JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Drew Peterson's murder trial began Tuesday with dueling stories.
Prosecutors gave jurors an account that could have come from a 1940s pulp novel, in which a man does whatever he must — including murder — to keep his ex-wife's hands off his money.
On the other side, Peterson's attorneys argued the former cop was a victim of something newer: a 24-hour news cycle and cable TV's talking heads, which together created a media frenzy that did not subside until prosecutors had charged an innocent man.
Peterson is charged with first-degree murder in the 2004 death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. He is suspected but not charged in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.
Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow told jurors that Peterson, 58, killed Savio, 40, and made it look like an accident.
"Just weeks before her death, he told her he was going to kill her and she would not make it to a divorce settlement and would never get his pension," Glasgow said during opening statements.
Peterson's real-life drama inspired a TV movie and a national spotlight was put on the case, as many speculated whether Peterson used his law-enforcement expertise to get away with Savio's murder and make 23-year-old Stacy Peterson vanish.
In his opening statement, Peterson's defense attorney, Joel Brodsky, tried to knock down what will certainly be the prosecutors' contention that the investigation into Savio's death was a shoddy one.
Brodsky told jurors that the Illinois State Police investigators were very experienced, and that the reason the state police conducted the investigation was because the Bolingbrook Police Department wanted to make sure there were no questions since Peterson was one of their officers.
Brodksy even said state police "bagged" Savio's hand to preserve any evidence.
Brodsky said not one person — from police to prosecutors to Savio's own family— suggested Savio's death was anything other than an accident.
"And the reason was because it was an accident," he said, adding that there was no sign of a struggle.
"The bathroom was in perfect order," he said. "There is not one shred of evidence whatsoever that Drew Peterson or anybody else for that matter was in that house. Why? Because this was a household accident, that's why.
"Kathy slipped and fell in a household accident, case closed," Brodsky said.
Brodsky also suggested that Peterson was the victim of a "media circus" after Stacy Peterson disappeared, triggered by the realization that Savio had died. Peterson was charged in Savio's death after his much younger fourth wife vanished.
Glasgow brought up Stacy Peterson during the prosecution's opening statements, making it clear her disappearance was the key to opening an investigation into Savio's death. Peterson has denied wrongdoing in both cases.
Glasgow also told the jury what has been widely known for years but what Glasgow has not said explicitly: There is no physical evidence linking Peterson to Savio's death.
A botched initial investigation into Savio's death leaves prosecutors with scant physical evidence. They'll be forced to rely heavily on hearsay evidence — statements not heard directly by a witnesses — which is normally barred at trials, as well as circumstantial evidence to convince jurors of Peterson's guilt.
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