JOLIET, Ill. — Drew Peterson — the swaggering former suburban Chicago police officer who gained notoriety after his much-younger fourth wife vanished in 2007 — was sentenced to 38 years in prison on Thursday for murdering his third wife.
Illinois does not have the death penalty, and the 59-year-old Peterson had faced a maximum 60-year prison term.
Jurors convicted Peterson in September in Kathleen Savio’s 2004 death. Neighbors found the 40-year-old’s body in a dry bathtub at home with a gash on her head — her hair soaked in blood.
Peterson is also a suspect in the disappearance of Stacy Peterson — who was 23-years-old when she vanished — but he hasn’t been charged in her case. It was her disappearance that led authorities to take another look at Savio’s death and eventually reclassify it from an accident to a homicide.
Fascination nationwide with Peterson arose from speculation he sought to use his law enforcement expertise to get away with murder.
Judge Edward Burmila proceeded to sentencing after denying a defense request to grant Peterson a retrial. Peterson’s current attorneys contended his former lead attorney, Joel Brodsky, botched the initial trial.
Brodsky stepped down from the defense team in November, as his quarrel with Peterson’s current lawyers worsened.
Steve Greenberg was on the trial team and still represents Peterson. Greenberg says Brodsky forced Peterson to take part in a damaging pretrial media blitz and that it was Brodsky’s decision to call a witness whose testimony ended up backfiring on the defense.
Brodsky has called allegations from his former colleagues “a bald-faced lie” and insisted the entire legal team agreed on trial strategy.
A turning point at the trial came when the defense called a divorce attorney who said he spoke to Stacy Peterson before she vanished. Rather than blunting her credibility, the witness stressed to jurors that Stacy Peterson seemed to truly believe her husband killed Savio.
Before his 2009 arrest, the glib, cocky Drew Peterson seemed to taunt authorities, suggesting a “Win a Date With Drew Contest” and then, after his arrest, “Win a Conjugal Visit With Drew Contest.” More recently, his story inspired a TV movie starring Rob Lowe.