JOLIET, Ill. - Just two days after his third wife's body was found in a bathtub, Drew Peterson sat on a card-table chair next to his tearful fourth wife and corrected at least one of her answers as state police interviewed her about the death, the lead investigator told jurors on Wednesday.
The dramatic testimony came as prosecutors in Peterson's murder trial continued to try to show that the initial investigation into the 2004 drowning of 40-year-old Kathleen Savio was badly botched and that investigators overlooked potentially key evidence as they rallied to protect a fellow officer from scrutiny.
Peterson — charged in Savio's death only after his fourth wife, 23-year-old Stacy Peterson, went missing in 2007 — had his hand on Stacy's knee and his arm around her shoulder during the interview in the basement of the couple's home, retired Illinois State Police sergeant Patrick Collins said.
"He sat very close to Stacy as we proceeded to ask questions," Collins recalled. "She was very distraught."
Also Wednesday, a key prosecution witness broke down and left the courtroom sobbing after she started to talk about how Savio once said Peterson had bragged that, "'I could kill you and make it look like an accident.'"
When Savio's friend returned to the courtroom, she told jurors how Savio described how Peterson broke into her house and made the threat at knife point. Anderson, who lived at Savio's house temporarily, said Savio was so afraid that she kept a knife under her mattress.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Joe Lopez raised his voice, pressing Anderson repeatedly about why — if the threat was so unsettling — she didn't move out.
"You didn't move out, did you? ... You did nothing ... because you didn't believe her, that's why," Lopez shouted over the objection of prosecutors.
"Sir, no one listened to Kathy," Anderson added later. The judge told jurors to disregard that.
Judge Edward Burmila handed prosecutors a legal victory Wednesday afternoon by allowing Anderson's hearsay testimony. At first, the judge seemed to signal he would bar it, prompting an angry James Glasgow, the Will County state's attorney, to raise his voice.
"This evidence should have life!" the normally dry, monotone chief prosecutor shouted. The jury was not in the room.
Burmila, who once lost a political race to Glasgow, then criticized the state's lawyers for poorly addressing the complex legalities surrounding hearsay, but surprised many by siding with the state and allowing the testimony.
Earlier in the day, Drew Peterson, 58, sat forward attentively while Collins was on the stand, once appearing to suggest a question to his attorney.
According to Collins, Peterson asked if he could sit in on the 2004 interview as a "professional courtesy," and the 26-year state police veteran agreed. Collins conceded it was unusual to let one potential witness sit in on the interview of another, saying he had never done it before and never did it again.
Outside observers may be inclined to link Savio's death to Stacy Peterson's disappearance, but jurors aren't supposed to make any such links. Burmila has prohibited prosecutors from telling jurors Stacy Peterson is presumed dead or that Drew Peterson is a suspect in her disappearance. He is not charged.
During the 2004 interview at the Petersons' home, located just blocks from Savio's house, Stacy Peterson became increasingly emotional, Collins testified.
"She became shaken and started to cry," Collins said. "And (so) we shut the interview down." He said he did not interview her again.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Joel Brodsky suggested that Stacy Peterson was upset because Savio's death meant she would also have to care for Savio's two children.