JOLIET, ILLINOIS — Former Bolingbrook police sergeant Drew Peterson on Thursday was found guilty of murder in the 2004 death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
A jury of seven men and five women had deliberated since 9:37 a.m. Wednesday morning before reaching a verdict around 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
Peterson, who has been jailed since May 2009, was stoic as the guilty verdict was read, but audible gasps could be heard in the courtroom. He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 26 and faces a range of 20 years to 60 years in prison.
Peterson was charged with killing Savio in her bathtub on March 1, 2004, as they were going through a divorce. Initially, the Will County Coroner’s office ruled Savio’s death an accidental drowning. But her death was reclassified as a homicide after an exhumation and a new autopsy, following the disappearance of Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, in October 2007.
“Game over, Drew,” Cassandra Cales, sister of Stacy Peterson, told reporters after the verdict. “He can wipe the smirk off his face. It’s time to pay.”
Peterson’s defense team vowed to appeal. They had long criticized the prosecution’s use of hearsay evidence, which effectively allowed Stacy Peterson to speak from beyond the grave and incriminate her husband in Savio’s death. State lawmakers passed legislation that allowed the hearsay evidence at trial.
“You know what they say: A conviction is a first step in a successful appeal,” Joel Brodsky, Peterson’s lead defense attorney, said.
Brodsky said Peterson was philosophical when he talked with his client earlier Thursday. “Drew said to me, ‘Whatever the verdict, we did the greatest job we could,’” the attorney said.
Peterson’s attorneys conceded the former police sergeant was an unpopular figure.
Jurors said they would not talk with the media, but released a collective statement through a Will County sheriff’s spokesman.
“We would like to thank Judge Burmila, the bailiffs and the Will County Sheriff’s Department for the duration of this trial,” the statement said. “We have taken the responsibility bestowed upon us by the court with a great deal of solemnity and diligence. After much deliberation, we have reached a decision we believe was just.”
Family members of Savio were emotional but elated at the verdict, outside the Will County Courthouse.
“I’ll never have my sister again — I still have to visit her at the cemetery — but at least I know she got justice,” Nick Savio, Kathleen Savio’s half-brother, told reporters.
Investigators believe Stacy Peterson is dead, and have named Drew Peterson as a person of interest in her disappearance. He has not been charged with a crime in that case.
Pam Bosco, a spokeswoman for Stacy Peterson’s family, said a second prosecution is coming.
“Stacy’s case is right around the corner — I truly believe that,” said Bosco, who thanked the jury members for their decision.
The Will County State’s Attorney’s office prosecuted the case with no physical evidence linking Peterson to Savio’s death, instead building a heavily circumstantial case that relies on “hearsay” statements that Peterson threatened to kill Savio.
As the courtroom filled for the reading of the verdict, Burmila told attendees to respect decorum.
“This is a courtroom, court is in session, there won’t be any reaction one way or another … if for no other reason than to respect the deceased,” the judge said.