More than three years after his indictment for the alleged 2004 murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, the trial of former police officer Drew Walter Peterson, 58, will begin Monday with jury selection in Joliet, Ill., 44 miles southwest of Chicago.
The trial is expected to receive considerable media attention as did the trial conducted after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Anne Cales, vanished in October 2007, less than four years after Savio's body was discovered in an empty bathtub in her home.
Peterson's garrulous behavior following Cales' disappearance, which included making jokes publicly about the allegations centered on him and an appearance on Larry King Live in April 2008, caused public opinion of him to fall and media attention to rise.
At one point, Peterson, who served with the Bolingbrook Police Department for most of three decades before his arrest, challenged Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera to a fight. This spurred a public tit-for-tat squabble in 2009 between an accused murderer and an alleged journalist.
Now, both the prosecution and the defense are saying the suspect has been out of the public eye long enough that the public scorn of five years ago isn't likely to affect the jury.
Nobody's going to deny that Drew's relatively goofy behavior rubbed people the wrong way, Peterson's defense attorney, Joel Brodsky, told the Associated Press in a report published Saturday. The fact that he hasn't been at that for a period of years certainly helps some of his past antics fade from memory.
But the media is likely to descend upon Joliet. Already, crews from as far away as Japan are preparing for the next phase in the drama.
Peterson is accused of murdering Savio, to whom he was married for more than 10 years, so she couldn't take his money in a heated divorce, which was finalized in October 2003. On or about Feb. 29, 2004, Peterson allegedly went to Savio's house and drowned her.
A day later, her body was discovered. Initially, a coroner's jury determined the cause of death was accidental, but a member of the jury was a Bolingbrook Police Department colleague of Peterson's who vouched for his character to other jury members.
Peterson then married Cales, who had provided his alibi in the Savio death case. But their marriage tanked, and Cales was reported missing on Oct. 29, 2007.
After that, Savio's body was exhumed at the request of her family. Dr. Michael Baden, a former chief medical examiner in New York, subsequently concluded there had been a struggle and that he believed the death was a homicide.
In 2008, during the height of the public circus, Peterson's publicist announced her client was engaged to marry 23-year-old Christina Raines. At one point, the couple appeared on NBC's Today show, maintaining they intended to marry and have kids. All of that ended on May 7, 2009, when a Will County grand jury indicted Peterson for the murder of Savio.
Cales' whereabouts are still unknown.