Kathleen Savio's relatives talked of heartbreak and suffering as a sentencing hearing got underway today after Drew Peterson was denied a new trial for Savio's murder in 2004.
“My loss of my baby sister is beyond words. There will be no more birthday parties, backyard gatherings, holiday celebrations or other family activities to share,” Savio’s sister Anna Marie Savio-Doman said. “The laughter, hugs, guidance, advice, sense of security and those opportunities to say, ‘I love you’ are forever gone.
“One of the hardest things for me is knowing the pain and fear that Kathleen must have suffered at the time of her murder. The horror and betrayal she must have felt when she realized that someone she had trusted and loved more than anything was actually killing her. I wonder if she could feel her heart breaking when she thought about leaving her two boys forever. The helplessness she must have felt knowing she was going to die.
“I have to say it hurts a lot. I hope it gets better, but I am not confident it will get better. I still talk to her. I hope she can hear me.”
Susan Doman described her sister as a “rock” and told the court she looked up to Savio, even though Savio was younger. She also expressed her anger toward Peterson.
“He showed no remorse,” she said. “For years I watched Peterson parade on TV, radio, photo shoots, and (that) radio promotion to win a date with him. That was a big joke to him. And he loved all the attention.
“Your honor, the defendant shows no remorse to this day for the horrible crime that he did to my sister Kathleen. This senseless action is inexcusable. I am placing my trust that you will give Kathleen justice once and for all.”
The judge also read a statement from Savio’s father, but not aloud.
Peterson, 59, was convicted last fall of drowning his third wife in her bathtub. The former Bolingbrook police sergeant faces 20-60 years in prison.
In arguing for a maximum sentence, Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow reminded the judge about the damage done to his young children with Peterson’s missing fourth wife, Stacy. Prosecutors have said they believe Peterson killed Stacy and could seek charges in that case.
"Not only is their mother gone, but also their father is gone, as he sits before you," Glasgow said.
Glasgow said Peterson also should not get a break for living a law abiding life because of his attacks on his second wife, when he threatened to kill her.
"There's a recurring them here with Mr. Peterson. He’s a police officer, and there's a number of occurrences with the victims here being afraid to call the police department.
"These are obviously very dangerous situation, and in this case, led to the demise of two young women."
Peterson’s second wife, Vikki Montgomery, in 1992, woke up in the middle of the night and found him standing over her, staring at her.
"You want to terrorize a women, that's how you do it. You let her know that any time, any place, she's yours. And that's what he did."
Glasgow noted that Peterson has a letter from a women's shelter thanking him for assisting victims of domestic violence.
"'It is apparent that you take domestic violence as a terrible criminal act,'" Glasgow said, quoting the letter. "It is incredibly ironic that this is in his packet, when his actions in his private life were completely the opposite case."
Glasgow said that Peterson, as a police officer, had a duty to serve and protect other people, but instead abused his authority and used it to intimidate, cause harm and cover up his actions.
"Obviously he violated that oath at the highest level. He betrayed the public trust, the sacred trust. And that, judge, is what I think you can place the highest weight on when you contemplate an appropriate sentence in this case.
"This sentence needs to send a very strong message that...this breach of trust continually throughout his career will not be tolerated.
"We would ask for a sentence in the higher range of what is available," Glasgow said.
Defense attorney Joseph Lopez then argued for a lenient sentence for his client.
Lopez reminded the judge that Peterson will have to serve 100 percent of his sentence, not a percentage of it. And he reminded the judge that the primary goal of prison is "restoring a person to useful citizenship."
"Another goal of sentencing, as the court knows, is deterrence," Lopez said.
But crimes committed by jealous lovers or spouses happen all the time, and sending Peterson, who maintains his innocence, to prison for the rest of his life won't stop that, Lopez said.
"This is as old as the beginning of the birth of emotions such as jealously and rage," Lopez said. "It's not going to have any deterrent, because it happens over and over again."
Lopez said that even a 20 year sentence -- the minimum in this case -- may be a life sentence for Peterson.
The fact that Peterson has no prior criminal history, either as a juvenile or an adult, is a reason for the judge to consider a lower sentence, Lopez said.
"The state is right: Drew has led a law abiding life until this moment, or I should say, until the moment he was convicted," he said. "But Drew has done some good things in his life."
He began working for Burger King at age 15, then a shoe store, and then entered the U.S. Army after a stint in junior college studying law enforcement. He attained the rank of Private E-4 before he was honorably discharged as a military police officer, Lopez said.
He applied for job with Bolingbrook Police Department in 1975 while still in the Army, and after he was hired, gained a reputation as a thorough investigator who was willing to help less experienced officers, Lopez said.
Even Glasgow commended him in a 1994 letter thanking him for his efforts that led to the conviction of a man who killed his wife, Lopez said.
"Professionally, on the street, Mr. Peterson was a good police officer.
"He did this for 30 years, and that has to be something that the court takes into consideration."
"Every couple has arguments, and some are more volatile than others," he said, referring to Peterson's alleged attacks on his second wife, Victoria Connelly, and Savio prior to her death.
He argued that the judge should not make too much of that, noting that some couples handle disputes differently than others.
Lopez also said the judge should look at Peterson's relationships with his children, one of whom -- Tom -- testified on his father's behalf at trial. Kathleen Savio is Tom’s mother.
"Drew loved his children more than he hated any of the women in this case," Lopez said. "He would never do anything to hurt his children."
And Drew is not going to commit any other crimes and still maintains Savio's death was an accident, Lopez said.
"There's still no physical evidence that Drew Peterson did anything to Kathy Savio."
Lopez argued that an excessive sentence would create great hardship for his children.
"They'd be deprived of having any real relationship with their father," he said. "If the court gave him a sentence of 20, (the younger) children would be adults by the time he gets out of prison.
"Some people might argue he has only himself to blame, it's his fault...they can argue that all they want, but it still hurts the children."
Defense attorneys had argued their client deserved a new trial because former lead attorney Joel Brodsky’s inept performance violated Peterson’s right to a fair trial. But Judge Edward Burmila denied their motion this afternoon after two days of arguments.
"It was clear to the court from the very beginning that Mr. Brodsky was out of his depth," Burmila said. But the judge noted that Peterson was represented by five other attorneys. "Each of these attorneys brought something to the table."
As they entered the courthouse this afternoon, Peterson’s attorneys had expressed confidence they would be granted a new trial. Attorneys David Peilet and Steve Greenberg said their arguments regarding ineffective counsel and conflict of interest were powerful reasons to grant a new trial.
“I’m not much of a prognosticator, but if we don’t get a new trial here, we’ll get one from the next court,” said Greenberg.
The hearing on a motion for a new trial began Tuesday and centered primarily on Brodsky's trial decision to call Wheaton divorce attorney Harry Smith, who represented Savio in her bitter divorce fight with Peterson and also fielded a call from Stacy about her divorce options shortly before she vanished.
Smith testified at trial that Stacy had asked him if the fact that Peterson killed his third wife could be used as leverage in a divorce.
Several jurors said after trial that the testimony convinced them of Peterson's guilt. There was no physical evidence tying Peterson to Savio's death, which was initially treated as an accident.
“It was an awful decision,” defense attorney Steve Greenberg argued in court. “It ruined the case -- we brought out the worst possible evidence, and the best evidence for the state.”
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