The specter of Drew Peterson sneaking into her home and harming her so frightened Kathleen Savio that she slept with a knife under her mattress, a friend of the slain woman testified Wednesday.
The friend, Kristin Anderson, whose family lived in Savio's basement for two months in 2003, was called as a witness in Drew Peterson's murder trial.
Anderson, a reading teacher and Minooka resident, said Savio told her the story right after relating a harrowing tale of a Peterson slipping into her house, holding her down and threatening to kill her.
"Drew broke into the house dressed in a SWAT uniform, held a knife to her throat and said, 'I could kill you and make it look like an accident,'" Anderson said Savio told her.
Anderson broke down in tears the first time she tried to tell the story and had to leave the courtroom. Before she returned, defense attorney Steve Greenberg complained that Anderson's testimony was prejudicial. He also predicted she would talk about Peterson stealing money from his children and jewelry from Savio. Anderson did not mention either of these things.
It looked very likely that Anderson wouldn't get to talk about anything after a heated argument over hearsay statements already excluded by Will County Judge Stephen White, who presided over the case until he retired in October 2010.
An appellate court decision paved the way for the hearsay statements barred by White to come in. But the judge who replaced White, Judge Edward Burmila, had expressed reluctance to go against White's ruling.
The ongoing dispute over the evidence came to a head when the normally subdued Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow erupted with an emotional outburst.
When Glasgow was finished, Burmila harshly criticized prosecutors, saying that "All they keep doing is dancing around that issue" of whether White was right or wrong in his ruling.
Burmila also said Glasgow and his assistants "have been of no help whatsoever in solving this legal dilemma, which is truly unique."
And then, to the surprise of possibly everyone in the courtroom, the judge denied the defense motion to keep the hearsay statements out. Loud gasps followed the judge's decision.
Anderson took the stand after Burmila made his ruling. Defense attorney Joseph "Shark" Lopez aggressively attacked her on cross-examination, first accusing her of "putting (her) family in harms way" by remaining in Savio's home after hearing the story of the alleged knife attack.
"Somebody possibly could come into her house and kill her and her family but you didn't move out," Lopez said. "You didn't call the police. You didn't do anything."
Lopez then reversed course and took shots at Anderson for moving out and into the home she and her family had been waiting to be built in November 2003.
"You didn't feel guilty moving out of the house because your life is more important than hers," Lopez said.
"I pray for her every day," Anderson replied.
Savio was found drowned in her dry bathtub less than four months later. The Illinois State Police quickly decided Savio was the victim of a freak accident and closed her case in a matter of months.
Anderson said she called the state police three times in two days right after Savio died to tell them what she knew of Savio and her supposed fear of Peterson, but no one would talk to her or call her back.
The lead investigator of the shoddy probe conducted by the state police, retired Sgt. Patrick Collins, testified earlier in the day. He said he was relied on the experience of the crime scene tech working the case with him.
That tech, state police Sgt. Robert Deel, testified on Tuesday that he still believes Kathleen Savio's death was an accident.
Collins also told the jury how he let Drew Peterson, at the time a Bolingbrook police Sgt., undergo questioning about Savio's death at the Bolingbrook Police Department.
The next day, Collins said, he and a state trooper went to Peterson's home to question his new wife, Stacy Peterson.
Peterson asked to stay with his wife during the interrogation as a "professional courtesy," Collins said, and the state police sergeant allowed him to stick around.
Peterson sat close to Stacy, Collins said, with an arm around her shoulder and a hand on her leg.
At one point, Collins said, Peterson at one point jumped in and answered a question for Stacy, telling the state investigators what she made for breakfast one morning during the weekend Savio was found dead.
Stacy eventually started crying, Collins said. As she grew increasingly upset, the interview got closer to ending, he said.
Collins said he never before and never again allowed two witnesses or a witness and a suspect to remain together during questioning. Collins said he did not question Stacy again.