The Bolingbrook Police Pension Board this afternoon voted to hold hearings to determine whether retired sergeant and convicted killer Drew Peterson should lose his retirement pension.
The five-person board voted unanimously to conduct the hearings, which could begin as soon as the summer.
“This is going to take some time,” said pension board attorney Richard Reimer.
Under Illinois law, the board could revoke Peterson's $79,000-a-year pension if it finds he used his law-enforcement powers or skills to drown his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004.
The village hired attorney Charles Atwell last year to review the trial transcripts and determine whether Peterson’s crime met that threshold. In a brief letter sent to village officials in December, Atwell said state statutes would support holding a hearing to consider terminating the benefit.
“By reason of the aforesaid felony conviction, I believe there exists sufficient evidence, upon which the board may proceed to conduct a hearing to consider termination of Peterson's pension benefits,” Atwell wrote in the letter, which the Tribune obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Atwell’s findings mark an ironic turn in the high-profile case, given that prosecutors argued that Peterson killed Savio partially because he did not want to share his pension with her.
Savio’s family has said they want Peterson to lose his pension, but that will be an arduous task. Will County prosecutors were never able to pinpoint an exact time of death in the largely circumstantial case, but the evidence suggested that Savio drowned when Peterson was off-duty.
They also could not prove the events leading up to her drowning, which could make it difficult to determine whether he used police training or know-how to commit the murder.
“I just hope it’s not another example of there being a special set of rules for Drew Peterson,” his attorney Steve Greenberg said. “It’s just too tenuous to prove. But it’s the Drew Peterson case and there’s a lot of public pressure to do this.”
Logistical problems are expected to arise during forfeiture proceedings because the law affords Peterson the opportunity to attend.
The termination hearing cannot be held at Menard Correctional Center – the maximum-security facility where Peterson is being held – because it would violate state laws that require such proceedings to be held in an open forum. It's also unlikely a court would force the Illinois Department of Corrections to transport Peterson to Bolingbrook for a pension board meeting, officials said.
Peterson, 60, retired in 2007 while under investigation for Savio’s death and the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy. He has not been charged in Stacy’s vanishing, but he remains the only suspect.
A Will County jury convicted him of Savio's murder in September 2012. He was sentenced to 38 years in prison.
Peterson's retirement checks currently are being used to care for his two young children, both of whom are in grade school, his attorneys said. Stephen Peterson, one of the former officer's sons from his first marriage, has been taking care of his half siblings.Copyright © 2015, CT Now