Friday, January 25, 2008

Drew Peterson's Ex-Wife's Family Doubts Her Signature on Legal Document

CHICAGO - The family of former police sergeant Drew Peterson's ex-wife claims that her signature on a legal document that allowed him and his then 18-year-old girlfriend to buy a house is fake, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Kathleen Savio's family questions the signature, which looks different from more than a dozen other signatures she wrote before her death in 2004.

Peterson needed Savio's signature to allow him to purchase a house in 2002 for himself and Stacy Cales. Peterson later married Cales, his fourth wife who was reported missing on Oct. 29 after she failed to show up at a friend's house.
Peterson, a suspect in his wife's disappearance, denies any involvement and claims that she left him for another man.

Savio's 2004 death was ruled accidental after she was found in a waterless bathtub. Authorities reopened the investigation and exhumed her body for a second autopsy after the initial cause of death came under question.
Savio's family says the signature on documents to sign away her share of Drew Peterson's home were forged.

"That's definitely not her signature," Anna Doman, Savio's sister told the Sun-Times after reviewing the signature. "I know that's not her signature."
Peterson backs up the validity of the signature and referred additional questions to his attorney.
"If it was a forgery, she had ample time to have her and her lawyer object and make an issue of it," said Peterson's lawyer, Joel Brodsky. "Obviously it could have been done better, but I don't know that it's anything untoward."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

R.I.P. Heath Ledger

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Actor Heath Ledger was found dead Tuesday of a possible drug overdose in a Lower Manhattan apartment, the New York Police Department said.

The Academy Award-nominated actor was 28.
Ledger was found naked and unresponsive, facedown on the floor at the foot of his bed by a housekeeper trying to wake him for an appointment with a masseuse, said police spokesman Paul Browne.

"Pills were found in the vicinity of the bed," he told CNN.
"This is being looked at as a possible overdose, but that is not confirmed yet."
Browne later told reporters some prescription medications were found in the room, including sleeping pills.

But he stressed police have made no determination of the cause of Ledger's death -- that would be done by the medical examiner.

He said the pills were not "scattered about."

No note was found and there was no indication of foul play, Browne said. Ledger was found at about 3 p.m., and was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency personnel about 3:30 p.m. Watch a report about Ledger's death »

A crowd of onlookers, photographers and reporters gathered outside the apartment building after news of Ledger's death was reported. Police officers were guarding the doors.

Browne said he did not know how long Ledger had been renting the apartment, which he said took up the entire fourth floor.

An autopsy would be conducted on Wednesday, said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner's office. Watch Ledger's body being removed »

Ledger's family called his death "very tragic, untimely and accidental."

"Heath has touched so many people on so many different levels during his short life, but few had the pleasure of truly knowing him," his father said.

"He was a down-to-earth, generous, kindhearted, life-loving, unselfish individual extremely inspirational to many."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Experts: Despite No Body, Peterson Case Could Go to Trial

CHICAGO - Twelve weeks of combing woods and construction sites on foot and horseback, diving into ponds and canals, and retracing Stacy Peterson's last contact with family and friends have shed little light on the 23-year-old mother of two's whereabouts.

Neither investigators nor volunteer searchers have reported finding any trace of the woman - not a shred of clothing, a piece of jewelry or, most significantly, her body. And they're facing the very real possibility they never may.

So although authorities labeled Peterson's disappearance a possible homicide and named her husband, former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson, a suspect less than two weeks after she vanished, the question is whether anyone could ever be charged or tried in the case.

"Without a body, the average U.S. citizen would probably tell you that it is impossible," said Daniel Bibb, a former New York assistant district attorney who helped prosecute Dr. Robert Bierenbaum, a plastic surgeon convicted of killing his wife and dropping her body into the ocean from a small plane.

Suspects have been brought to trial - and convicted - in cases where not only is the body missing, but physical evidence linking the suspect to the crime doesn't exist.

"A body is such a critical component of a homicide case ... but it is something you can overcome," said Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor who has researched so-called "no-body cases." With or without a body, she said, "you need circumstantial evidence."

Trying no-body cases can be very different than those in which a pathologist explains in minute detail how a victim was killed and police officers testify about weapons, blood stains and fingerprints.

Prosecutors who have won convictions in such cases say they first must overcome the suggestion the purported victim is alive and simply walked away from his or her life.

"We brought as many friends and relatives as we could find to show she was making plans," Bibb said of Gail Katz-Bierenbaum, who was killed in 1985. That included presenting evidence about her preparation for college examinations and excitement about graduation.

And to head off defense attorneys suggesting the woman committed suicide, "we put her gynecologist on to show she recently had an IUD placed," Bibb said. "She's not going to get an IUD, thinking about being sexually active if at the same time she's going to commit suicide."

Before successfully prosecuting Steven Sherer for the murder of Jami Sherer in 2000 in Washington state - 10 years after she vanished - prosecutor Marilyn Brenneman contacted every state in the country to make sure nobody using Jami Sherer's name, birth date or Social Security number had ever applied for a driver's license.

During trial, Brenneman presented evidence the woman didn't use a credit card, cash a check or do any of the countless things people do every day to leave some kind of trail.

She called family and friends who testified the woman never once contacted them and told jurors about her devotion to her young son and how much she enjoyed her job.

"You have to show she's not somewhere else," Brenneman said. "It's a process of elimination."

