Chicago Tribune, Published July 03 2012
Bathtub where wife drowned will not be allowed in courtroom in Drew Peterson caseCHICAGO — The bathtub Drew Peterson’s third wife drowned in won’t be brought into court at his trial later this month, a judge ruled Tuesday, but jurors might still be allowed to see it if authorities reinstall the tub in her Bolingbrook, Ill., home.
Judge Edward Burmila left open the possibility that when the former Bolingbrook police sergeant goes on trial for the 2004 drowning of Kathleen Savio, jurors could take an outing to what was once her master bathroom.
State police removed the tub in 2008 after Savio’s body was exhumed and a second autopsy labeled her death a homicide. A coroner’s jury originally found the death was an accident. Authorities decided to take another look at Savio’s death after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared in 2007.
Prosecutors have long considered Savio’s bathtub a key piece of evidence. “The bathtub is now essentially the murder weapon,” said Assistant State’s Attorney John Connor in court Tuesday.
A prosecution expert is expected to testify that the injuries Savio suffered couldn’t have been caused by slipping and falling in the tub. Connor said it was important to give jurors a “tactile feel” for the tub rather than have them rely only on death investigation photographs.
Defense attorney Joseph Lopez argued that bringing in the tub could mislead jurors who wouldn’t be able to judge how it fit into Savio’s bathroom.
“They can’t just roll it in on a dolly and say, ‘Here’s the tub, inspect it,’” he said in court.
Burmila agreed. “As far as the tub being dramatically brought it — that’s not going to happen under any set of circumstances,” he said.
He left open the possibility of allowing jurors to see the tub in Savio’s old home, but said he wasn’t sure if he had the authority to order that.
Prosecutors said the family living in the home now hasn’t installed a new tub in the four years since it was removed. The upstairs bathroom has a separate shower, according to court testimony.
A spokesman for the Will County state’s attorney’s office said there was no financial arrangement with the family to keep the space open.
Also on Tuesday, a judge ruled that Susan McCauley, Peterson’s former mistress who worked as a bartender at his bar, can testify about a conversation she had with him after Savio’s death at a 2004 fundraiser at a Bolingbrook bowling alley.
McCauley testified earlier that Peterson told her his boys would be fine and that Savio was “crazy.” He allegedly told her Savio drowned in her bathtub after taking antidepressants and drinking wine, saying a wineglass was found on the tub.
Prosecutors sought to use the statement as an example of Peterson telling different stories about how Savio died.
Burmila has yet to rule on whether prosecutors can use video that shows a “3-D” rendering, apparently of Savio’s injuries, at trial. He withheld his ruling to give defense attorneys time to view the roughly two-minute video.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin July 23.