In this courtroom sketch Drew Peterson, right, addresses the court and Judge Edward Burmila during his sentencing at the Will County Courthouse. Read more:
In this courtroom sketch Drew Peterson, right, addresses the court and Judge Edward Burmila during his sentencing at the Will County Courthouse.

JOLIET, Ill. – Drew  Peterson – the swaggering Chicago-area police officer who gained notoriety  after his much-younger fourth wife vanished in 2007 – was sentenced to 38 years  in prison on Thursday for murdering his third wife.

The sentence came moments after Peterson shocked the courtroom with a rare  public outburst of anger as he proclaimed his innocence in the death of Kathleen Savio.

“I did not kill Kathleen!” he shouted at the top of his lungs, emphasizing  every word.

Peterson seemed to look across the courtroom at Savio’s family. Savio’s  sister Susan Doman shot back “Yes, you did. You liar!” before the judge ordered  sheriff’s deputies to remove her from the courtroom.

Illinois does not have the death penalty, and the 59-year-old Peterson had  faced a maximum 60-year prison term. The judge gave him four years’ credit for  time he has served since his arrest.

Jurors convicted Peterson in September in Savio’s 2004 death. Neighbors  found the 40-year-old’s body in a dry bathtub at home with a gash on her head – her hair soaked in blood.

Peterson is also a suspect in the disappearance of Stacy Peterson – who was  23-years-old when she vanished – but he hasn’t been charged in her case. It was  her disappearance that led authorities to take another look at Savio’s death and  eventually reclassify it from an accident to a homicide.

Fascination nationwide with Drew Peterson arose from speculation he sought  to use his law enforcement expertise to get away with murder.

After his courtroom outburst, Peterson addressed the judge with a rambling  speech, claiming he had been railroaded. He spoke in mostly hushed tones, crying  and trying to regain his composure at times. His voice quivered and his hands  were shaking as he reached out for a glass of water.

He aimed some of his anger at lead prosecutor James Glasgow, saying  sarcastically that Glasgow could now celebrate because he had destroyed  Peterson’s life.

“You perpetrated the largest railroad job ever in this country,” Peterson  told him. Minutes later, Petersonchallenged Glasgow to look him in the eyes.  Glasgow, who had been taking notes, laid down his pen, folded his arms and  looked straight back at Peterson.

“Never forget what you’ve done here,” Peterson said, gritting his teeth.

Peterson had divorced Savio a year before her death. His motive for killing  her, prosecutors said, was fear that a pending settlement would wipe him out  financially.

“We all got an opportunity to see a psychopath reveal himself in open  court,” Glasgow told reporters after Thursday’s hearing as he called Peterson a  “cold-blooded killer.”

Before Thursday, Peterson had never publicly showed concern about the  serious charges and the possible sentence he faced. The glib, cocky former  police officer seemed to taunt authorities before his 2009 arrest, suggesting a  “Win a Date With Drew Contest” and then, after his arrest, “Win a Conjugal Visit  With Drew Contest.” More recently, his story inspired a TV movie starring Rob  Lowe.

His personality loomed large over his trial, illustrated by crowds of  bystanders gathered outside the courthouse in a circuslike atmosphere after his  conviction last year, cheering as prosecutors walked by and shouting, “Loser.  Loser. Loser,” at defense attorneys.

Savio’s family members told the judge Thursday that they hoped she was  somehow watching the proceedings.

“I hope she is haunting him in his dreams,” said Henry Savio Jr., the  victim’s brother. “I hope … she is watching his descent into hell.”


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