“If I disappear, Sharon, it’s not an accident. He killed me.” Those were the emotionally charged words of Sharon Bychowski, a neighbor of Stacy Peterson, the wife of former Illinois policeman, Drew Peterson.
That’s how the landmark hearsay hearing of Drew Peterson, 50, began on Monday. The hearing will determine whether hearsay testimony: letters and statements Savio made to an Illinois prosecutor and several friends will be admissible during Peterson’s murder trial set for later this year.
During Bychowski’s testimony Monday she was so prostrate with emotion that the judge called a brief recess in order to allow her to regain her composure.Bychowski told the packed courtroom how Stacy sat in front of her Chicago home crying as she explained how she had packed the belongings of husband Drew Peterson and asked him to leave. Drew refused.
Bychowski went on to say that Stacy detailed problems she was having with Drew and how she feared for her life. “I told her to put it in writing,” said Bychowski, “but [Stacy] said, ‘it doesn’t matter. I’m already dead. He’s going to kill me.'”
Prosecutors must prove whether a “preponderance of evidence” shows the statements Savio made to others are reliable and that actions by the defendant rendered the witness, Savio, unavailable to testify. If not, prosecutors will not be able to present those statements to the jury. And that isn’t setting right with theSavio family or Stacy’s friends and family because it means that Peterson may get away with murder.
Prosecutors assert that Peterson killed Savio in order to get custody of the couple’s two sons who were the sole beneficiaries of Savio’s life insurance policy. The boys received $500,000 a piece after their mother’s death. Prosecutors believe Peterson wanted the money to finance his new life with 23-year-old Stacy, whom he had recently married and had been having an affair with while he was still married to Savio.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow stated that Peterson offered a man $25,000 to kill Savio months before her death and told fellow police officers, “My life would be easier if she (Savio) were just dead.”
CLICK HERE TO VIEW DOCUMENTS OF PETERSON V SAVIO
Both state witnesses likely will testify at the hearsay hearing, along with relatives who have said Savio feared Peterson. She repeated those fears in court records and personal notes.
Savio’s sister, Anna Doman stated that Savio told her “she would never live for the settlement and that Drew was lethal and she was terrified of him. She asked me to take care of children in case anything happened to her.”
Apparently, Peterson would have had to pay Savio about $200,000 after their divorce and would have lost the Bolingbrook home. After Savio’s death, Peterson would have received about $25,000 a year in Social Security payments for their two sons.
In 2004, Kathleen Savio who was found dead five months after her divorce from Peterson, face down in a dry bathtub and although her body bore signs of trauma, her death was initially ruled an accident.
Stacy Peterson, who was married to Drew at the time of Savio’s murder initially provided an alibi for her husband, but later told her minister, Reverend Neil Schori, that she was afraid of her Drew and that she had proof he killed Savio and had made it look like an accident. Stacy then mysteriously disappeared in October 2007.
Savio’s family then decided to have their daughter’s body exhumed and a second autopsy determined that the young mother of two was, in fact, murdered. The findings led to Drew Peterson’s arrest for first-degree murder in May 2009. He remains jailed under a $20 million bond.
A lack of evidence, according to police, is all that is preventing them from charging Drew Peterson with the disappearance of Stacy, who is his fourth wife.
Interviews with previous Mrs. Petersons’ one and two, shed light on the differences of Drew Peterson: a charismatic man who could be controlling, violent and unfaithful.
Drew Peterson’s met first wife Carol Brown when she was a freshman in high school. Brown described Peterson as a doting, humorous husband who was confident with an outgoing personality. While Brown did not say Drew had ever been abusive, she did say “He didn’t really like me going out at night with friends. But he wouldn’t hold me hostage and say, ‘No you can’t go out either.’ “
While pregnant with their second child, Brown stated that she learned Drew had been cheating on her. Peterson filed for the divorce since Brown was not working. She said that Peterson’s attorney oversaw the divorce proceedings, representing both her ex-husband and herself. In hindsight, Brown said she asked herself, “What kind of ethics did that lawyer have that he would represent both of us?”
As for Peterson pretty much running the show during their divorce proceedings, Brown had this to say, “That would be the controlling-type thing that he would do. He’d want things his way, and I’d want things my way and I think that’s normal in any divorce relationship.” When asked if she thought Drew Peterson was involved with the death of Savio or the disappearance of Stacy, Brown said, “I can’t answer that.”
Second wife, Vicki Connolly, painted a portrait of a malignant man who grew increasingly controlling and suspicious as their marriage wore on. Connolly spoke of the consummate differences she experienced with Drew Peterson as “When it was good, it was wonderful, But when it was bad, it was really bad.”
Connolly, who said she stuck by Drew’s side despite his infidelities and legal problems, called it quits after tiring of his straying. She said that Peterson was occasionally violent towards her and once told her he could “kill her and make it look like an accident.” She told this to friends who were Bolingbrook , Illinois police officers “So they would know he said these things to me,” said Connolly. The two divorced after 10 years of marriage.
Connolly said that she believed that Peterson had a “disease to his ego” and was a “legend in his own mind.”
During their marriage, Peterson worked as an undercover narcotics officer for the Metropolitan area Narcotics Squad. “He was a talented officer, but his success poisoned his outlook,” said Connolly.
“He really led a double life. But what fed his ego was his line of work, how he could deceive people,” she said. “When he’d come home, he’d be the exact opposite. He could do it and he could do it with no problems.”
Court documents show that Peterson was fired from the police force in1985 after the Bolingbrook Fire and Police Commission found him guilty of official misconduct, disobedience, failure to report a bribe and self-assigned police action. The dismissal was temporary though. Peterson was reinstated in 1986 after a Will County judge overruled the commission’s decision.
It was at that time that Peterson’s controlling behavior evolved into paranoia. Connolly claimed Peterson had installed wires (bugs) in their home to record conversations. Peterson’s rationale for this was, “I need to know my family is safe at home and you’re not going to be doing anything youshouldn ‘t be doing’ – and that enabled him to do whatever he wanted,” said Connolly. Connolly added that when they finally called their marriage quits, Peterson was already seeing Savio.
In October 2009, Lisa Ward, Connolly’s daughter from a previous relationship, told “Good Morning America” that she is in the process of penning a book detailing the years of physical and mental abuse she suffered at the hands of step-father, Peterson. Ward said she believes “anything is possible with him.”
Tom Morphey, Peterson’s stepbrother, is also set to testify at the hearsay hearing. In 2007, Morphey attempted suicide two days after he says he thinks he may have helped Peterson dispose of his fourth wife’s body. Morphey stated that Peterson called him requesting his help with something. When Morphey arrived at Peterson’s home, he helped him load a blue container into Peterson’s SUV that was “Warm to the touch.”
A friend of Morphey’s, Kevin Martinek Jr., told “Today” host Matt Lauer that Morpheys was afraid of Peterson and just helped out of family loyalty. He added that a lot of people are afraid of Peterson. “Drew’s a very powerful person, and he could do anything, from what I was told,” said Martinek.
Since Drew Peterson’s arrest, his four children, all underage, have been placed in the care of relative Stephen Peterson, who is a police officer in Oak Brook, Illinois. In November 2007, Drew Peterson resigned from the Bolingbrook Police Department after nearly three decades of service.