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Victim to speak 'from the grave' in Kathleen Savio case

 Six years after she mysteriously drowned in a bathtub, Kathleen Savio is finally getting her day in court.

Savio essentially will testify from the grave Tuesday, with witnesses expected to tell a judge in Illinois how Savio discussed and wrote about her fears that her ex-husband, former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson, would kill her.

The hearing stems from a state law that allows a judge to admit hearsay evidence — testimony from witnesses who recount what they heard from others — in first-degree murder cases if prosecutors can prove a defendant killed a witness to prevent him or her from testifying.

The Illinois Legislature passed the law after authorities named Peterson a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy, then exhumed the body of Savio, his third wife, and reopened the investigation into her 2004 death. Though the bill's sponsors were careful never to link the law publicly to Peterson, it has been referred to as "Drew's Law," and his attorneys have long suggested it was passed to put Peterson behind bars.

During the hearing, which is expected to last three weeks, prosecutors will present to Will County Judge Stephen White about 60 witnesses to testify about 15 hearsay statements. White will then decide if the jury can hear any or all of those statements when Peterson stands trial. Peterson has pleaded not guilty to murdering Savio, whose body was found in a dry tub. A trial date hasn't been set.


Neither side has talked much about the evidence in the case, but from the day Peterson was arrested, Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow has made it clear that allowing Savio to tell jurors why Peterson wanted her dead is crucial to his case.

The list of witnesses remains under seal, but Savio's niece, Melissa Doman, said her mother, Anna Doman, is among those who have been called to testify.

The death initially was ruled an accidental drowning — until Stacy Peterson's disappearance led officials to exhume Savio's body, conduct another autopsy and conclude Savio was the victim of a homicide. Drew Peterson has not been charged in Stacy Peterson's disappearance.

Other possible witnesses who could be asked to testify about the stormy relationship between Drew Peterson and Savio are his former colleagues. Eighteen times in two years, police were called to the couple's Bolingbrook home to respond to reports of trouble between the two, with Savio telling officers that her husband had beaten her and threatened to kill her. Peterson was never charged. Savio was charged with domestic battery and later was acquitted.

There also are court documents that prosecutors are expected to present into evidence, including a 2002 order of protection in which Savio alleges that Peterson knocked her down, ripped off her necklace and left marks on her body.

Peterson's attorneys have made it clear that they will attack the credibility of at least some of the witnesses.

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