The Drew Peterson case is a long and winding tale.
It may seem like Peterson’s sentencing Thursday was the final chapter, but his story might not end there. Peterson may stay in the public consciousness for a while longer because of his appeals, and he could also face charges regarding the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.
Peterson was sentenced Thursday to 38 years in prison for murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio. He received credit for the almost four years he has already spent in jail, but at age 59, could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Almost eight years after Savio’s death, Peterson, a former cop, was found guilty of first-degree murder on Sept. 6, 2012.
How did we get here?
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 he was arrested on May 7, 2009.
During Peterson's first-degree murder trial, prosecutors argued that his motive for killing his ex-wife was financial. Though their divorce judgment was entered on Oct. 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.
Peterson 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, Feb. 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 says 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 of Savio's death, and they exhumed her body on Nov. 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 Nov. 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."
Peterson’s legal battles are far from over
Drew Peterson was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to 38 years in prison -- but we’ll see him in court again.
Peterson’s attorneys will likely file a series of appeals to overturn the former cop’s convictions.
His attorneys have already filed a motion requesting a new trial due to ineffective counsel. In court documents filed last October, attorney John Paul Carroll accused Peterson’s trial attorney, Joel Brodsky, of not effectively defending Peterson.
Judge Edward Burmila denied that motion Thursday, before sentencing Peterson. Peterson’s attorneys may appeal Burmila’s ruling Thursday denying their claim that Peterson was not properly represented at trial.
Peterson’s attorneys are likely preparing additional appeals based on other issues they brought up at trial.
The prosecution in Peterson’s case made a series of decisions during the trial that provoked the defense to file multiple motions for mistrial, all of which were denied by Burmila. The defense believes that some of the prosecution’s actions disobeyed direct orders from the court.
The most likely appeals could include the following claims:
• Police misconduct during the investigation
• Jury misconduct
• Prosecutorial misconduct
• Improper rulings by the trial judge
• Witnesses committing perjury
• Tainted evidence
• Introduction of inadmissible or highly prejudicial evidence
• Improper instructions given to the jury
There’s also the chance that Peterson could face more criminal charges. Peterson could be charged for his alleged role in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.