Family in home where Savio died can’t wait till Drew’s trial is over
By Janet Lundquist firstname.lastname@example.org July 13, 2012 11:16PM
Kathleen Savio, dated sometime in the early 2000s. (Photo courtesy Marsha Savio)
Updated: August 17, 2012 6:51AM
World, meet Rodolfo and Marleni Hernandez.
They’re the Bolingbrook couple who, eight years ago, unwittingly bought ground zero of former cop Drew Peterson’s upcoming murder trial in the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
At the time, the Hernandezes didn’t know they were buying a crime scene, including the bathtub where Savio’s body was found.
While attention is focusing on Peterson’s upcoming trial, they just wish all the police, lawyers, pesky reporters and curious bystanders would just go away.
The Hernandez family doesn’t like the publicity that comes with owning the home and they didn’t want their pictures in the newspaper.
“I hope the truth comes up, whatever it is,” Marleni Hernandez said. “I hope everything ends, too. No more nobody coming here.”
Savio’s body was found in the bathtub of the home in March 2004.
In May 2004, her death was ruled an accident by a Will County coroner’s jury.
About six months later, Peterson sold the home, where his estranged wife had lived during their divorce, to the Hernandezes.
He attended the closing and told them that he was selling the house because his kids liked the swimming pool at his other house down the street, Marleni Hernandez said.
They didn’t know someone had died there until three years after they moved into the house on Pheasant Chase Drive. They awoke one morning in 2007 to a crush of media outside taking pictures and videotaping their home.
That’s when they learned Savio had been found dead in their bathtub.
“I felt like, ‘Whoa.’ I was not in shock, but I didn’t know somebody was killed here,” Marleni Hernandez said. “We were surprised.”
Peterson is charged with killing Savio, and his murder trial is scheduled to begin July 23 in Will County.
Peterson says Savio drowned in the tub after she slipped and hit her head.
In 2007, after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy , went missing, sparking a national media frenzy, investigators reopened Savio’s case.
Police have said that Peterson is a suspect in Stacy Peterson’s disappearance.
Since then, the Hernandez house has been visited by police, prosecutors, reporters and random sightseers.
The visits became more frequent in May 2009 after Peterson was arrested and charged with murdering Savio.
Investigators removed the bathtub where Savio’s body was found and other evidence from the house.
The family was compensated for the items that were taken, said Charles B. Pelkie, spokesman for the Will County state’s attorney’s office.
“They had no idea when they bought the house,” said Harold Edwards, who lives two houses down. He said he has seen investigators walk out of the house with rolls of carpet under their arms.
“Can you imagine moving there and your house is being picked apart?” he said.
The news that Savio had been found dead in the house was a real jolt for the couple, said Charo Fiorenzo, the real estate agent who helped the couple buy the house in November 2004.
“I understood that [Marleni] got very nervous, she didn’t want to go in the bathroom anymore,” Fiorenzo said. “[Rodolfo] said all the cops were there, the newspapers. They removed the tub and they had a big hole in the bathroom.”
At the time of the sale, none of them knew there had been a death in the house, Fiorenzo said.
In Illinois, property owners or real estate agents are not required to disclose a death in a building for sale.
Recently, prosecutors raised the idea of bringing the bathtub into the courtroom for jurors to see during the trial — or reinstalling the tub in the Hernandez house and allowing jurors to walk through and look at it.
Judge Edward Burmila balked at the reinstallation idea, saying he didn’t want to impose on the Hernandez family.
With the trial rapidly approaching, the Hernandezes and their neighbors are bracing for another onslaught of media and curious bystanders.
Edwards, who has lived in his house since 1999, said people had come by, asking him to point out Savio’s former home.
Edwards said he is reserving judgment on Peterson.
“I know Drew. He’s a quirky guy,” Edwards said, adding that he did not know Savio well.
“I feel the guy is innocent until proven guilty,” he said
Marleni Hernandez said she didn’t know many details of the investigation.
“I’m not a news person,” she said.
And, she said, the less she knows, the better.
“I don’t know if he’s guilty,” she said.
“If it was an accident, well, accidents happen. But if it wasn’t, if somebody did it, that’s bad,” she said.
Rodolfo Hernandez said the media frenzy from several years ago was “crazy.”
He said he’s not spending much time thinking about the upcoming trial, though he is scheduled to testify.
“I don’t know” if Peterson is guilty, he said. “Ask the judge, don’t ask me.”
The Hernandezes’ next-door neighbor, who declined to comment, saying the subject was too difficult, told Marleni Hernandez that Savio was a sweet person.
“They said she was a good mother, friendly. A good person,” Marleni Hernandez said. “She was like an angel, they said.”