Former police officer Drew Peterson's ex-wife told her sister six weeks before her death that she believed he would kill her, then begged her sister to take care of her two sons, the sister testified Friday.
Anna Doman provided the trial's first testimony including what prosecutors have called "from the grave" statements -- comments Peterson's ex-wife Kathleen Savio allegedly made to others about him threatening to kill her well before her body was found in her bathtub.
Peterson is charged with first-degree murder in the 2004 drowning death of Savio, his third wife. He was charged in Savio's death after his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing in 2007.
Hearsay evidence about what Savio allegedly said to other people is crucial to prosecutors, who have acknowledged they have no physical evidence linking Peterson to Savio's death.
"She said that Drew told her he was going to kill her, she was not going to make it to the divorce settlement, she would not get his pension or his children," said Doman, referring to what prosecutors have said was a settlement involving two homes, a tavern Peterson and Savio owned and Peterson's pension from his career as a Bolingbrook police officer. "She made me promise over and over that I would take care of her boys, over and over (she said), 'I want to hear you say it because everything's going to them.'"
Hearsay, or statements not based on the direct knowledge of a witness, is not usually admissible in court. But Illinois judges can allow in murder trials under certain circumstances.
Doman's testimony was the most dramatic so far in the trial that, since beginning Monday, has been beset by a series of prosecutorial blunders that prompted the judge to seriously consider granting a request by Peterson's attorneys to declare a mistrial.
But during intense cross examination, Doman acknowledged she didn't tell police about Savio's alleged comments until three years later, shortly after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared. Peterson has been named a suspect in that disappearance but has not been charged.
"You sat on that for three years," defense attorney Joe Lopez said to Doman, who acknowledged never voicing any suspicions about Peterson to the county coroner or police after Savio died. She also said she invited Peterson and his sons to a banquet at a Polish hall shortly after Savio's death.
Doman did not dispute Lopez's assertion that when she did come forward with details and documents about Savio, it was not to police, but to a producer from Greta Van Susteren's cable television show — one of many media representatives who descended on Peterson's Bolingbrook home after Stacy Peterson disappeared.
Doman said "no one would listen" when she tried to call police but she acknowledged she did not have any documentation of the calls she said she made. She also quietly admitted under cross-examination that after her sister's death she never tried to get custody of Savio's children or even contact them or send them birthday or Christmas cards.
Doman's testimony was cut short Friday after the judge recessed the court because of a sick juror. A male juror had been repeatedly coughing and testimony had been interrupted several times to let him recover.
Before the recess prosecutors had planned to call a retired Illinois State Police sergeant who was in charge of the investigation of Savio's death and a crime scene technician who responded to Savio's house the night her body was found.
Judge Edward Burmila said the trial would reconvene Tuesday.
- Day 1: Peterson Trial Begins with Different Explanations of Savio's Death
- Day 2: Judge Could Declare Mistrial in Peterson Case
- Day 3: Judge Denies Motion for Mistrial in Peterson Case