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JOLIET, Ill. — Drew Peterson, who was investigated in the disappearance of his fourth wife then charged with killing his third, threatened his ex-wife’s life just weeks before she died, a prosecutor told jurors as the former police officer’s murder trial began Tuesday.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow told jurors that Peterson, 58, killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio, 40, in 2004 and made it look like an accident.
“Just weeks before her death he told her he was going to kill her and she would not make it to a divorce settlement and would never get his pension,” Glasgow said during opening statements. Peterson is charged with first-degree murder Savio’s death. He is suspected but not charged in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.
Peterson’s real-life drama inspired a TV movie and a national spotlight was put on the case with speculation about whether Peterson used his law-enforcement expertise to get away with Savio’s murder and make 23-year-old Stacy Peterson vanish.
Peterson defense attorney Joel Brodsky suggested during his opening statement that Peterson is the victim of his ex-wife’s smear campaign. Brodsky said Savio lied in court documents when she said she was afraid of Peterson as a ploy during an ugly divorce to get as much money as possible.
“She was building her case against Drew,” Brodsky said.
Peterson was only charged in Savio’s death after his much younger fourth wife’s disappearance.
Glasgow brought up Stacy Peterson during the prosecution’s opening statements, making it clear her disappearance was the key to opening an investigation into Savio’s death. Peterson has denied wrongdoing in both cases.
Glasgow also told the jury what has been widely known for years but what Glasgow has not said explicitly: There is no physical evidence linking Peterson to Savio’s death.
A botched initial investigation into Savio’s death leaves prosecutors with scant physical evidence. They’ll rely on circumstantial and normally barred hearsay evidence to convince jurors of Peterson’s guilt.