Continual coverage of the trial of Drew Peterson for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
5:25 p.m. Stacy Peterson family pleased with first day’s testimony
The spokeswoman for the family of Stacy Peterson said she was pleased with the first day of testimony, even though Stacy’s disappearance was little more than a footnote.
“I think we had a really amazing witness today,” said Pamela Bosco, who came to know Drew Peterson’s missing fourth wife while serving as legal guardian for Stacy’s sister, Cassandra Cales.
“What she told us was that Kathy (Savio) was a passionate person and she felt threatened because she had all these locks on her door.”
But most important was the photo of Savio’s body wedged face down in the bathtub.
“You felt the horror of that night,” Bosco said. “It shows you it was not an accident.”
-- Matthew Walberg
4:45 p.m. Day One is done
Testimony is done for the day at the Drew Peterson trial. Attorneys delivered opening statements to the jury this morning. This afternoon, attorneys questioned the first prosecution witness, Mary Pontarelli. The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday at 9 a.m.
2:52 p.m. Neighbor describes finding body
Savio’s close friend and next-door neighbor sobbed as she was shown a picture of Savio lying lifless in her bathtub.
"(That’s) Kathleen,” Mary Pontarelli said.
Pontarelli said she and her husband Tom, their son Nick and another neighbor, Steve Carcerano, entered the home late in the evening of March 1, 2004 after Drew told her he could not get in touch with his ex-wife.
After a locksmith picked the front door, Pontarelli said she and Carcerano went to Savio’s bedroom while her husband and son checked the downstairs. Peterson, she said, waited by the front door.
When she entered Savio’s room, she checked under the bedcovers while Carcerano checked the closets and called Pontarelli when he opened the bathroom door in the darkened home.
“I went into the bathroom, seen Kathleen in the tub and I ran out of the bathroom and threw myself on the floor and started screaming,” she said.
Pontarelli said Peterson checked Savio’s pulse. She asked Peterson if Savio was dead. He responded, “Yes, Mary. She is.”
Pontarelli said her husband and son reached the bedroom first after hearing her screams.
“Was Drew the last one in?” Assistant State’s Attorney Kathleen Patton asked.
“Yes,” Pontarelli replied.
She said she noticed dried blood in Savio’s hair and blood coming from her mouth, and she had bruises on her wrists and buttocks.
When Peterson entered the room, he checked Savio’s pulse. “I asked, ‘Drew, is she dead?’” Pontarellis said. “He said, ‘Yes Mary, she is.”
Pontarelli said she offered to cover Savio with a towel “because I didn’t want people to see her like that. But he (Peterson) said we weren’t supposed to touch anything and we couldn’t do that.”
1:03 p.m. ‘They’re trying to make Drew the victim’Kathleen Savio’s stepmother, Marcia Savio, seemed upset that Drew Peterson’s defense attorney was attempting to make Peterson look like a victim at trial.
Defense attorney Joel Brodsky in his opening statement called Kathleen Savio “bonkers” and “crazy” and said “she lies and makes up stories to fit her purpose.”
“It seems like they’re trying to make Drew the victim instead of Kathy,” Marcia Savio said outside the courtroom. “Kathy was always a strong girl and the problem is, she wasn’t strong enough.
“The only thing we can do is hope and pray and hopefuly Kathleen’s going to get some justice.”
Marcia Savio was in court today with Henry Savio, Kathleen’s father.
Also in court is Pam Bosco, a spokeswoman for Stacy Peterson’s family.
There were missteps by both sides this morning during opening statements, with Judge Edward Burmila upbraiding Brodsky for testifying about Peterson’s life history and twice ordering the jurors to be removed from the courtroom. And State’s Attorney James Glasgow narrowly avoided a potential mistrial when he began telling jurors about an alleged $25,000 offer by Peterson to find a hitman to kill Savio.
Glasgow objected 25 times during Brodsky’s opening argument. The objections were sustained 12 times, some of them so repeatedly that when Brodsky began recounting Peterson’s military and early police career, Judge Burmila began to smile.
“You’re perverting the purpose of the opening statement,” he told Brodsky outside the presence of jurors. “I don’t want you to testify to the jury about what you believe his life history is.”
The trial is scheduled to resume at 1:15 p.m. when prosecutors call their first witness, expected to be either one of Savio’s neighbors or the locksmith Peterson called to open the door of her Bolingbrook home when her body was found in 2004.
