State highlights botched Peterson investigation

Associated Press Modified: August 7, 2012 at 8:32 pm •  Published: August 7, 2012

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — With no splattered blood, no tell-tale signs of a struggle and what they all took as a sound explanation for why Drew Peterson's third wife lay dead in her bathtub, investigators quickly assumed she'd died after a tragic but accidental fall, some of those same investigators testified Tuesday at the ex-cop's murder trial.

By taking the extraordinary step of putting the officials on the stand who were involved in the badly botched initial investigation, prosecutors sought to explain to jurors why they have no physical evidence linking Peterson to the alleged murder of Kathleen Savio inside her suburban Chicago home in 2004.

Peterson, 58, was only charged after his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing three years later. Savio's body was exhumed then and her death reclassified from an accident to a homicide. Peterson has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Deputy Coroner Michael VanOver said investigators concluded Savio's death was accidental while her corpse was still sprawled in the dry bathtub — her hair soaked with blood. As he examined her body and inquired if he should take measures to preserve potential evidence, others indicated there was no need.

"I asked ... if they thought there was something wrong here, and they stated, 'No,'" VanOver recalled.

Dressed in a pinstripe suit, Peterson rested his hand on his cheek as he followed the testimony in the Joliet courtroom. When a photograph of Savio's body was displayed, he showed no visible emotion.

Another witness, crime-scene investigator Robert Deel, told jurors he saw no signs of a struggle at Savio's home. At other murder scenes, he has seen doors broken off their hinges, holes punched into walls and blood everywhere.

"When someone is fighting for their lives, it's an intense thing," he added dramatically. He also said there were no signs that an injured Savio or her bloodied body had been dragged across the floor.

Deel conceded he did only a cursory search of Savio's home and that he didn't bother going into some rooms. Asked about a half-full glass of orange juice in the kitchen, he said it was never tested for fingerprints, blood or anything else. He also didn't notice a deep, 2-inch-long gash on the back of her head.

A prosecutor repeatedly tried to suggest Deel and other investigators might have destroyed evidence, even questioning how they lifted Savio's body from her large, circular bathtub. Deel sounded irritated.

"It's not a graceful or pretty site," he said about removing her body. "We just got her out of there. ... She flops over the side."

He appeared cowed at times as prosecutors pressed him to acknowledge the investigation should have been more thorough. But later, he appeared more defiant and confident, defending his work at the scene.

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