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Pathologists to take the stand in Drew Peterson murder trial

John Patsch/Staff Photographer 02/19/10 Dr. Michael Baden last perstestify leaves Will County Courthouse.

John Patsch/Staff Photographer 02/19/10 Dr. Michael Baden, the last person to testify, leaves the Will County Courthouse.

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Updated: September 15, 2012 6:23AM

Drew Peterson’s murder trial is expected to shift this week to critical — and disturbingly graphic — medical testimony by pathologists who examined the exhumed remains of Kathleen Savio.

Will County prosecutors will call Dr. Larry Blum to bolster the hearsay evidence they’ve so far offered from four witnesses about threats and attacks Peterson allegedly made against his third wife.

Blum is expected to testify later this week that he believes Savio’s March 1, 2004 drowning death was a murder, not an accident as a coroner’s inquest determined following an autopsy by a different pathologist.

Blum conducted a second autopsy in November 2007 after Savio was exhumed, determining that her death and other injuries he found on her body — including a one-inch-long cut on her head — weren’t caused by an accidental fall in her bathtub.

Blum also said in an earlier hearing that the position of Savio’s body — turned on her left side in the tub with her knees bent — didn’t result from a fall.

Dr. Michael Baden, another pathologist who examined Savio’s exhumed remains, also is expected to offer similar testimony if he is called by prosecutors.

Their findings will be vital if prosecutors are to convince jurors that Peterson murdered his 40-year-old ex-wife, legal experts said.

“The pathology is going to be very significant. That could be the whole case,” said Paul DeLuca, a former prosecutor in Cook and DuPage counties who is not involved in Peterson’s case.

Peterson’s attorneys have said they will call their own medical experts, who will dispute any evidence Savio was murdered and reaffirm the original determination that Savio’s death was an accident.

Jurors won’t hear directly from the pathologist who performed the first autopsy: Dr. Bryan Mitchell died in 2010.

Defense attorneys also are expected to attack the revised autopsy findings for a variety of reasons, including that Savio’s body had badly deteriorated — in part because her coffin had allowed water to seep in — before her remains were exhumed.

Still, Blum and Baden said in earlier court testimony they were able to find bruises on Savio’s hands, chest and torso that didn’t appear to have been caused by a fall.

Baden, though, is expected to be vigorously questioned by defense attorneys because he announced his findings on a Fox TV news program after being asked by Savio’s family to review her death.

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