-- Steve Schmadeke
12:25 p.m. First witnesses to be called this afternoon
Defense attorney Joel Brodsky has concluded his opening statement, and the first witnesses are scheduled to be called after the lunch break.
Brodsky hammered away at the lack of physical evidence and the effect the media had on casting suspicion on his client.
“They took a tragedy and made it into entertainment,” he said, focusing on FOX News talk show host Greta Van Susteren, who hired forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden to conduct a private autopsy for Kathleen Savio’s family after authorities reopened her case.
During the autopsy, Brodsky said, a producer for the show was videotaping the examination.
“While the autopsy is going on, he’s videotaping and he’s on the phone,” Brodsky said. “You want to know who he’s on the phone with? He’s on the phone with Girls Gone Wild, trying to hawk the video.”
Brodsky said prosecutors have ignored the numerous maladies Savio suffered - and the medications she was taking - which could have caused her to fall and drown in the tub and said that key witnesses for the state did nothing to press for an investigation of Savio’s death until Stacy Peterson disappeared more than three years later.
“In this case, you’re going to hear nothing but myth, rumor and hearsay,” he said. “But in court, you have a man’s life in your hands. You have to ignore the myth and focus on the facts, and when you do, you’ll find out what my client is, and that is not guilty.”
12:10 p.m. Lunch breakThe judge has stopped the proceedings for a lunch break.
The trial is scheduled to resume at 1:15 p.m.
11:20 a.m. Savio ‘would get angry and stay angry’It was Kathleen Savio’s anger and erratic behavior that led to the breakup of her marriage to Peterson, attorney Joel Brodsky told jurors in his opening statement.
The marriage began peacefully, and the two started a printing business that they eventually sold, allowing them to pay off the mortgage on their home.
While they were enjoying financial success with the business and Peterson’s promotion to sergeant in the Bolingbrook Police Department, by the late 1990s Savio’s controlling behavior and anger caused them to lead separate lives, Brodsky said.
“Kathy was very bossy at the business. She would hire and fire people without reason. She insisted on being president of the organization, and she would get angry and stay angry for days,” he said.
The pair sought counseling and Savio began taking anti-depressants, “but nothing worked.”
The acrimony only intensified when Savio learned her husband was dating Stacy Cales, who he would later marry.
After she learned Peterson took Cales to Mexico in January 2001, she sought an order of protection, alleging abuse.
“She files (the petition) with lies, stupid, ridiculous statements,” Brodsky said.
By late March 2003, both filed for divorce, Peterson moved out of the home and Savio dropped the order of protection. Brodsky said the fact that she never sought another suggests she was lying about her ex-husband’s threats and attacks.
“Never again do you hear of Kathy getting an order of protection,” Brodsky said. “She knew how to get one - but all this stuff about (Peterson’s) threats, breaking into her house, Kathy never got another order of protection. You have to ask yourself why.”
-- Matthew Walberg
11 a.m. Lively start to trialBarely an hour into the trial, and there have been a defense motion for a mistrial, five objections from prosecutors and at least three private conferences between the judge and attorneys in the case.
Jurors have already been sent out twice as the two sides argued objections.
10:42 a.m. More objections as defense beginsDefense attorney Joel Brodsky begins his opening statement, almost immediately eliciting objections from the prosecution.
With jurors again led out of the courtroom, prosecutors object to Brodsky’s recitation of Peterson’s personal history, including his days as a military police officer in the Army. The judge agreed.
10:40 a.m. ‘I could kill you and no one would know’
As he finished his opening statement, State’s Atty. Glasgow urged jurors to pay attention and apply common sense during “a complex case.”
Touching only briefly on the disapearance of Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacey Peterson, Glasgow said Peterson grew increasingly violent and threatening toward Savio as she pressed to take his pension and other assets after their divorce.
When a judge ordered Peterson to pay Savio’s divorce attorney $15,000 in November 2003, Glasgow said Peterson “snuck into the victim’s home, grabbed Kathy Savio by the throat and said, ‘Why don’t you just die? I could kill you and no one would know.”
10:25 a.m. Early demand from defense for mistrial
Less than five minutes into the prosecution’s opening statement, Peterson’s legal team demanded a mistrial after State’s Atty. James Glasgow told jurors that Peterson offered a co-worker $25,000.
Defense attorneys cut Glasgow off before he could complete his sentence and, with the jury sent out of the courtroom, argued that prosecutors should not be allowed to mentioned Peterson’s alleged attempt to hire a hit man to kill Savio since they never notified the defense that they planned to use such evidence.
