Drew Peterson Jury Says Hearsay Convinced Them to Convict

Peterson was convicton Thursday of killing his wife, Kathleen Savio.

September 7, 2012, 3:05 PM

Sept. 7, 2012— -- Eleven members of the Drew Peterson jury were convinced by the end of the first day of deliberations that the former cop had murdered his wife, despite the absence of physical evidence or eyewitnesses tying him to the crime.

According to Eduardo Saldana, the foreman of the Joliet, Ill., jury that convicted Peterson on Thursday of first-degree murder, the group quickly coalesced around the idea that Kathleen Savio was murdered.

"When the deliberations began, we first talked about what the doctors had to say, and we pretty much all agreed that it was a homicide. We did not think the death was accidental. After that it was just getting things right," Saldana, 22, told reporters at a juror press conference today.

The case revolved around the fact the Savio's 2004 death was initially categorized as accidental after she was found dead in her bathtub. It was only in 2007, when Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy, mysteriously disappeared, that police exhumed Savio's body and reexamined it. Forensic experts changed their findings to death by homicide and police charged Peterson. He has not been charged in the case of Stacy, who is still missing.

Juror Teresa Mathews said that the jury had their own theories about how Peterson might have killed Savio, though they said they would never know for sure.

"We have some theories about how it could have happened. She was grabbed from behind, and could have possibly stuck her head under bathroom sink and got that big gash on the back of her head. Otherwise she was drowned in the toilet, and broke both clavicles in toilet," Mathews said.

The jurors said that the most convincing testimony was hearsay statements allowed into evidence under a new law, known as "Drew's Law," named after Peterson. Prosecutors successfully fought to have statements made by Stacy Peterson and Savio to acquaintances admitted into evidence.

Drew and Stacy Peterson had begun dating and were living together at the time of Savio's death in 2004, while Savio and Drew were divorcing. Stacy made statements to her pastor and, later, to a divorce attorney about Drew's behavior the weekend Savio died.

It was the testimony of Stacy Peterson's pastor, Rev. Neil Schori, and her divorce attorney, Harry Smith, that was most important to the jury, Saldana said. Stacy Peterson told Schori that she woke up in the middle of the night and could not find Drew, and that he later showed up near the washing machine in their home, with women's clothing.

"When Stacy couldn't find him, and he showed up by the washing machine with women's clothing and told her she was going to be interviewed by police, that was kind of key evidence," Mathews said.

"One thing Drew said when he was going up the stairs [that night] was, 'they're going to think I did it.' That kind of confirmed it for us," Saldana added.

"The hearsay was the biggest part about this," Saldana said. "Neil Schori opened things up, but the lawyer's testimony was the thing that got us the most."

Saldana also said that the jury was distrustful of the police officers who initially investigated Savio's death and ruled that it was an accident. Drew Peterson was a Bolingbrook, Ill., police sergeant at the time of Savio's death.

"We thought any death should be investigated fully, that they should take their time. From the testimony, it was 10, 20 minutes that (the death investigator) was at the scene before he left, and we felt that was really wrong," Saldana said.

Mathews said that when the jury first began deliberations, seven people were convinced of Peterson's guilt, four jurors thought he was not guilty, and one was undecided. They said the disagreements mainly revolved around how to treat the hearsay statements. The group then asked the judge to have the hearsay testimony reread to them.

Mathews also took credit for the jurors' decision to wear coordinated outfits for much of the trial.

"There was no message. Just one day I said, 'hey do you want to wear blue tomorrow?'" Mathews said, laughing. "We spent a lot of time together and got along well, and we spent more time in the jury room than the court room, so we just would talk about what we wanted to wear and got the judge's clear."

"We were bored," Saldana added.

The jury reached their guilty verdict after two days of deliberations, following six weeks of testimony in the case against the former Illinois cop.

A third juror, Jeremy Massduy, also appeared at the press conference. He said that jurors had some knowledge of the Stacy Peterson case, even though lawyers were barred from mentioning it during the trial.

"We judged (him) based on evidence presented during case," Massduy said.

One alternate juror, Patricia Timkey, attended the conference. She said that if she had been in the deliberation room, she would have voted to convict Peterson as well.