.
The incident stuck with him, Coughlin testifed, because Savio was found drowned in her Bolingbrook bathtub just a few weeks later.
Robert Deel testified that Dr Bryan Mitchell, the pathologist who performed the original autopsy, told him that Kathleen Savio’s death was not a murder.
"He told me her death was not a homicide," Deel testified.
Defense attorney Joel Brodsky asked Deel if Mitchell, who died two years ago, had ever wavered in his belief.
"No," Deel replied.
Under cross-examination from defense attorney Joel Brodsky, state police investigator Robert Deel testified that he kept an open mind as he checked Kathleen Savio’s home, but he saw nothing that looked like foul play.
He said there was "consensus" among the investigators that there was nothing suspicious about the death scene. The bathroom looked orderly, nothing was broken and while many items were undisturbed around the tub, there was a shampoo bottle and bar of soap inside it.
"There was even a soap bottle that was in the bathtub," Deel said. "If you’re going to move one thing, you’re going to move everything. The position of the body was consistent with where it should be… I can only say that it looked to me as if it was a normal bathroom and everything appeared as it should be."
But he said he placed bags over Savio's hands to preserve evidence in case her death was later ruled a homicide.
"When we left there, we didn’t really know what happened to her," he said
Earlier, defense attorney Steve Greenberg objected to a prosecutor’s line of questioning about what Deel didn’t do the night Savio’s body was found. Judge Edward Burmila said prosecutors are allowed to put on their case, but if they can’t tie it up, they won’t be able to argue a botched investigation in their closing arguments.
"If they want to say this is the worst police investigator on the face of the earth … I can’t stop them from doing that, but I don’t see how that prejudices Mr. Peterson," Burmila said.
Investigator Robert Deel testified this afternoon that the bruises and injuries he saw on Kathleen Savio’s body did not affect how he processed the scene.
He said he knew Savio was bleeding from a head injury but he didn’t investigate it, saying that was the role of the
at a later autopsy.
"When we took her out of tub, we got blood all over our gloves, but I didn’t conduct an examination of her head to see where that blood was coming from," he said. "That’s beyond the scope of what I’m supposed to do."
Illinois state police trooper Robert Deel testified there was nothing to indicate foul play at the scene of Kathleen Savio’s death.
"I was not thinking that it was a homicide at that time," said Deel, who conducted the initial investigation into Savio’s death for the Illinois state police.
Deel said he noticed a bottle of household cleaner on the dresser in the master bedroom as well as an abrasion on Savio’s left buttock.
Asked if he took note of the injury the night he investigated Savio’s death, Deel said, "Not particularly, but it's in the photo."
When asked if there was anything in the bathroom of note, Deel said, "There was a dead body in the tub."
He said that because nothing indicated foul play, he decided the best thing to do would be to wait for the autopsy.
Judge Edward Burmila has stopped the trial for a lunch break. Testimony is expected to resume about 1:15 p.m.
Will County Deputy Coroner Michael VanOver testified that his suspicions about Kathleen Savio’s death were aroused when he noticed how clean the tub was and that there were rows of shampoo bottles and other bath products arrayed around the edge of the small tub.
There "There was no obvious signs of struggle or foul play in the bathtub. I don't know how else she could have drowned," he said. "If a person would have fallen in that bathtub, I'm of the opinion that those bottles around the edge of that bathtub would have gone flying."
In addition, he wondered how Savio could have ended up face down if she simply slipped and fell.
"It's a fairly small tub, and if a person would have fell, it's unlikely they would have come to rest that way," VanOver said
Nonetheless, he didn't mention anything about his suspicion to anyone, even after a coroner's jury ruled the death was an accident.
However, he said that when he appeared to agree with investigator Robert Deel that there was no sign of foul play, he loudly stated "NO" into the dictation machine used to record his notes, which he intended to signal his feeling that there may have been foul play.
"It's, it's hard to explain," he said. "I felt it was a homicide."
Drew Peterson attorney Darryl Goldberg pressed Deputy Coroner Michael VanOver, a former Livingston County sheriff's officer, about his testimony that he thought the lack of soap scum in Kathleen Savio's bathtub was suspicious.
"You didn't tell Trooper (Robert) Deel that you thought this was a homicide, right?" Goldberg asked.
"No, I did not," VanOver replied.
He further admitted that he never mentioned his suspicion in any report or in any conversation with law enforcement.
When he removed Kathleen Savio's body from the bathtub, Deputy Will County Coroner Michael VanOver said he did not follow his office's protocol for homicides or suspicious deaths because state police crime scene investigator Robert Deel said it was unnecessary.
The protocol involves wrapping the body in a clean, white sheet and placing it in two body bags, which are then sealed.
"After Trooper Deel bagged the hands, I asked him...if they thought there was something wrong here, and he said no, they were just doing it (bagging the hands) for precautionary purposes," VanOver said.
The trial took a brief recess to allow prosecutors to retrieve original photos of the scene from their office after the defense objected that photos the state wanted to use in questioning VanOver had never been shown to them.
Prosecutors disputed the charge, but were asked by Judge Edward Burmila to bring the photos to court.
