The murder trial of former Bolingbrook police sergeant Drew Peterson came to a close Thursday with the delivery of a guilty verdict from the jury.
After nearly 14 hours of deliberations, jurors announced Thursday afternoon that they had found Peterson guilty in the death of Kathleen Savio, his third wife.
Peterson, 58, pleaded not guilty to murdering Savio, whose body was found in a dry bathtub in 2004. He remains the lone suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife Stacy Peterson.
After the verdict was delivered, defense attorneys decried the conviction's basis on hearsay evidence, and reasserted Peterson's innocence, calling Savio's death "a household accident."
Drew Peterson was arrested for Savio's murder in 2009, under an Illinois law passed in direct connection with this case. The "hearsay law" allowed judges to admit hearsay evidence in first-degree murder cases if prosecutors can prove a victim's death was directly connected to a defendant's efforts to prevent them from testifying.
As a result, letters and recalled conversations where Savio said she worried Drew Peterson would kill her were admitted as evidence.
Savio and Peterson's family reacted immediately to the guilty verdict. From the Associated Press:
Kathleen Savio's brother, Nick Savio, grew emotional as he read a statement from the Savio family outside court, calling Drew Peterson a "cold-blooded killer" and saying "everyone gets payback for what they have done to others.
"Stacy, you are now next for justice," Nick Savio declared as he finished speaking.
Prosecutors suspect Peterson killed his pretty, sandy-haired fourth wife because she could finger him for Savio's death, but her body has never been found and no charges have ever been filed. Jurors weren't supposed to link her disappearance to Savio's death, and prosecutors were prohibited from mentioning the subject.
Stacy Peterson's family hoped a conviction in Savio's murder could lead to charges against Drew Peterson in Stacy's disappearance. He says his fourth wife ran off with another man and is still alive.
The murder trial began in late July, after Peterson had already spent three years in jail while the decision to bar hearsay evidence was appealed.
Peterson could now face up to 60 years behind bars, the Associated Press reports.
Following Stacy Peterson's disappearance, media scrutiny of Drew Peterson, and of Savio's death, catapulted the case into the national spotlight, and in January the Lifetime network premiered a made-for-TV movie that painted Peterson as a power-hungry, abusive spouse, which some worried would interfere with the murder trial.
This is a developing story.