Savio’s beau says he told police he suspected Drew Peterson, hours after she was found dead

By Don Babwin, AP
Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Savio’s beau says he immediately suspected her ex

JOLIET, Ill. — Hours after Kathleen Savio’s body was found in her bathtub, her boyfriend voiced suspicions to police that her ex-husband, then-police officer Drew Peterson, might be involved, he said Tuesday at a pretrial hearing.

Steve Maniaci testified that Illinois State Police investigators assured him they would consider her death a homicide until proven otherwise, but when prosecutors recently allowed him to look at the 2004 police report from that night — it included none of his concerns.

A sometimes emotional Maniaci told the Will County court that among the things he told investigators was that Savio was “terrified ” of Peterson, that she said he had broken into her home and had threatened her.

Maniaci said Savio told him repeatedly that she was afraid of Peterson and feared he could kill her and make it look like an accident. Such talk intensified in the days before her death as she and Peterson fought over property they once held in common as husband and wife.

With that conflict in mind, Maniaci immediately confronted Peterson when he arrived at Savio’s house the night her body was found.

“I said, ‘I sure hope you didn’t have anything to do with this,’” Maniaci testified.

When Peterson insisted he didn’t, Maniaci responded in reference to the dispute over property, “‘It sure worked out good for you.’”

Maniaci testified during a hearing meant to determine what hearsay evidence, if any, jurors can hear when Peterson stands trial in the death of Savio, his third wife. The pretrial hearing is now in its third week.

His testimony came after the lead investigator in the case, retired State Police Sgt. Patrick Collins, conceded he believed her death was an accident from almost the minute he stepped into Savio’s suburban Chicago home. And he agreed he conducted a less-than-thorough investigation, even failing to collect any forensic evidence from the scene.

Peterson has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Savio’s death. Officials exhumed her body and ruled her death a homicide only after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in 2007. He hasn’t been charged in her disappearance, but authorities say he’s the only suspect.

Prosecutors know the cause of death will be a key issue at Peterson’s trial, and they will likely rely on Maniaci’s testimony to help demonstrate there were signs Savio’s death was a homicide staged to look like an accident. Peterson’s attorneys have argued her death was accidental.

Maniaci testified on Tuesday, for example, that two nights before her body was found, he saw no bruises on her elbow, finger or buttocks like the bruises clearly visible on photographs shot of Savio after her death.

Asked if he had seen scratches on her arms two nights before, Maniaci, barely able to look at the photographs, answered quietly, “No.”

Shown a photograph of Savio in the bathtub with her hair down, Maniaci also said she always put her long hair up when she took at bath.

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