Pathologist spends day on the hot seat in Drew Peterson murder trial
BY DAN ROZEK AND JON SEIDEL Staff Reporters August 16, 2012 6:36AM
Larry Blum, the pathologist who examined Kathleen Savio's body after she was exhumed in 2007, is seen on day 11 of the Drew Peterson murder trial Thursday, August 16, 2012, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 18, 2012 6:14AM
Well into his second day on the witness stand, the pathologist who examined Kathleen Savio’s body after she was exhumed in 2007 turned down an offer from one of Drew Peterson’s defense attorneys for a break from cross examination.
“I know I’m not making you sweat,” defense attorney Ralph Meczyk said.
“Not now,” Larry Blum answered.
Hours earlier, Blum had told Peterson’s jurors the former Bolingbrook cop’s third wife’s death was a homicide. It’s a key piece of testimony for the jury to hear, considering Savio’s death was originally ruled an accident after her dead body was discovered in her dry bathtub March 1, 2004.
But then Blum spent the majority of his second day on the witness stand trying to withstand a long, aggressive, technical and scientific interrogation from Meczyk. The lawyer took several swipes at Blum — once accusing him of making a “lame excuse” — and he seemed to only talk louder as Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow bellowed objections toward the judge.
“You don’t have to scream at me,” Meczyk told Glasgow at one point.
Jurors looked weary by the time it ended, but Meczyk managed to get Blum to admit to the jury that three doctors disagree with his conclusion. Later, Glasgow said he and Meczyk shook hands outside the courtroom, and Glasgow said there are “no personal hard feelings whatsoever.”
“We had a real strong day today,” Glasgow said when asked about Blum’s testimony. “Some very important forensic evidence came in. I think it’s a real turning point.”
But Peterson’s attorneys said Blum’s testimony is just an opinion that other experts will disagree with.
“There’s other opinions,” defense attorney Steve Greenberg said. “The contradiction in opinions raises a reasonable doubt right there.”
With Blum’s testimony finished, Peterson’s trial is now expected to turn to the testimony of Scott Rossetto, a friend of Peterson’s missing fourth wife, Stacy. He’s expected to bolster prosecutors’ claims that Peterson forced Stacy to lie about how he spent the weekend of Savio’s death — and lie to provide him with an alibi.
Prosecutors might also be closer to convincing Judge Edward Burmila to let them tell jurors about an alleged $25,000 offer Peterson made to a co-worker to have Savio killed.
That subject prompted the first of three mistrial requests from Peterson’s attorneys when Glasgow brought it up in his opening statement.
Blum told jurors Thursday that Savio did indeed die of drowning, but he said the only conclusion to draw from the evidence was that Savio’s death was a homicide.
He said it is “extremely rare” for a middle-age adult to drown in a bathtub, and he said the positioning of Savio’s body didn’t gel with the theory of an accidental fall.
“As you fall, you sprawl,” your arms spread out automatically to protect yourself, he said. Savio’s body, though, was found curled up in an almost fetal position.
But Meczyk confronted Blum with the findings of the late pathologist Bryan Mitchell. He’s the man who examined Savio’s body after she was found dead in her bathtub March 1, 2004, and who purportedly said at the time her back and buttocks were “free of significant injury.”
Finally, he pointed out Blum didn’t investigate what happened to Savio in the last 24 hours of her life. Under Meczyk’s questioning Blum admitted he didn’t know if Savio bumped into a drawer before she died, or even if some of her injuries could have been caused by “aggressive sex” which the defense has said could have caused some of Savio’s injuries.
“I suppose it’s within the realm of possibility,” Blum said.
Blum on Wednesday said a fall against the smooth, rounded edges of the empty tub where Savio was found dead couldn’t have caused the bloody, inch-long cut on the back of her head. Nor could it have inflicted the half-dozen fresh scrapes found on her arms, buttocks and back — none more than an hour old when she died.
Even the blood streaks staining Savio’s face when she was discovered prove she didn’t drown in the tub of her Bolingbrook home, Blum said.
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 in 2007 only after Stacy Peterson vanished.