Ill. court rules against releasing Drew Peterson

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Posted: Sep 19, 2011 8:17 PM
Ill. court rules against releasing Drew Peterson

Drew Peterson must stay behind bars while he fights charges that he murdered his third wife, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Monday.

Peterson, 57, has been in jail since 2009 without a trial. His trial in the death of Kathleen Savio was to have started in July of last year, but it was put on hold while prosecutors appealed a ruling that bars them from introducing hearsay statements.

The retired Bolingbrook police sergeant has also been named a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, but has not been charged.

Peterson maintains the long wait violates his right to a speedy trial. The state Supreme Court disagreed, rejecting his request without a written explanation.

"We're disappointed. Drew should have been released," said Peterson's attorney Joel Brodsky.

The trial judge in the case has refused to lower Peterson's $20 million bond. Brodsky called it "very uncommon" for someone to be jailed for so long while awaiting trial. Brodsky urged the court to quickly reject the prosecution's appeal over Savio's statements so the trial can get underway.

Peterson entered the public eye in 2007, when his fourth wife disappeared. She is presumed dead by authorities.

Her case brought new attention to the death of Peterson's previous wife, who was found dead in a dry bathtub on March 1, 2004, just weeks before the couple's divorce would have been final. The death was originally ruled an accident.

Savio's body was exhumed and examined again. Her death was then declared a homicide and Peterson was charged with murder.

Peterson denies killing either woman.

The prosecution's case was dealt a serious blow when Will County Judge Stephen White refused to let prosecutors introduce evidence that Peterson's wives had made potentially damaging statements about him to other people.

The hearsay statements include a claim that Stacy Peterson once told her pastor that she gave Peterson a false alibi for the night Savio died. Another allegation is that Savio told a co-worker that Peterson once held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her.

Unless the Supreme Court intervenes and allows the secondhand claims, prosecutors may have to depend on the scarce physical evidence in the case.

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Associated Press writer Christopher Wills can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/ChrisBWills