JOLIET, Ill. — Former police officer Drew Peterson offered someone $25,000 to kill his third wife because he thought a pending divorce settlement would financially ruin him, but then killed her himself months later, prosecutors said Friday. Prosecutor James Glasgow made the allegation at a bail reduction hearing for Peterson's $20 million bond.
Judge Carla J. Alessio-Policandriotes refused to reduce the bond for the suburban Chicago police officer, who is charged with first-degree murder in Kathleen Savio's 2004 death.
Peterson also is a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. He has maintained his innocence in Savio's death and Stacy Peterson's disappearance.
Glasgow said Peterson told a fellow police officer in late 2003 that he would be financially ruined by a pending divorce, and his life would be easier "if she was just dead." Glasgow did not reveal the source of his allegation.
Savio's body was found with a gash on the back of her head in her bathtub three weeks later, the Will County prosecutor said.
Peterson is a flight risk, he said, because he knows how to disappear and knows he faces 20 to 60 years in jail if he's convicted.
Peterson attorneys said they planned to appeal the judge's refusal to lower his bond to under $1 million.
Attorney Joel Brodsky said Peterson has not fled, despite trips to Mexico, California and Florida, since police named him a suspect in Stacy Peterson's disappearance in late 2007.
Brodsky said that he had heard talk about Peterson trying to hire someone to kill Savio, but said it was "nothing substantive." He added that they would investigate Glasgow's allegations.
Savio's family _ who long said they believed Peterson killed her _ said Friday's allegations about an attempted hit were a shock. But they were relieved that Peterson would remain in prison.
"Finally someone's listening to us," said Sue Doman, Savio's sister. "This is a victory for our sister, Kathleen."
Pamela Bosco, a Stacy Peterson friend who has acted as a spokeswoman for her family, said "nobody heard the cries, the pleas from Kathleen" for years.
"They were too slow to react to Stacy," she said. "I think today the court's listening to them."
Savio's death initially was ruled an accidental drowning, but authorities reopened the investigation after Stacy Peterson disappeared. They ruled Savio's death a homicide after exhuming her body and completing a new autopsy. Peterson was arrested May 7.
Peterson, who is known for making smart-aleck remarks in the media, was much more subdued in court Friday. He hung his head as he left the hearing, and got into a van to go back to jail.
The former Bolingbrook sergeant finally understood the seriousness of his situation, Glasgow said.
Peterson "realizes there is no way out," he said.