JOLIET, Illinois (Reuters) - Kathleen Savio predicted her own death at the hands of her husband, former suburban Chicago police officer Drew Peterson, her sister testified on Friday at Peterson’s murder trial.
Savio, Peterson’s third wife, was found dead in a bathtub in 2004 and the death was initially considered an accidental drowning. But suspicions were raised when Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in 2007. Savio’s body was exhumed and reexamined and Peterson was charged with murder.
Savio died while she and Peterson were in the middle of a contentious divorce. Savio’s older sister, Anna Marie Doman, testified that about six weeks before Savio died, she showed up at Doman’s home unannounced.
“Drew had told her he was going to kill her,” Doman said. “She wasn’t going to make it to the divorce settlement. She wasn’t going to get his pension or the kids.” Doman said Savio had also made the prediction on other occasions.
A trial date to settle the financial issues in Savio’s and Peterson’s divorce was just weeks away when she died.
Doman said that in the same meeting, Savio instructed her, in the event of her death, to retrieve a briefcase from the back of her SUV.
Doman did get the briefcase the day after Savio died. But instead of doing anything with it, she stored it in her garage and did not look at its contents, possibly for years. A witness in a pre-trial hearing said the case contained papers relating to Savio’s order of protection against Peterson and police reports of incidents between them. But this information has not yet been presented to the jury.
It was only after Peterson’s next wife, Stacy, vanished that Doman showed the paperwork to anyone.
Doman admitted on Friday under defense attorney Joseph Lopez’s cross examination that before letting the police see it, she provided copies of the paperwork to a producer from Greta Van Susteren’s talk show on the Fox television network.
Lopez asked Doman why she never told police about Peterson’s supposed threats and Savio’s prediction that she would be killed. But Doman said she did.
“I tried to call (the state police) and no one would listen,” Doman said, “All they would say is, ‘It’s under investigation.'”
Along with telling her of the briefcase, Doman said Savio expressed concern about what would happen to her two sons after she died. Doman said Savio pleaded with her to take care of the boys if anything happened to her.
But under cross-examination, Doman said that she never again saw either boy after her sister’s funeral. She also never sent either nephew birthday or Christmas cards.
The testimony by Doman comes at the end of a tumultuous first week in the trial. There is little physical evidence linking Peterson to the death of Savio, so prosecutors have been trying to introduce testimony this week including statements that he made threats and tried to hire a hit man.
Defense attorneys have objected to the testimony as hearsay and have moved unsuccessfully for a mistrial twice.
The Peterson case has drawn national attention and was the subject of a popular Lifetime television network movie “Untouchable” starring Rob Lowe. Peterson’s fourth wife Stacy has never been found and he is the sole suspect in her disappearance. His first and second wives have remarried.
The trial continues next Tuesday in Will County court near Chicago.
Reporting by Joseph Hosey; Editing by Mary Wisniewski, Greg McCune and Philip Barbara