Drew Peterson Murder Trial Begins In Illinois

The Drew Peterson murder trial has begun in Illinois, where a jury will hear evidence before deciding if the former Chicago police sergeant is guilty or murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

Prosecutors opened the trial on Tuesday with an account of the alleged murder, in which they likened the scene to a 1940s pulp novel, where a man has to do everything possible (including murder) to keep his ex-wife from taking his money, reports Yahoo! News.

The defense, in turn, argued that Peterson is simply a victim of a media frenzy that resulted in prosecutors charging an innocent man. The former police sergeant is charged in the 2004 death of Savio, and is also a person of interest in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.

Mary Pontarelli was the first witness, the victim’s neighbor and friend, and the person who discovered Savio’s body in a dry bathtub, her hair drenched in blood. Pontarelli recalled:

“I saw Kathleen in the tub, ran out, threw myself on the ground and started screaming.”

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow asserted to jurors that Peterson killed Savio, and then made it look like an accident. Glasgow stated:

“Just weeks before her death, he told her he was going to kill her and she would not make it to a divorce settlement and would never get his pensions.”

Defense attorney Joel Brodsky supported Drew Peterson, his client, saying during the opening marks that Savio’s death was simply a tragic accident. He stated of the prosecution’s case that:

“You will hear nothing but myth, rumor, innuendo and hearsay. You have a man’s life in your hands … deal with facts.”

CNN notes that Peterson’s trial was originally set to begin in July 2010, but was delayed by a series of appeals, including a ruling by an Illinois appellate court, which decided that prosecutors would be able to use potentially incriminating statements made by both Savio and Stacy Peterson (Drew’s still-missing fourth wife) against him, which was a huge development in the case.

This ruling overturned a previous one by a different judge, which had forbidden prosecutors from using eight statements made by both Savio before she died and Stacy before she disappeared. The defense argued that the statements would violate Drew Peterson’s right to confront the witnesses against him, but the appellate court dismissed the notion.

Drew Peterson’s murder trial is expected to last about a month.