(JOLIET, Ill.) — Opening statements will begin Tuesday in the murder trial of former Illinois cop Drew Peterson, who’s accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
A jury of seven men and five women in Jolliet, Ill., will decide whether Peterson, 58, killed his former wife in 2004 and made it look like an accident.
Peterson skyrocketed to notoriety in 2007 when his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared. Cops exhumed Savio’s body as part of their investigation into Stacy’s disappearance, eventually changing the cause of Savio’s death from an accident to homicide and charging Peterson with murder.
Stacy has never been found, and the case has garnered widespread media attention focused on Peterson, whose story was made into a Lifetime movie, with Rob Lowe playing Peterson, earlier this year.
In the trial, prosecutors will argue that bruises on Savio’s neck, together with Peterson’s history of domestic violence and his statements to his fourth wife about Savio’s death, prove that he murdered Savio.
Peterson, who was a sergeant in the Bolingbrook, Ill., police department, was in the middle of a bitter divorce from Savio and had already begun seeing Stacy Peterson at the time of Savio’s death.
Kathleen Zellner, a Chicago attorney who has been following the case, noted that the prosecution is expected to try and use statements that Stacy Peterson made to her minister before her disappearance, in which she said that Peterson had admitted to killing Savio. If the judge admits the hearsay statements of Stacy Peterson, the testimony could be damaging to Peterson, she said.
Last week, Peterson’s legal team told ABC News that there is no forensic evidence tying Peterson to Savio’s murder, and that prosecutors should not have pursued the case.
“We have always said, and this has never changed: They simply don’t have any evidence. They have conjecture, rumor, speculation, hearsay, but they don’t have any evidence. Even a predispositioned jury is going to want to hear evidence, and they don’t have any,” Peterson’s attorney Joel Brodsky said.
Brodsky said he was so confident that the state had no case that he was convinced a judge would throw out the case as soon as the prosecution rests.
“I don’t know why they are prosecuting this. I am serious. This case should never have been brought,” Brodsky said. “If they can prosecute Drew Peterson on this garbage, rumor, back fence gossip, then nobody’s safe.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Evan McKirdy, Tim Hume and James Masters, CNN
Janissa Delzo, Special to CNN
Lisa Respers France, CNN