JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) – Following a rambling, bizarre and emotional plea in which he forcefully denied being a killer, Drew Peterson was sentenced to 38 years in prison Thursday for murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio, nearly 10 years ago.
Earlier, Will County judge Edward Burmila turned down the former Bolingbrook sergeant’s bid for a new murder trial, rejecting arguments that his former lead defense attorney committed mistakes that prevented Peterson from getting a fair trial.
Peterson, who is 59, faced between 20 and 60 years in prison. He will get credit for time served, which is about four years.
Reading a written statement before the sentencing, the normally cool and jocular Peterson took the witness stand and attacked Savio’s family, the evidence, the police, the prosecutors and the court. He cried at times and said all of his rights were violated and no one cares.
He startled the courtroom by shouting: “I did not kill Kathleen!”
A person in the court yelled back, “Yes you did, liar,” and was ejected from the courtroom.
Prosecutor James Glasgow said he’s never had such a gratifying day.
“When (Peterson) got on the stand in that shrill, feminine screech that he didn’t kill Kathy, that’s the guy that killed Kathy,” he later told reporters.
Members of Savio’s family and of Peterson’s missing fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, were also pleased with Thursday’s sentencing.
“I knew he was going to be blaming everybody else. It’s always everybody else’s fault. It’s never anybody else’s fault. Typical sociopath,” Anna Doman, Kathleen Savio’s sister, said at a news conference.
One of Peterson’s lawyers, Joe Lopez, said his client’s explosive statements Thursday reflected Peterson’s anger with the system. His legal team was planning an appeal.
Peterson was convicted last September of killing Savio in 2004. He has been jailed since May 2009. His statement in court capped a murder case and trial that was already known for its twists and turns.
“For the last couple years, the police have conducted one of the most expensive investigation in the history of the United States,” Peterson said to the judge. “No usable evidence was ever found. They altered evidence. Evidence that could have helped my defense. They intimidated witnesses and terrorized my children.”
He went on to call Savio and his missing fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, liars.
“Stacy provided me with an alibi right after Kathy’s death,” Peterson told the court. “She gave it to state police. Then she later said she was lying about that. Stacy lied all the time. But the state’s attorney picks and chooses what to believe.”
“Anything you sentence me to, you’re sentencing me to die.”
Earlier this week, Burmila had heard two days of testimony on Peterson’s motion for a new trial.
Peterson’s revamped defense team had argued former lawyer Joel Brodsky should never have called Savio’s divorce lawyer, Harry Smith as a witness.
Smith had testified Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, told him Drew had killed Savio.
While Burmila agreed that Brodsky was not prepared for such a high-profile case, he noted Peterson had five other attorneys on his team during the trial.
“It was clear to the court from the beginning Brodsky was out of his depth. He did not possess the lawyerly skills necessary. But the defendant was represented by six attorneys. Peterson received effective assistance of counsel,” Burmila said.
Peterson’s lawyers also argued hearsay testimony from Stacy’s pastor, Rev. Neil Schori, never should have been admitted at trial.
Burmila began Peterson’s sentencing hearing shortly after rejecting his bid for a new trial. Savio’s family members presented victim impact statements, in an effort to have Peterson sentenced to the maximum of 60 years in prison for his conviction for first-degree murder.
“The loss of my baby sister is beyond words. The horror and betrayal she must have felt when she realized that someone she loved and trusted was actually killing her. I wonder if she could feel her heart breaking when she thought about leaving her two boys forever,” Savio’s sister Ann Marie Savio-Doman said.
Savio’s sister, Susan Doman, said she can hardly stand the pain of her loss, and said her sister’s death is always with her.
“The scar of the brutal murder of my sister will always be with me. I remember Kathleen’s words Drew’s going to kill me. He took her life. He showed no remorse. This was a big joke to him. I have been left with a grave with her name on it. I don’t even have my nephews to comfort. The defendant took that away from me too,” she said.