Judge Edward Burmila sustained the objection, prompting defense attorney Steve Greenberg to demand a mistrial.
“We would ask for a mistrial because it’s so prejudicial,” he said. “I hate to bring it (the trial) to a screeching halt, but we’ve got a jury in the box and what are you supposed to say to them? That this was a big mistake?”
But Greenburg’s own objection may have undercut his effort to end the trial. Glasgow asked the court reporter to read back the transcript, and it was clear that he was interrupted by the defense before he could mention that the money was for a hit.
Burmila said he would instruct jurors to disregard the statement, but would allow the trial to continue.
“I guess we should have let him go a few words further,” Greenberg said.
10:10 a.m. Prosecutor: Savio’s death was staged
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow tells jurors that ex-cop Drew Peterson killed Kathleen Savio in 2004 and made it look like an accident.
9:47 a.m. The trial begins
Attorneys have begun delivering opening statements in the murder trial of Drew Peterson.
9:45 a.m. Prosecutors given leeway in openings
Judge Edward Burmila denied a defense motion to limit what prosecutors can say during opening statements this morning.
In a likely preview of their case, Peterson attorney Steve Greenberg argued that prosecutors should not be able to tell jurors that there will be testimony describing trhe bathroom where Kathleen Savio’s body was found as a “staged crime scene,” that Savio told others she was afraid of Peterson, or that Peterson would benefit financially from Savio’s death.
The defense arguments were aimed at the highly circumstantial body of evidence in the case and the state’s reliance on hearsay statements that may not be allowed into evidence.
“How can they say these things in opening statements when they have no evidence,” Greenberg said.
Burmila said it will be up to the defense to point out flaws in the prosecution’s case.
Jurors have just entered the courtroom for opening statements. State’s Attorney James Glasgow will make the opening statement for the prosecution, and Joel Brodsky will lead off for the defense.
9:15 a.m. The locks at Savio’s home
The prosecution plans to call locksmith Robert Akin Jr. to testify today.
Witnesses testified during a pretrial hearing that Savio, fearful of Peterson, always kept her front door and screen door locked when she was gone or inside her home.
But Akin testified at a hearing in 2010 that only the front doorknob -- one of at least three locks on the two doors -- was locked when he was called to her home the night Savio’s body was discovered.
9:10 a.m. Courtroom packed, judge hears motions
All parties are in the packed courtroom, and Judge Edward Burmila is hearing motions on what can be said in opening statements. Witnesses scheduled for today include Kathleen Savio’s neighbors Mary and Tom Pontarelli.
Mary Pontarelli discovered Savio’s body on March 1, 2004, and ran screaming from the bathroom into Savio’s adjoining bedroom, she testified at a pretrial hearing.
“I threw myself down and started hitting her bed with my fists,” Pontarelli testified in 2010.
The two women had been close ever since Pontarelli brought a poinsettia to her new next-door neighbor in Bolingbrook just before Christmas in 1999. Their families went on vacation and spent holidays together. And Savio shared her fears that Peterson would kill her, Pontarelli testified previously.
8:40 a.m. Peterson jokes with attorneys
Drew Peterson, wearing a charcoal gray suit and white shirt, joked and talked with his attorneys as he put on a black and gray striped tie before the trial began.
Members of the media huddled outside the entrance of the courthouse, several under temporary studios arranged beneath canopies to ward off the rain, which threatened to the east.
Other journalists milled about the courtroom, checking email or making last minute cell-phone calls before the proceedings began. Any device that can transmit email or photos has been banned from the courtroom when court is in session.
-- Matthew Walberg
8:30 a.m. Locksmith among first witnesses
First prosecution witnesses will be two neighbors who found Savio’s body and a locksmith Peterson called to open Savio’s home.
-- Steve Schmadeke
8:25 a.m. Prosecutors, defense attorneys arrive
State’s Attorney James Glasgow and the prosecution team have entered the Will County courthouse, walking past a bank of about 10 TV cameras and a half dozen still photographers.
The Drew Peterson defense team is also in the courthouse. Peterson attorney Steve Greenberg told reporters he expects the first prosecution witness to be one of the last people to see Kathleen Savio alive, possibly a neighbor or her boyfriend.
A hearing is slated for 8:30 a.m. with opening statements expected to follow.
-- Steve Schmadeke and Andy Grimm