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JOLIET, Ill. (AP) – Former police officer Drew Peterson’s ex-wife was so afraid of him that she kept changing the locks on her doors, and so certain it wouldn’t do any good, that she asked her sister to care for her two sons after her death, the sister testified Tuesday.
Anna Doman said her sister, Kathleen Savio, visited her home six weeks before she was found dead in her bathtub in 2004 and pleaded for help.
“She said, ‘You have to promise me, you have to promise me to take care of my boys . . . Drew said he’d kill me,'” Doman testified.
Savio once talked about how Peterson had bound her hands and feet, then told her he could kill her and that nobody would know he did it, Doman said.
The hearing, which was in its third week, was to determine what hearsay evidence will be allowed at Peterson’s upcoming murder trial.
Hearsay, or statements not based on the direct knowledge of a witness, usually isn’t admissible in court. Illinois judges can allow it in murder trials if prosecutors prove a defendant may have killed a witness to prevent them from testifying. There’s little available forensic evidence in Savio’s case, so prosecutors are expected to rely on statements Savio allegedly made to others saying she feared Peterson could kill her.
Peterson, a 56-year-old former Bolingbrook police officer, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Savio’s 2004 death, and he is considered the only suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.
Savio’s death was initially ruled an accident. But after Drew Peterson was named a suspect in Stacy Peterson’s disappearance, Savio’s body was exhumed, a new autopsy was conducted and her death was ruled a homicide. Drew Peterson has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged in Stacy Peterson’s disappearance.
Doman testified that Savio said she had put important documents in her garage and asked Anna Doman to rush to the house to retrieve them should Savio die.
“She said, ‘Everything you need is in here,'” Doman recalled. Doman said she did retrieve the documents after her sister died, but she did not discuss their contents during the hearing.
Doman said Savio’s family members suspected Peterson immediately. She said her sister, Sue Doman, confronted Peterson with those suspicions. “Suzy looked at Drew and said, ‘Why did you kill my sister?'” Anna Doman said.
Sue Doman recounted earlier Tuesday that Peterson claimed he had found Savio’s will after she died, taunting her about it.
“He said, ‘Ha, ha, ha. Tell Anna I found the will under the floorboards, and you guys aren’t going to get anything.”
Earlier Tuesday, Savio’s boyfriend said he told police just hours after Savio’s body was discovered that Peterson might be involved.
Steve Maniaci testified that Illinois State Police investigators assured him they would consider her death a homicide until proven otherwise, but when prosecutors recently allowed him to look at the 2004 police report from that night – it included none of his concerns.
Maniaci said Savio told him repeatedly that she was afraid of Peterson and feared he could kill her and make it look like an accident. Such talk intensified in the days before her death as she and Peterson fought over property they once held in common as husband and wife.
With that conflict in mind, Maniaci immediately confronted Peterson when he arrived at Savio’s house the night her body was found.
“I said, ‘I sure hope you didn’t have anything to do with this,'” Maniaci testified.
When Peterson insisted he didn’t, Maniaci responded in reference to the dispute over property, “‘It sure worked out good for you.'”
His testimony came after the lead investigator in the case, retired State Police Sgt. Patrick Collins, conceded he believed her death was an accident from almost the minute he stepped into Savio’s suburban Chicago home. And he agreed he conducted a less-than-thorough investigation, even failing to collect any forensic evidence from the scene.
Prosecutors know the cause of death will be a key issue at Peterson’s trial, and they will likely rely on Maniaci’s testimony to help demonstrate there were signs Savio’s death was a homicide staged to look like an accident. Peterson’s attorneys have argued her death was accidental.
Maniaci testified on Tuesday, for example, that two nights before her body was found, he saw no bruises on her elbow, finger or buttocks like the bruises clearly visible on photographs shot of Savio after her death.
Asked if he had seen scratches on her arms two nights before, Maniaci, barely able to look at the photographs, answered quietly, “No.”
Shown a photograph of Savio in the bathtub with her hair down, Maniaci also said she always put her long hair up when she took at bath.