Peterson jury hears paramedic tell of cold, waxy body
JOLIET, Illinois (Reuters) - A paramedic who testified on Thursday at the murder trial of Drew Peterson, a former police officer accused of killing his third wife, said her body was cold and waxy in the bathtub where he found her.
Kathleen Savio's body was found in a bathtub in 2004 and the death was initially considered an accidental drowning. But suspicions were raised when Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in 2007. Savio's body was exhumed and reexamined and Peterson was charged with murder.
The testimony from paramedic Louis Oleszkiewicz came after Will County Judge Edward Burmila rejected a second request this week from defense attorneys to declare a mistrial.
There is little physical evidence linking Peterson to the death of Savio, so prosecutors have been trying to introduce testimony this week including statements that he made threats and tried to hire a hit man.
Defense attorneys have objected to the testimony as hearsay and have moved unsuccessfully for a mistrial twice.
Oleszkiewicz described finding Savio's body when he was dispatched to her home in March 2004 to assist an unresponsive woman.
Like Savio's next-door neighbor, Thomas Pontarelli, who testified on Wednesday, Oleszkiewicz said he does not remember a blue towel that appears in photos of the crime scene being there when he first arrived at the home.
Three other Bolingbrook firefighters also testified Thursday that they never saw the towel when Savio's body was discovered. Prosecutors are expected to argue that the towel was planted to make the scene look more like an accident.
Oleszkiewicz also said there was no "sediment ring" in the bathtub and that only officers from the Chicago suburban Bolingbrook Police Department -- not state troopers or investigators -- were at the house when he was arrived. Peterson is a former Bolingbrook policeman.
'A LOT OF COMMOTION'
Locksmith Robert Akin also testified on Thursday that on the night Savio's body was found, he did not know whose house he was opening or why he was opening it.
Akin said he was met at the house by Peterson, who was in uniform. He picked the doorknob lock, which could be locked from the outside without a key. A deadbolt that needed a key to lock from the outside was unlocked, he said.
Once the door was opened, Akin said, people he did not know went inside. Akin recalled staying on the porch. He said that while he packed his tools he was "chit-chatting" with Peterson.
Shortly after opening the door, Akin said, "There was, like a lot of commotion, screaming."
Peterson then "just looked and said, 'I got to go,'" and went in the house, Akin said.
One witness who did not get to testify Thursday was Harry Smith, who represented Savio in her divorce from Peterson. The attorney has said he was visited by Peterson's missing fourth wife, Stacy, just days before she vanished.
Smith has said Stacy wanted to hire him so she could divorce Peterson. He also said she asked him if they could get more money in the divorce if they revealed Peterson killed Savio.
Attorneys for both sides are still arguing about what Smith will be allowed to say on the stand. Prosecutors want Smith to discuss the financial side of Savio and Peterson's divorce, and to tell how Savio was put at a disadvantage when she was killed and deprived of the ability to speak for herself.
Judge Burmila disagreed, saying, "Just because it makes logical sense doesn't mean it makes legal sense." Smith is expected to testify next week.
The Peterson case has drawn national attention and was the subject of a popular Lifetime television network movie "Untouchable" starring Rob Lowe. Peterson's fourth wife Stacy has never been found and he is the sole suspect in her disappearance. His first and second wives have remarried.
The trial continues in Will County court near Chicago.