Ill. trooper says he was ‘disgusted’ by investigation into death of Drew Peterson’s third wife

By Don Babwin, AP
Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ill. trooper describes Drew Peterson investigation

JOLIET, Ill. — An Illinois State Police trooper involved in the original investigation of the 2004 death of Drew Peterson’s ex-wife testified Thursday that he quickly suspected it was a homicide, even though the lead investigator initially believed it was an accident.

Master Sgt. Bryan Falat described an investigation in which Peterson’s colleagues at the Bolingbrook police department came and went from the home where Kathleen Savio’s body was found in a dry bathtub and in which Peterson was allowed to be with his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, as she was questioned. Falat said he told the lead investigator in Savio’s death about his concerns about the investigation.

Falat’s testimony came during a hearing to determine what hearsay evidence will be allowed at Peterson’s upcoming murder trial in the death of Savio, his third wife.

Hearsay, or statements not based on the direct knowledge of a witness, usually isn’t admissible in court. But Illinois judges can allow it in murder trials if prosecutors prove a defendant may have killed a witness to prevent him or her from testifying. There’s little available forensic evidence in Savio’s case, so prosecutors are expected to rely on statements Savio allegedly made to others saying she feared Peterson could kill her.

Falat testified that he told the lead investigator that Drew and Stacy Peterson should be questioned again because of what he saw as holes in their accounts of what happened and evasive answers.

“In my opinion it was obvious Stacy was hiding something,” Falat said. “(And) she was not telling the truth.”

He added that their accounts seemed “eerily similar” and “the two stories seemed like they were scripted.”

Peterson, a 56-year-old former Bolingbrook police officer, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Savio’s death, which was originally deemed an accident but reclassified as a homicide after the 2007 disappearance of Stacy Peterson. Drew Peterson has not been charged in Stacy Peterson’s disappearance, but authorities say he is a suspect.

Falat is the first investigator to testify that he was suspicious of Drew Peterson in 2004.

Earlier in the hearing, the lead investigator, retired State Police Sgt. Patrick Collins, conceded he believed Savio’s death was an accident from almost the minute he stepped into her suburban Chicago home. He acknowledged conducting a less-than-thorough investigation, even failing to collect forensic evidence, interview Savio family members or secure the house where her body was found.

Falat testified Thursday that he started telling Collins even as they were leaving Savio’s house that night about his concerns with the way Collins was handling the investigation.

Falat said, for example, that Peterson should not have been questioned at the Bolingbrook police department as Peterson requested.

Falat also took issue with Collins’ decision to allow Peterson to be present when investigators interviewed Stacy Peterson. He said Stacy Peterson hesitated at times and appeared to look to her husband for advice.

“I thought it was ridiculous,” Falat said.

Falat also testified that he thought Stacy Peterson and Savio’s two sons should have testified before a grand jury.

His testimony also suggested that others at what he saw as a potential crime scene were not concerned about being careful not to disturb what might be evidence.

“I was disgusted with it,” Falat said when asked about how he viewed the investigation.

An Illinois State Police crime scene technician also testified, saying that besides taking photographs and walking around the inside and outside of Savio’s house he collected no evidence and did not look for fingerprints — even as he insisted that he did not conclude the death was an accident until later.

Bob Deel also acknowledged that he did not see any bruises on Savio’s body or even the cut to her head, saying even if he had “they were insignificant to me.” Deel said he still believes that the death was an accident.

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