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UPDATED 08/22/12 – 4:41 p.m.
JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — The jury in the Drew Peterson murder trial heard Wednesday from a man who said Peterson offered him $25,000 to “take care of his wife.”
As WBBM Newsradsio’s Mike Krauser reports, Peterson allegedly offered Jeff Pachter money to hire someone else to kill his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
Pachter testified that in November 2003, Peterson asked him if he could find someone that could “take care of his third wife.” He said Peterson offered $25,000.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports
It was testimony the defense had tried in vain to get barred.
Prosecutors said Pachter was unflappable. Defense attorneys said he was unbelievable.
Pachter said Peterson told him if he could find someone to kill Savio for less than $25,000, he could keep the balance.
He said the conversation happened in Peterson’s police car, and that Peterson told him “this is something you will take to your grave.” He added that Peterson gave him a key phrase – something about cookies – to use on the phone.
Pachter said Peterson told him if he found someone, “He wanted to make sure that he had an alibi.”
He testified Peterson said, “he either wanted to be on vacation or at Great America, where he would start a fight so there’d be a record of where he was that day.”
Defense attorney Joe Lopez ripped Pachter, accusing him of making up the story in order to get his 15 minutes of fame.
“That was ridiculous. The whole story is ridiculous. That’s the point,” Lopez said outside the courtroom. “You’ve got a sergeant in a police uniform in a police car, asking somebody to commit a murder?”
The defense also was quick to point out Pachter’s criminal background, including being a registered sex offender and other misdeeds, and tried to paint him as an opportunistic liar.
But Pamela Bosco, the spokeswoman for Stacy Peterson’s family, said the fact that Pachter has had brushes with the law fit in with Peterson’s method of operation.
“Drew’s not going to hire Mother Teresa to kill his wife. I mean, he’s going to find someone with some kind of past, and for a hitman, I think he had a very mild past. Personally, that’s probably why you’re a little bit shocked at Drew’s asking him even to do this,” Bosco said. “But he was looking for, obviously, someone to kill Kathleen.”
When the defense went after Pachter, due to his criminal past, he stuck to his story. Lopez said that is to be expected.
“You can’t expect a witness to get on the stand and say, ‘You know what, Mr. Lopez? You’re right, I lied. It ain’t gonna happen. It’s not gonna happen. I’ve never seen it happen. I’ve seen it happen on MeTV at 10:30 at night, when I watch Perry Mason.”
Pachter testified, after Savio was found dead in her bathtub in 2004, Peterson told him “the favor that I asked you about, I don’t need it anymore.”
Lopez admitted Pachter didn’t waver on at least one point.
“He never used the word kill, right? You see, he was consistent with that,” Lopez said.
Pachter stuck to his story on cross-examination, but did concede he never told police about the alleged hitman story until 2007.
Pachter worked with Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police sergeant, on his side-job as a cable installer.
Prosecutors allege Peterson, now 58, ended up killing Savio himself in 2004. They want to bring up the hitman evidence in an effort to show Peterson had thought about killing Savio at least months before she was found dead in her bathtub.
Will County Judge Edward Burmila initially said prosecutors couldn’t introduce the hitman allegation during their opening statement, but later handed prosecutors a legal victory Tuesday by giving them approval for Pachter to testify about the allegation.
Also taking the stand Wednesday was an Illinois State Police investigator who testified his suspicions were raised right away when he saw the bathroom where Savio was found dead, but he said his views were ignored by his superiors.