The Will County State's Attorney's office won't discuss the Peterson case, but if it does come to trial, there is little doubt that Stacy Peterson's life will take center stage. Much that has been discussed since she disappeared - from her own devotion to her children to her nursing school attendance to her comments to her sister that she was about to see a divorce lawyer - likely would be used by prosecutors to demonstrate she is not a woman who would voluntarily disappear.

Prosecutors also appeal to jurors' common sense.

"There's a reason that after seven years someone is declared legally dead in this country," Brenneman said. "If you have a close relationship with your parents, your siblings or your child, you might take off for a week or two if you're terrified but you'd make contact. You'd have to make contact."

Drew Peterson has long maintained his wife left him for another man and that he believes she is alive.

His attorney, Joel Brodsky, said Thursday that a message sent to Stacy Peterson's cell phone in September shows she was having an affair, which he said lent credence to his client's theory.

In the text message, the anonymous author referred to Stacy Peterson as "my love" and thanked her for a sexual encounter the previous evening, according to a transcript provided by Brodsky. But a family friend said the message could have been sent by anyone, even someone who didn't know Stacy Peterson.

Brenneman and Bibb say the more time that passes, the less willing jurors are to believe missing persons left on their own.

"Ultimately, jurors don't believe that disappearing and starting a new life is possible," said Bibb, who prosecuted Bierenbaum 15 years after his wife disappeared.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Grand Jury Wants to Review Will Between Drew Peterson, Ex-Wife

A grand jury investigating the death of the third wife of former police sergeant Drew Peterson wants to review a hand-written will drawn up nearly 10 years ago, according to a report.

Peterson, a suspect in his fourth wife's disappearance, signed the will with his then-wife Kathleen Savio to leave all possessions to each other in the event of their deaths.

"There was really nothing sinister about it," Peterson said. "It was just simply in case something happened to us while we were on vacation."

Stacy Peterson, 23, was reported missing on Oct. 29 after she failed to show up at a friend's house.

Savio, who signed her name at the bottom of the two-page will dated March 1997, was found dead in a waterless bathtub in 2004. At the time, Savio's death was ruled accidental. Savio's body was exhumed amid suspicion about her death and an independent medical examiner who conducted a second autopsy told FOX News that it was a homicide.

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Savio's family said their loved one told them she would never live to see the end of the divorce.

Karen Conti, a Chicago attorney, reviewed the documents of Savio's estate. Conti said she believes the will was beneficial to Peterson.

Savio agreed to the terms of the will by not taking the simple act to revoke it, said Joel Brodsky, Peterson's attorney.

"Since she didn't do it, I have to assume that this what she wanted to happen," Brodsky said.

Peterson received jewelry, furniture and $288,000 from the sale of Savio's home.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Drew Peterson Hires a Publicist, May Sell His Story

BOLINGBROOK, Ill. - A former police officer named a suspect in his wife's disappearance said he's hired a publicist and isn't talking about his days on the force because he could soon be getting paid to tell his story.

Drew Peterson has frequently talked to the media since his wife, Stacy, disappeared in October 2007. But he told the Chicago Sun-Times that his many years as an officer and sergeant in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook are now off limits for questioning.

He can't give away such information for free when he has people willing to pay for his story, he said.
Peterson would be happy to talk about his police career with approval from a Florida publicist he's hired, he said.
But the publicist told the Sun-Times that Peterson can't talk about those days because there's a deal in the works for someone else to tell the story.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Drew Peterson Named in Brutality Suit

CHICAGO - A former police officer suspected in the disappearance of his wife will be defended in a police brutality lawsuit by an attorney hired by the town that employed him, his personal attorney said Friday.

Former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson, who is a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, Stacy Peterson, and two other Bolingbrook officers are accused in a federal lawsuit by a man who claims they broke his thumb while he was in police custody.

In his lawsuit filed last month, Timothy Brownlee accused police of having used excessive force, committed assault and battery and conspiracy, and falsely arrested and imprisoned him on May 28, 2007.

He claims Peterson and two other officers dragged him from the booking area and threw him to the ground. He said after he was handcuffed Peterson "grabbed his right thumb and twisted it, breaking it."

Police say Brownlee was arrested after a neighbor complained he was using vulgar language and was uncooperative, and that Brownlee's actions in the booking room required officers to restrain him. Brownlee was initially charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice, but the charges were later dismissed, according to his lawsuit.

Brownlee referred questions to his attorney, Jon Loevy. Loevy did not immediately return calls for comment Friday.

Village attorney James Boan declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Peterson's attorney, Joel Brodsky, provided The Associated Press a copy of a letter in which Boan said the village would provide Peterson an attorney.

Brodsky said Brownlee included Peterson in the lawsuit in an "attempt to make money off the fact that Drew Peterson is being investigated and Stacy Peterson is missing and (Peterson's former wife) Kathy Savio died tragically in her bathtub."

He said the incident in the booking room was videotaped and Peterson was not on duty.

Peterson has been named a suspect in his wife's disappearance, which authorities have called a possible homicide, but he has not been charged. Stacy Peterson was last seen Oct. 28 and was reported missing by her family the next day.

Peterson has denied any involvement in her disappearance. He has said he believes she left him for another man and is alive.

The investigation prompted the exhumation of the Peterson's third wife, Savio. Prosecutors have said evidence indicates her 2004 death may have been a homicide staged to look like an accident. Results of a new autopsy have not been released. Peterson has not been named a suspect in her death.