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Drew Peterson won’t testify in his trial on murder charges

Tom PeterssDrew Petersexits courthouse after testifying during Drew Petersmurder trial Will County Courthouse Wednesday August 29 2012 Joliet. | Matthew

Tom Peterson, son of Drew Peterson, exits the courthouse after testifying during the Drew Peterson murder trial at the Will County Courthouse Wednesday, August 29, 2012, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 1, 2012 5:05PM

Drew Peterson’s teenage son testified on his behalf, but Peterson’s missing fourth wife indirectly offered an explosive claim that the former Bolingbrook cop killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

Peterson, though, opted Wednesday not to take the witness stand as he wrapped up his defense against charges he drowned Savio in her bathtub in 2004.

“I will not testify,” Peterson told Judge Edward Burmila just before his attorneys formally concluded their defense.

Earlier, one of the witnesses called by Peterson’s defense team told jurors Stacy Peterson confided to him four days before she vanished that Peterson had killed Savio.

The hearsay evidence offered by divorce attorney Harry Smith marks the first time in the nearly five-week-long trial that jurors have heard someone testify that Peterson killed Savio.

Smith told jurors Stacy Peterson gave him that information during an Oct. 24, 2007 phone call in which she asked him to represent her when she divorced Peterson.

“She wanted to know if, in my opinion, that the fact he killed Kathy could be used against him in the divorce proceeding,” said Smith, who had represented Savio in her divorce from Drew Peterson before she died.

Defense attorneys apparently wanted to use her conversation with Smith to undermine crucial hearsay statements she made to her pastor a few months earlier — statements Rev. Neil Schori recounted for jurors earlier in Peterson’s trial.

Schori testified a tearful Stacy Peterson told him on Aug. 31, 2007 that she had been ordered by her husband to lie to police questioning her about Savio’s death — and to not tell investigators she had seen him come home late that night, dressed in black and carrying a duffel back with women’s clothing in it.

And Smith, during his testimony, repeatedly told jurors about Stacy Peterson’s claims that she could detail for police how her then-husband allegedly had murdered Savio.

“She specifically used the word ‘how’, not just the fact that he killed Kathy, but how?” Assistant State’s Attorney John Connor asked at one point.

“Yes,” replied Smith, who originally had been expected to be called as a prosecution witness.

Defense lawyers were trying to show that Stacy Peterson was lying by suggesting that her only motive was to force Peterson to grant her a better settlement.

Outside the courtroom, Peterson’s attorneys defended calling Smith as a witness, saying his testimony simply showed Stacy Peterson was willing to lie to get a better divorce settlement.

“You found out that Stacy was going to say anything to gain an advantage in the divorce she was going to file,” defense attorney Steve Greenberg said. “She had a motive to lie, she wanted a financial advantage in the divorce and that’s why she did it and the jury should know that.”

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow wouldn’t comment directly on Smith’s testimony but smiled when asked outside the courtroom if he was surprised defense attorneys called Smith as a witness.

“I’m very pleased with the way the case is going,” Glasgow said, declining to comment further.

Legal experts questioned why Peterson’s attorneys put Smith on the stand knowing he likely would describe Stacy’s claim that her husband had killed Savio.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that they’d try to take that risk knowing what could come in,” said Paul DeLuca, a former prosecutor in Cook and DuPage counties who now is in private practice. “It sounds like a big gaffe.”

Even Smith said he was surprised Peterson’s attorneys called him as a witness.

Smith testified that Stacy during their phone call said she believed Drew Peterson had been keeping tabs on her location using the GPS system on her cell phone.

Stacy, though, said “she had too much s--- on him for him to do anything to her,” Smith told jurors.

Smith said he warned Stacy that she could be arrested if she pursued her plan to try to win a better divorce settlement by threatening Peterson about Savio’s death.

“What could she be arrested for?” defense attorney Joel Brodsky asked.

“Concealing a homicide,” Smith replied.

Peterson concluded his defense by calling his 19-year-old son, Tom, to describe the weekend Savio was discovered dead.

The younger Peterson, the eldest of two boys Peterson had with Savio, said his father was “very shaken up” when he told his sons their mother had died.

“I’ve never seen anyone so sad in my life,” said Tom Peterson, now a student at the University of Pennsylvania.

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