Witness: Peterson bragged he could cover up murder
Published: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 7:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 7:48 p.m.
JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — An aunt of former Illinois police officer Drew Peterson's missing wife testified Tuesday that he once bragged he could kill someone and "make it look like an accident."
Candace Aikin testified that Drew Peterson made the boast in front of her, Stacy Peterson and others at a family gathering in January 2007, months before Stacy disappeared.
"I just remember him saying something like he could kill and make it look like an accident," Aikin said.
She said Stacy Peterson heard that and replied, "Not with this chick you don't."
Aikin also said Stacy and Drew Peterson often fought, and that her niece told her he would follow her from room to room while she was speaking on the phone.
Drew Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police officer, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the 2004 death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Authorities exhumed her body and ruled her death a homicide only after Stacy Peterson vanished three years later.
Drew Peterson hasn't been charged in Stacy Peterson's disappearance, but authorities say he's the only suspect.
Aikin's friend, Donna Badalamenti, also testified. Badalamenti, who has know Stacy Peterson for years, said they were at a family event in 2003 when Peterson told her that if the marriage to Stacy Peterson didn't work out he would kill himself.
Badalamenti told Drew Peterson not to say that, and she said he responded, "Then I'll kill her."
Earlier Tuesday, Will County Judge Stephen White ruled that Neil Schori, a counseling minister at Westbrook Christian Church in Bolingbrook, could testify about some of what was said during conversations he had at a coffee shop with Stacy Peterson. It was unclear how much of the conversations the judge would allow, but he was expected to rule Wednesday.
White also ruled that Schori couldn't reveal what was said during conversations he had with Drew and Stacy Peterson at their home or during conversations he had with Drew Peterson.
Schori was expected to resume testifying on Wednesday.
Defense attorneys objected to Schori testifying about any conversations with Drew Peterson, arguing that they should be confidential because Schori was acting as a religious minister. But prosecutors argued that the privilege doesn't apply because Westbrook is a nondenominational church and had no specific rules about confidentiality.
The focus of the pretrial hearing, now in its second week, is the possible use of "hearsay" evidence in the Savio case.
Hearsay, or statements not based on the direct knowledge of a witness, usually isn't admissible in court. Illinois judges can allow it in murder trials if prosecutors prove a defendant may have killed a witness to prevent them 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.