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JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — Jurors in the Drew Peterson trial said the hearsay testimony in the trial was “extremely critical” in reaching a guilty verdict.
They also said based on the testimony, “We all knew it was a homicide.”
Peterson was convicted Thursday of the murder of Kathleen Savio, his third wife, whose body was found in a dry bathtub in 2004. Her death was reclassified from an accidental drowning to a homicide after a new autopsy in 2007, and prosecutors relied largely on hearsay evidence to win the case.
The greatest factor in reaching the verdict was the testimony of the Rev. Neil Schori and attorney Harry Smith, regarding what Peterson’s missing fourth wife, Stacy Peterson said about Savio’s death.
Schori told jurors Peterson’s now-missing fourth wife, Stacy, had told him Drew Peterson directed her to lie to police about his whereabouts when Savio died. Smith, who said Stacy Peterson told him her husband had killed Savio.
“Neil Schori kind of opened things up,” said juror Eduardo Saldana, 22. “The lawyer’s (Smith’s) testimony was the one that got us.”
“When the lawyer said that it was concealment of a homicide, then I knew that he was telling the truth about that,” Saldana said.
Smith was actually called as a defense witness.
Witnesses also mentioned in hearsay evidence that after Savio was found dead, Peterson had gone up the stairs and told Stacy, “They’re going to think I did it.”
“When I heard that, that kind of confirmed the threats he made to Kathleen,” Saldana said.
The jurors said they came up with plausible theories about how Peterson might have killed Savio, and did not believe the claim that it was accidental. The conclusion that it was a homicide was unanimous, they said.
The jurors believe “possibly she was grabbed from behind, and possibly stuck her head under the bathroom sink, and that’s how she got hurt with the big gash in her head,” said juror Teresa Mathews.
Mathews continued: “Otherwise, the theory could possibly be where she was drowned in the toilet. She possibly broke both her clavicles over the toilet.”
The jurors were also swayed by claims that Drew Peterson told Stacy she had to go to a police interview with him about Savio’s death, Mathews said.
The jurors did not believe the defense’s expert witnesses that claimed the evidence showed Savio drowned accidentally.
“There were too many bruises on too many parts of the body,” Mathews said.
The jurors said they also believed Stacy Peterson’s testimony via other sources. They said they knew about Stacy’s disappearance, but it was not a factor in reaching their verdict.
“We were aware, but it’s not something that we could use,” Saldana said.
Jurors took a poll early in their deliberations, seven said Peterson was guilty, while four, including himself, voted for a “not guilty” verdict; one was undecided. By the time panel members went home Wednesday night, another juror, Ron Supalo, said he was the only juror who was not voting to convict Peterson.
Supalo said he, too, was ultimately convinced by Smith and Schori’s testimony.
Mathews added that there was no message intended when the jurors coordinated the colors they wore during parts of the trial. She said it was just a byproduct of spending so much time together in the jury room.
“Just one day, I said, ‘Do you want to wear blue tomorrow?’” she said.
The coordinated jury outfits sometimes baffled courtroom observers and prosecutors and defense attorneys.