"I think the defense has a right to view those before cross examination (of VanOver)," he said.
Deputy Will County Coroner Michael VanOver testified that when he and state police crime scene investigator Robert Deel removed Kathleen Savio's body from the tub, he did not notice any signs of trauma -- stab or gunshot wounds -- that would indicate foul play.
VanOver said Deel placed paper bags over Savio's hands before they placed her in the body bag.
TV news coverage of the case has chafed the defense team.
One of Drew Peterson's attorneys, Steven Greenberg, complained about "media pundits" who over the weekend "ripped" Judge Edward Burmila for siding with the defense. Greenberg noted Burmila ruled for the defense and prosecution throughout the first week of the trial.
"Unfortunately, people are used to judges who are pro-prosecution," Greenberg said. "The judge is supposed to be the umpire, he's supposed to go down the middle."
The defense filed a motion about potential testimony from Dr. Michael Baden, who performed an autopsy on Savio's body when it was exhumed following the disappearance of Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy.
Defense attorney Steven Greenberg cited a television interview in which Mark Fuhrman, the former Los Angeles police detective who led the
investigation, said he and Baden had discussed the case before the autopsy.
"He was on 'Judge Jeanine' and said how he and Baden decided this was a homicide before the exhumation and before they performed the autopsy," Greenberg said.
Another defense attorney, Joel Brodsky, said Baden was paid by
to perform the autopsy. "If there's no murder, there's no story" for Fox News, Brodsky said.
It was not clear prosecutors plan to call Baden as a witness.
A spokesman for the prosecutors, Charles Pelkie, announced the witness list for today: Michael VanOver, a Will Countydeputy coroner who was at Kathleen Savio's house; Robert Deel, the Illinois State Police investigator who led the initial death investigation and ruled Savio's death an accident; Patrick Collins, who investigated the case with Deel; Will County Coroner Patrick O'Neil; and
police officer James Coughlin.
On his way into the courthouse this morning, defense lawyer Steve Greenberg said he expected that two state police investigators will take the stand and maintain that Savio's death was an accident -- and that prosecutors will be in the unusual position of trying to cast doubt on a police investigation.
"The state wants to present evidence that the investigation was somehow botched, therefore they have no evidence," Greenberg said, noting that a more thorough investigation might also have provided more evidence Savio's death was an accident. "The one thing they don't have is evidence Drew was in the house that night or that morning.
"I don't think the state should be allowed to tear down their own investigators. What they're doing is shifting the burden of proof on us, and that's not proper."
Two investigators who led what prosecutors say was an inept inquiry into the 2004 drowning of Kathleen Savio are expected to take the stand today in the Drew Peterson murder trial.
Savio's death was at first treated as a household accident. Prosecutors have laid the blame for that on former Illinois State Police crime scene investigator Robert Deel, who they allege ruled out foul play in Savio's bathtub drowning within 30 minutes of arriving at her
Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow even mentioned Deel by name during his closing argument in a 2010 pretrial hearing, telling a judge that former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Peterson had staged the scene well enough to "fool" Deel.
"He bit on it hook, line and sinker," Glasgow said. He noted that Deel had testified that Savio's bruises were "insignificant" and said, "If you have an evidence tech like that running a crime scene, you have a problem."
Prosecutors have suggested that Deel's position swayed a state police sergeant handling his first homicide investigation and led the county's pathologist to include a line in his report that Savio's head wound may have been caused by a fall in her tub.
Defense attorneys have argued that there is no evidence the crime scene was staged or that Savio's death was anything but an accident. Deel has testified that he also believes Savio's death was an accident.
Peterson's trial got under way last week with opening statements and the first prosecution witnesses. The judge halted the trial Friday afternoon to give a sick juror time to recover, and testimony is expected to resume Tuesday morning.
Deel, who has since been reassigned to patrol, testified during a pretrial hearing in 2010 that Will County prosecutors asked that he never work another crime scene in their county after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy, vanished in 2007.
Prosecutors believe Peterson murdered Stacy, but he has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing. After she disappeared and her case became national tabloid fodder, authorities took another look at Savio's death, ultimately exhuming her body and ruling her death a homicide after a second autopsy.
Deel testified that he did not gather any evidence from Savio's home, ignoring a plastic glass of orange juice in her kitchen and failing to notice a mug of tea left in her microwave, items that a defense lawyer pointed out could have been tested for DNA.
He denied making up his mind that night about how Savio died, saying it wasn't until after the autopsy and a coroner's jury ruled her death an accident that he agreed. And Deel testified that he would not have investigated the scene differently if he had thought it was a murder.
Retired state police Sgt. Patrick Collins also might testify Tuesday. Collins contradicted Deel's account of the night Savio's body was found, testifying during the 2010 hearing that Deel told him her death was an accident.
"I relied on that particular night and case very heavily on investigator Deel because that was my first homicide," Collins testified in 2010. "I did ask him should we collect anything. He basically informed me that it appeared to be accidental."
Peterson was interviewed on his home turf at the Bolingbrook Police Department, Collins testified. He also testified that he granted Peterson some "professional courtesy" when he interviewed Stacy, allowing Peterson to sit in on the interview.