Peterson found guilty of murdering Savio

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow talks to reporters outside the Will County Courthouse in Joliet following the murder conviction of Drew Peterson for the death of Kathleen Savio. (E. Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune)

Retired Bolingbrook police officer Drew Peterson was found guilty Thursday of murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio, the verdict eliciting a gasp from a packed Will County courthouse and ending a case that for years has received salacious tabloid news coverage.

Peterson showed no emotion as the verdict was read. He was shackled, said "Good job" to his attorneys and was led off. Sentencing has been set for Nov. 26. Savio's family and supporters hugged and cried along with witnesses who testified for the state.

"I knew it," said Savio's brother-in-law, Mitch Doman. "Now I can go out there and say he's a murdering bastard. You can print that. You can put it in a headline."

Nick Savio, Kathleen Savio's brother, choked up outside the courthouse as he called the verdict "bittersweet."

"It's better than a White Sox World Series win," he said, his face quivering with emotion. "This has been a very long time coming."

He read a brief statement from the Savio family saying Kathleen can "now rest in peace."

"We all love her and will never forget her," Nick Savio said. The family said they planned to visit Kathleen's grave Thursday and tell her the news.

Asked what he would say to Drew Peterson if he could speak to him, Nick Savio said he would tell him to "go have a cigar with your defense jail."

"I don't see you laughing now," he said.

The jury left the courthouse without speaking to the media. Ken Kaupas, deputy chief of the Will County Sheriff's Department, read a statement from the jurors: "We have taken the responsibility bestowed upon us with much solemnity and diligence...after much deliberation we have reached a decision that we believe is just."

Contacted at their homes, several jurors declined to speak . One juror said: "It was a tough decision. We had to do what we had to do but I think it was just." Asked about Peterson, the juror said: "He's a good father and he had good defense attorneys, but I think the decision speaks for itself." Peterson's defense team spoke to reporters outside the courtroom and said the conviction would be appealed.

The verdict came after five weeks of testimony at the courthouse in Joliet, where prosecutors tried to show circumstantial and hearsay evidence proved Peterson was guilty of killing Kathleen Savio. The defense team attempted to poke holes in the prosecution case and said Savio's death wasn't a murder at all, but a slip-and-fall accident.

Peterson's attorneys pointed to the lack of physical evidence, the inability by prosecutors to place Peterson at the scene, and conflicting opinions from forensic pathologists about how Savio, 40, died.

Savio was found drowned on March 1, 2004, in her dry Bolingbrook bathtub, and her death was ruled an accident. But three years later, when Peterson's 23-year-old fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared, Savio's body was exhumed and her death was ruled a homicide.

Defense attorney Ralph Meczyk said he believes the defense raised reasonable doubt in the case. He said Peterson was sad, but didn't say much after the guilty verdict was read.

Outside the courthouse, defense attorneys Joel Brodsky and Joe Lopez waved at the crowd and said: "We'll be back."

As they walked away the crowd began jeering them, singing "Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbyeÂ…"

Earlier, a crowd of about 75 people outside the courthouse started buzzing as word of the verdict spread. One person shouted, "Guilty!" and cheers erupted.

The scene remained raucous as cars and trucks driving by honked horns and people began singing a song called "Drew the Lady Killer," to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon."