JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Just two days after his third wife's body was found, Drew Peterson sat on a card-table chair next to his tearful fourth wife and corrected at least one of her answers as state police interviewed her about the death, the lead investigator told jurors on Wednesday.
The dramatic testimony came as prosecutors in Peterson's murder trial continued to try to show that the initial investigation into the 2004 drowning of 40-year-old Kathleen Savio was badly botched and that investigators overlooked potentially key evidence as they rallied to protect a fellow officer from scrutiny.
Peterson — charged in Savio's death only after his fourth wife, 23-year-old Stacy Peterson, went missing in 2007 — had his hand on Stacy's knee and his arm around her shoulder during the interview in the basement of the couple's home, retired Illinois State Police sergeant Patrick Collins said.
"He sat very close to Stacy as we proceeded to ask questions," Collins recalled. "She was very distraught."
Also Wednesday, a key prosecution witness broke down and left the courtroom sobbing after she started to talk about how Savio once said Peterson had bragged that, "'I could kill you and make it look like an accident.'"
When Savio's friend returned, she told jurors in detail how Savio described how Peterson broke into her house and made the ominous threat at knife point. Anderson, who lived at Savio's house temporarily, said Savio was so afraid that she kept a knife herself under her mattress.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Joel Brodsky raised his voice, pressing Anderson repeatedly about why — if the threat was so unsettling — she didn't move out.
"You didn't move out, did you? ... You didn't call the police either ... You did nothing ... because you didn't believe her, that's why," Brodsky shouted over the objection of prosecutors.
"Sir, no one listened to Kathy," Anderson added later. The judge told jurors to disregard that.
Earlier in the day, Drew Peterson, 58, sat forward attentively while Collins was on the stand, once standing up during cross examination and appearing to suggest a question to his attorney.
According to Collins, Drew Peterson asked if he could sit in on the 2004 interview as a "professional courtesy," and the 26-year state police veteran agreed. Collins conceded it was unusual to let one potential witness sit in on the interview of another, saying he had never done it before and never did it again.
Outside observers may be inclined to link Savio's death to Stacy Peterson's disappearance, but jurors aren't supposed to make any such links. The presiding judge has prohibited prosecutors from telling jurors Stacy Peterson is presumed dead or that Drew Peterson is a suspect in her disappearance. He is not charged.
During the 2004 interview at the Petersons' home, located just blocks from Savio's house where she was found dead in her bathtub, Stacy Peterson became increasingly emotional, Collins testified.
"She became shaken and started to cry," Collins said. "And (so) we shut the interview down." He said that was the first and last time he ever interviewed her.
During cross-examination, Brodsky suggested that Stacy Peterson was upset — not because she might have thought Savio was murdered, but that Savio's death meant she would also have to care for Savio's two children.
Collins and other investigators who arrived at Savio's house on March 1, 2004, after her body was found have testified that they quickly concluded she died from an accidental fall. As a result, they didn't bother trying to collect fingerprints, strands of hair, blood or any other physical evidence.
Follow Michael Tarm at www.twitter.com/mtarm