Get caught up: The Drew Peterson trial

NEED TO KNOW
  • Peterson will be on trial in death of third wife, Kathleen Savio
  • He has pleaded not guilty; jury selection starts July 23
Get caught up: The Drew Peterson trial

Catch up on the Peterson case in 3 minutes

Catch up on the Peterson case in 3 minutes

In less than a week, lawyers will begin to pick the 12 jurors who will decide whether Drew Peterson killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

Neighbors found Savio's body in a dry bathtub in 2004 in her suburban Chicago home. Two autopsies performed after the initial one concluded that she had been involved in a struggle that left physical marks, including "a 1-inch blunt-force laceration on the back of her head, five scraping abrasions and six blunt-force black-and-blue bruises on her extremities, abdomen and buttock," according to noted pathologists Michael Baden and Larry Blum, who examined the body at the behest of Savio's family.

A grand jury indicted Peterson for Savio's alleged murder and arrested him on May 7, 2009. He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Peterson, who has pleaded not guilty, has been in jail on $20 million bail since then.

In Peterson's first-degree murder trial, which begins Monday, prosecutors are expected to argue that his motive for killing his ex-wife was financial. Though their divorce judgment was entered on October 10, 2003, they had yet to settle the distribution of marital assets. The property was supposed to be divided in court on April 6, 2004.

Savio's death

He was a member of the Bolingbrook, Illinois, Police Department when he married Savio on May 3, 1992. Bolingbrook police records are replete with reports, documenting multiple complaints by both Peterson and Savio, some of which included violence. After separating in 2002, the couple’s domestic trouble continued.

In November 2002, Savio wrote a letter to then-Will County, Illinois, prosecutor Elizabeth Fragale complaining about the abuse she said she endured at the hands of Peterson. Peterson could have been ordered to give half his police pension, the marital home, and other assets to Savio, but she died a month before that trial.

Read more: Who is Kathleen Savio?

Peterson told police that on Sunday, February 29, 2004, he took his two sons to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago for the day. That evening, Peterson says he returned to Savio's home with the two boys, but no one answered the door. He took the boys back to his house, and left several messages for his ex-wife that were never returned. The following day, Peterson says he went to work at the Bolingbrook Police Department at 5:00 p.m.
 
That evening, while still on duty, he contacted Savio’s neighbors, Mary Pontarelli and Steve Carcerano. Neither of them had seen Savio. So Peterson, along with Pontarelli, her teenage son Nick, and Carcerano, called a locksmith to open the door to Savio's home. Peterson said he waited outside as the other three entered the home to look for their missing neighbor. When Peterson heard a scream, he entered the house.
     
Savio lay dead in her bathtub. She was naked; the tub was dry. Investigators said she had been dead for about a day and a half.
     
A coroner ruled that her caused of death was accidental drowning. The case was closed until Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing in 2007.
 
Stacy Peterson's whereabouts are still a mystery, the investigation is still active and, though he's a suspect, Drew Peterson is not facing charges for her disappearance. But investigators decided to reopen the case into Savio's death, and they exhumed her body on November 13, 2007. Blum's autopsy -- the second one performed on the body -- concluded that Savio’s death was not an accident.

"It is my opinion based on my education, training, experience and personal observations, and to a reasonable degree of medical and scientific certainty, compelling evidence exists to support the conclusions that the cause of death of Kathleen S. Savio was drowning and further, that the manner of death was homicide," said Blum.
 
Peterson confronts the media

While the investigation proceeded, Peterson made numerous media appearances denying that he had any involvement in Savio's death. On November 20, 2007, Peterson told ABC News that he had sound reasons for distrusting Blum’s autopsy of Savio's body, saying, "I put more faith in the first autopsy, because it was fresh."

The secret recordings

On July 23, 2008, the Chicago Sun-Times published an interview with Len Wawczak and his wife Paula Stark, who claim to be two of Peterson's closest friends. The couple said they cooperated with Illinois state police by wearing a wire and recording seven months of conversations with Peterson.
  
In the Chicago Sun-Times interview, Wawczak says Peterson told them about Savio, "I should have had that [expletive] cremated. It would cost me less and I wouldn't be going through this trouble." Peterson also allegedly told the couple that he would be tried and acquitted of Savio's death long before his fourth wife's remains would be found.

A Will County judge later confirmed that state police had gathered an "extensive" collection of secretly recorded conversations with Peterson using court-approved electronic eavesdropping equipment.
 
Long road to trial
 
Since being charged, attorneys on both sides have fought over the admissibility of 14 hearsay statements allegedly made by Kathleen Savio and Stacy Peterson. Court battles over some of those statements delayed the trial for two years.
 
Jury selection for Peterson's trial is scheduled to begin July 23. Opening statements are slated to start July 31.

There are no cameras allowed in the courtroom, but In Session on truTV will have a crew in the courthouse.

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