Prosecutors on Wednesday began battling Drew Peterson's attorneys over a crucial question a jury will have to answer at the former police officer's upcoming trial -- whether his third wife's death was murder or accidental.
Called by prosecutors to testify, Kathleen Savio's physician Dr. Vinod Motiani told the court there was nothing in Savio's medical history to suggest she was prone to falling. He said he never treated Savio for dizziness or for injuries suffered in a fall.
But Motiani did concede to defense attorneys that his records included at least one notation that Savio had complained about dizziness and numbness. He also read a note in his files from another physician that said "she feels very unsteady in her gait."
Peterson's attorneys were expected to bring up Savio's medical history and point out that she was taking a number of medications at the time she died and drank alcohol.
"She saw, what, eight, nine, even 10 doctors? She was on seven or eight different medications, she was exhibiting what we call 'drug seeking behavior,' getting the same prescription from many different doctors," Peterson defense attorney Joel Brodsky said outside the courthouse.
Motiani's testimony came during the sixth day of a hearing about what hearsay evidence Will County Judge Stephen White will allow at Peterson's murder trial. The doctor's testimony is particularly significant because Savio's death was initially ruled an accidental drowning in 2004. It was only after the 2007 disappearance of Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, that Savio's body was exhumed and her death was reclassified a homicide.
Peterson, a 56-year-old former Bolingbrook police officer, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Savio's death and is considered the only suspect in Stacy Peterson's disappearance.
Also called to testify Wednesday was Patrick Callaghan, an Illinois State Police special agent assigned to investigate Stacy Peterson's disappearance. He said from the outset of the investigation, Drew Peterson said he and Stacy had been having marital problems and that he believed she left him for another man.
Callaghan said Peterson told him Stacy Peterson called him the night she disappeared to say she'd left him. Callaghan also said Drew Peterson never said he was with his stepbrother Thomas Morphey that night.
Morphey earlier testified that the night Stacy Peterson disappeared he helped Drew Peterson move a blue barrel he now believes contained her body.
Callaghan also noted that when Peterson talked about his wife, he used the past tense.
"He stated she was a hot 23-year-old girl," Callaghan said. "He stated she was a good mother. Again, using 'was,' the past tense."
A minister who was scheduled to testify Wednesday will instead testify Friday.
The hearing has so far included testimony from co-workers of Savio's who described her fears that Peterson might harm her.
The hearing stems from a state law that allows a judge to admit hearsay evidence in first-degree murder cases if prosecutors can prove a defendant killed a witness to prevent him or her from testifying. The law was passed after authorities named Peterson a suspect in Stacy Peterson's disappearance and after they began re-examining Savio's death.