State Police questioned about its role in Peterson case
BY MARK BROWN firstname.lastname@example.org August 8, 2012 9:26PM
Updated: October 11, 2012 6:09PM
The Drew Peterson trial provided everything you want from a courtroom drama Wednesday: a sobbing witness, an over-the-top cross-examination by a theatrical defense attorney, a prosecutor losing his cool and a judge’s ruling so unexpected that it caused the gallery to gasp.
At the end of the day, I couldn’t tell you whether Peterson was any closer to conviction or acquittal, although I’m pretty sure Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow went home feeling a whole lot better than he had any previous day.
One big result of all this drama, however, was to drown out the impact of what had been two very bad days in court for the reputation of the Illinois State Police.
Even if you believe the defense contention that Peterson’s third wife Kathleen Savio accidentally drowned after falling and hitting her head in her bathtub in 2004, you still have to question how poorly State Police investigators performed in this case.
This is an agency that I believe is held in fairly high regard by most residents of this state (depending, of course, on how many speeding tickets they’ve collected) for the professionalism and competency of its personnel.
More than that, it’s the investigative body that other police departments turn to for help when they have a conflict or need assistance.
But in this case, rather than Savio’s death sounding the alarm on their internal radar detectors, investigators responded as if her ex-husband, a fellow police officer, deserved their automatic benefit of the doubt.
The impression of State Police bumbling during the initial investigation was only heightened Wednesday by testimony from retired Sgt. Patrick Collins that he had allowed Peterson to sit in as he interviewed now missing fourth wife Stacy Peterson.
“On our way to the basement, Drew asked me personally, he said Stacy was real shaken, still real nervous about the event that had occurred and asked me if he could sit in on the interview — some professional courtesy,” Collins testified.
Professional courtesy, huh? How about professionalism?
For some reason, Collins consented. He explained in court that’s because it was obvious that Stacy really was “shaken, distraught, upset.”
“You could see it,” he said.
Based on what we now know, I don’t doubt it for a second. I imagine she was scared out of her mind.
Defense attorney Joe Lopez helped paint the picture more completely when he tried to bring out on cross-examination that Drew was holding his and Stacy’s infant daughter during the questioning. The idea was to portray Peterson as the thoughtful, supportive husband. I had a different reaction.
Collins said Peterson sat very close to Stacy during the interview and prompted her on the answer to one question about what she’d been doing on the Saturday before Savio’s death.
Collins also testified that when he was called and sent to the scene of Savio’s death, his supervisor told him it looked like an accident. So much for going in with an open mind.
This follows Tuesday’s testimony from Robert Deel, the former State Police investigator who led the Savio death probe, that he still believes her death was an accident.
That’s his right, but it doesn’t explain why he didn’t try to immediately interview Peterson or any of Savio’s family about her death. Prosecutors also questioned why he didn’t fingerprint a can of carpet cleaner found in a bathroom cabinet.
The big drama Wednesday surrounded Judge Edward Burmila’s ruling that he will permit prosecutors to put some hearsay statements into evidence that previously he had given every indication he would disallow.
The first of these was from Kristin Anderson, a woman whose family lived briefly in Savio’s basement while construction was being completed on their new home.
Anderson, whose sobbing forced a 10-minute recess, testified Savio told her Peterson had once broken into the home in a SWAT uniform, held her at knifepoint and said he could kill her and make it look like an accident.
More important, Anderson said she called the State Police three times (confirmed by phone records) one week after Savio’s death to try to inform them.
Nobody from the State Police ever called her back — until Stacy Peterson’s disappearance three years later.