JOLIET – Moments after he screamed in court, “I did not kill Kathleen,” Drew Peterson was sentenced Thursday to 38 years in prison for the 2004 murder of his third wife Kathleen Savio.
Peterson had faced as much as 60 years, but Judge Edward Burmila said he gave Peterson some consideration for his years as a police officer and his service in the military.
The sentence was handed down after Peterson, who did not testify at this trial, made an emotional appeal to the judge, at times appearing to choke up.
Peterson began by telling the judge, “Good day, my name is Drew Peterson. I hope I don’t aggravate the situation here, but I have a lot of things to be said.” Then he screamed, “I did not kill Kathleen!”
“Yes, you did,” a woman said.
“Ma’am, I’d like you to leave the courtroom,” Burmila said. “And Mr. Peterson, don’t make any outbursts that are designed to aggravate people.”
“I’m sorry, your honor. I must have been woozy,” Peterson said.
Peterson said he was the victim of an unjust and invasive police investigation that ignored or lost evidence that could have shown his innocence. He accused the state police of falsifying police reports.
“What they did uncover was rumors, gossip, outrageous lies and, most importantly, unreliable hearsay. Hearsay that pierced three privileges that have stood for centuries,” Peterson said.
Peterson bitterly complained that the Rev. Neil Schori betrayed his promise never to repeat anything that was said by Peterson or his missing fourth wife, Stacy. Schori had testified at the trial.
Savio’s divorce attorney Harry Smith, who testified about a conversation with Stacy before she disappeared, “gave up privileged information from both Kathy and Stacy, like it was yesterday’s garbage,” he said. “Ultimately, it led to my conviction.
“Hearsay is a scary thing. There’s no proof. Anything can be said and nobody’s accountable for the truth,” Peterson said.
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.”
Peterson, 59, was convicted last fall of drowning his third wife in her bathtub.
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.
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.”