Pathologist says Drew Peterson’s ex-wife didn’t accidentally drown in tub
BY DAN ROZEK, JANET LUNDQUIST AND JON SEIDEL Staff Reporters August 15, 2012 6:12AM
Drew Peterson (left) is on trial in the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
Updated: September 17, 2012 12:51PM
A fall against the smooth, rounded edges of the empty tub where she was found dead couldn’t have caused the bloody, inch-long cut on the back of Kathleen Savio’s head.
Nor could it have inflicted the half-dozen fresh abrasions on her arms, buttocks and back -- none more than an hour old when she died, a pathologist testified Wednesday at Drew Peterson’s murder trial.
Even the blood streaks staining Savio’s face when she was discovered on March 1, 2004, prove she didn’t drown in the tub of her Bolingbrook home, Dr. Larry Blum said Wednesday.
“It would be impossible for that to occur if her face was down in the water at the time,” said Blum, who conducted an autopsy on Savio’s body after it was exhumed in 2007.
His testimony will continue Thursday, but he gave beleaguered Will County prosecutors a boost on a day that began with them waiting nervously to see if Judge Edward Burmila would order a mistrial after Assistant State’s Attorney Kathleen Patton previously had asked an improper, prejudicial question.
That issue fizzled when Peterson’s attorneys abruptly withdrew their demand for a mistrial, saying instead they wanted to continue with the same seven-man, five-woman jury.
Despite another stumble Wednesday when Blum briefly mentioned crawling into the tub while examining it -- prompting a sharp warning from Burmila, who earlier had barred such statements -- prosecutors were upbeat about the impact of his detailed testimony.
“We had an incredibly strong afternoon,” Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said after court concluded Wednesday.
Glasgow for the first time even went on the attack outside the courtroom, criticizing defense attorneys for their repeated attempts to have Burmila declare a mistrial and toss out the case against the former Bolingbrook cop.
“It’s overkill. Every time anything happens, they want the death penalty,” Glasgow said, referring to the three mistrial requests so far by Peterson’s attorneys. “It’s not going to happen and we’re going to keep coming.”
Peterson’s attorneys brushed off the complaint, saying Glasgow needs to “play fair.”
They pointed to Burmila’s repeated tongue-lashing of prosecutors as proof their objections haven’t been out of line.
“Clearly, he’s upset that the state keeps violating his court orders,” defense attorney Joe Lopez said.
While Peterson doesn’t want a mistrial ruling that would require starting a new trial with a new jury, Lopez didn’t rule out another such request if prosecutors make another misstep.
“Depends on what they do next,” Lopez said.
Blum’s dramatic, detailed testimony about the death of Peterson’s third wife largely pushed aside the courtroom battles over legal procedures that had threatened to end the trial.
Projecting graphic, color photos taken during Savio’s initial 2004 autopsy on a wall of the courtroom, Blum described a series of bruises on Savio’s chest, hip and shins he said appeared to have occurred within 24 hours of her death. Abrasions and scrapes he noted on her back, buttocks and arms appeared even fresher, likely occurring within an hour of her death.
His testimony runs counter to arguments by Peterson’s attorneys that the 40-year-old Savio could have sustained some of the scrapes while having sex with her boyfriend three nights before she was discovered dead.
Peterson frequently glanced up as photos of his ex-wife were displayed on the wall for jurors, then turned back to take notes as Blum testified.
Though defense attorneys have argued Savio died accidentally from a fall in her tub, Blum said medical evidence doesn’t support that claim.
Blood that trickled from the cut on Savio’s head couldn’t have stained her face if she had drowned while submerged in water, Blum said.
He acknowledged the blood could have continued trickling from her wound even after her death, but only “for a matter of minutes.”
Based on the initial 2004 autopsy, a coroner’s inquest initially ruled Savio’s death an accident, with Illinois State Police investigators concluding water in the tub seeped out through a leaky drain before her body was discovered.
Her body was exhumed and her death reclassified a homicide only in 2007 after the disappearance of Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy.
A spokeswoman for Stacy Peterson’s family said Blum’s testimony was crucial to proving Savio was murdered.
“The bruises and the abrasions on her body speak volumes to the jury, and the defense team cannot hide that,” Bosco said, adding the injuries detected by Blum show Savio was “brutalized” before dying.
“The horror of what Kathleen must have endured that night is painful, it’s painful,” Bosco said.