Prosecutors will find out Friday morning if they have recaptured vital testimony from a man who claimed Drew Peterson offered him $25,000 to find someone willing to kill his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
The testimony from the alleged hitman headhunter, Jeffrey Pachter of Braidwood, looked to be lost on the very first day of Peterson's murder trial when Judge Edward Burmila ruled prosecutors goofed by failing to notify defense attorneys that he would be testifying.
But the prosecution renewed their bid to get Pachter on the witness stand late Thursday and Judge Burmila said he would take the matter under consideration.
Peterson supposedly made the startling offer to Pachter in late 2003. At the time, the two men were working together at a cable installation business. Peterson, who was still a sergeant with the , had taken Pachter along for a tour in his squad car when he asked him to find a hitman, Pachter said.
Peterson didn't push for details about how the killing would be carried out, but wanted to know when it would happen so he could be sure to be someplace else, Pachter said.
“He told me that he wanted to know when it would be done so he could have an alibi,” Pachter testified during a pretrial hearing in 2010.
Pachter said he had asked to borrow $1,000 from Peterson to pay off a gambling debt prior to getting asked to find a hitman. He also said he believed Peterson approached him about orchestrating the killing because he installed cable television in the Hill neighborhood of Joliet, an area with a dubious reputation.
Months after the overture described by Pachter, Savio was found drowned in her dry bathtub.
“By the way, that favor I asked you, I don’t need it anymore," Pachter said Peterson told him after Savio died.
Also Thursday, the forensic pathologist who reviewed the 2004 autopsy performed on Savio and conducted a second autopsy after her grave was dug up and body pulled from its casket in 2007 declared that the Peterson wife was the victim of a homicide.
A 2004 coroner's jury had ruled that Savio was the victim of an accident and investigators from the Illinois State Police failed to find anything suspicious about the circumstances of her death.
But Dr. Larry Blum said he took into account the position of Savio's body when it was found curled inside her bathtub and the distribution of the injuries on her body.
Blum also testified that it is "extremely rare" for adults to drown in bathtubs "without risk factors."
Those risk factors include drug and alcohol abuse and diseases such as epilepsy, Alzheimer's or multiple sclerosis. Savio had none of those diseases. Postmortem testing found no sign of drugs or alcohol in her body.
Defense attorney Ralph Meczyk launched a lengthy and contentious cross-examination of Blum during which he said he has found three doctors who will say Savio's death was the result of a freak bathtub accident.
One of those doctors, Daniel Spitz, has already been quoted in a National Enquirer story as saying he believed Savio was the victim of a homicide.
"People don't drown in bathtubs," Spitz said in the story. "I would have told the police I think this is a homicide. You need to go and investigate this like a homicide."
Another of the doctors cited by Meczyk, Jeffrey Jentzen, testified during a pretrial hearing that Savio may not have drowned, as all the other doctors who have reviewed her case believe. Jentzen said Savio might actually have suffered a heart attack and inhaled bathwater into her sinuses after she was already dead.