JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Drew Peterson, the swaggering former suburban Chicago police officer who generated a media storm after his much-younger fourth wife vanished in 2007, was convicted Thursday of murdering his third wife in a case based mainly on secondhand hearsay statements from the two women.
Peterson, 58, sat stoically looking straight ahead and did not react as the verdict was read. Several of his third wife's relatives gasped before hugging each other as they cried quietly in the courtroom.
Illinois has no death penalty, and Peterson now faces a maximum 60-year prison term when sentenced in Kathleen Savio's death on Nov. 26.
The trial was the first of its kind in Illinois history, with prosecutors building their case largely on hearsay thanks to a new law, dubbed "Drew's Law," tailored to Peterson's case. That hearsay, prosecutors had said, would let his third and fourth wives "speak from their graves" through family and friends to convict Peterson.
Hearsay is any information reported by a witness that is not based on the witness' direct knowledge. Its use at the trial could also be grounds for an appeal from Peterson.
The verdict is a vindication for Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow and his team, who gambled by putting on a case that they themselves conceded was filled with holes. They then went on to commit a series of blunders during testimony that drew the judge's ire.
One question at trial was how much Peterson's personality might influence the jurors. Before his 2009 arrest, the glib, cocky Peterson seemed to taunt authorities, joking on talk shows and even suggesting a "Win a Date With Drew" contest. His notoriety inspired a TV movie starring Rob Lowe.
It all began with a gruesome discovery.