The Illinois State Police evidence tech sent to Kathleen Savio's death scene left without collecting a single piece of evidence.
"Our plan at the time, because we weren't exactly sure what happened to her" was to wait until after an autopsy was performed before deciding whether or not to return to Savio's home and look for evidence, said the tech, state police Sgt. Robert Deel.
Deel was one of three witnesses to testify Tuesday in the murder trial of former Bolingbrook cop Drew Peterson, who was arrested in May 2009 on charges he drowned Savio, his third wife.
Savio was found dead in March 2004. The state police insisted she perished in a freak bathtub accident and stuck with that theory until Peterson's next wife, Stacy Peterson, mysteriously vanished in October 2007. The state police—with the exception of Deel—then declared Savio was the victim of a homicide and eventually arrested Peterson.
Deel testified Tuesday that he still believes Savio was the victim of a freak bathtub accident.
Stacy remains missing. The state police named Peterson the sole suspect in their investigation of her whereabouts but have yet to charge him with harming her.
Deel said Tuesday he saw no evidence of a struggle or "anything out of place" in Savio's home, but also noted he did not look very hard. He said he walked around her house but did not check to see if windows were locked. He also did not venture throughout most of the home's interior besides Savio's bedroom and bathroom.
When shown photographs—which he took—of the large, red injuries on Savio's buttocks, Deel called them "typical bruising" and added, "They would have been on (her) body from day-to-day life."
He also said they could be indicative of a skin condition.
When shown a photograph, also taken by him, of the deep cut to Savio's scalp, Deel said he was unaware of its severity.
"I knew she had some type of injury there," he said. "I didn't do a more thorough investigation."
Deel also said that during the autopsy conducted on Savio, the consensus among those present was that she died in an accident. He also said the pathologist who performed the autopsy, Dr. Bryan Mitchell, stood by that opinion until his death in March 2010.
But later in his testimony Deel said Mitchell did change his mind, deciding Savio's death should have been classified as "undetermined." And then Deel appeared to contradict himself once more, saying that Mitchell, at the time of his own death, believed Savio's case was "not a homicide."
Before Deel took the stand, Will County Deputy Coroner Michael VanOver was called to testify.
VanOver told how it was Deel who decided not to follow the mandated protocol for suspicious deaths and homicides.
"I asked (Deel) if they thought there was something wrong here and they
said, 'No,'" VanOver testified.
After Deel, Bolingbrook police Lt. James Coughlin was called to tell about a conversation he and another Bolingbrook officer had with Peterson in a Will County Courthouse corridor just weeks before Savio turned up dead.
Coughlin said he and Officer Richard Treece were standing by the courthouse elevators when Peterson came down the hall with his divorce attorney, Alexander Beck, and Savio's attorney, Harry Smith, only a few feet behind.
The two lawyers were laughing, Coughlin said, and Treece told Peterson, "They look happy."
"That's because they're getting all my money," Coughlin said Peterson replied.
Peterson then said, "My life would be easier if she was just dead or died," according to Coughlin.
Coughlin tried to tell this to state police investigators when they were at his department in 2004 but they did not question him about it or put his statement in a report, he said.
After Stacy disappeared, the FBI made a report on Coughlin's statement but apparently bungled all of his story, he said, relating that the lawyers were "laughing hysterically" inside a courtroom.
Coughlin said he informed the state's attorney's office about the discrepancies in the FBI report two years ago. Now Peterson's attorneys are trying to have all of Coughlin's testimony thrown out since prosecutors failed to disclose that he informed them of the differences.
Judge Edward Burmila will decide the Coughlin matter Wednesday morning.
Also expected on Wednesday is testimony from the lead investigator in the 2004 Savio probe, retired state police Sgt. Patrick Collins.