The circus that surrounded the Peterson case for five years was in full force outside, where the courthouse grounds were awash in emotion. Peterson — portrayed by his own lawyers as a man the public loved to hate because of his clowning, lecherous ways — had been taken down without physical evidence tying him to the crime scene.
Will County's top prosecutor, James Glasgow, called Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police officer, a "coward and a bully" and vowed to "aggressively review" Stacy's case with an eye toward possibly bringing charges. The fifth anniversary of her disappearance is next month.
"He was a thug," an emotional Glasgow said of Peterson outside court. "He would threaten people because he had a gun and a badge, and nobody ever took him on. Well, we took him on now, and he lost."
Glasgow said the jury's verdict sent a message that violence against women "won't be tolerated."
"This man murdered her because he was larger than she was," Glasgow said of Savio's 2004 bathtub drowning.
Prosecutors believed, but were unable to tell jurors, that Peterson rendered Savio, 40, unconscious with a police chokehold, drowned her in the tub and then struck her on the back of the head, possibly with his police baton, to make her death look like an accident.
Inside the courtroom, family members cried out as the guilty verdict was read by Judge Edward Burmila. "Yes!" said Marcia Savio, Savio's stepmother, raising her hands. "Finally!" said Sue Doman, Savio's sister. Michael Lisak, Savio's nephew, hugged his wife and cried.
"I feel like I'm dreaming," Savio's sister Anna Doman said outside the courtroom. "After the way we were treated (by authorities) when she died — they treated us like we were either crazy or stupid."
"We were relieved that after all these years, we finally did it," Sue Doman said. "We got Drew."
Peterson, 58, who showed little reaction as the verdict was read but stared intently at jurors as they were polled afterward, said "Good job" to his attorneys before he was shackled and led away by sheriff's deputies.
He will remain at the Will County Jail until after his sentencing, which is scheduled for Nov. 26. Peterson will then be transferred to Stateville prison outside Joliet, said Sheriff Paul Kaupas.
The jury of seven men and five women deliberated about 14 hours before delivering the verdict. A few hours before their verdict came in, they sent a note to Burmila asking him to define the word "unanimous."
Glasgow said he feared it meant the jury was deadlocked. He said he called the Rev. Neil Schori, whose hearsay testimony was a crucial part of the state's case, and Schori prayed for him. When Glasgow called the pastor again after the verdict, Schori cried, the state's attorney said.
"I'm absolutely thrilled with what happened today," Schori said outside the courthouse.
The scene there befitted the tabloid-ready case, which was fed early on by Peterson's appearances on national TV programs such as the "Today" show.
News helicopters hovered far above a crowd outside the Joliet courthouse that alternately cheered prosecutors and jeered defense attorneys. Some carried signs, including one that said, "Common Sense Drew is Guilty!"
A cigar-chomping Cincinnati steakhouse magnate facing charges for threatening Peterson in court shouted profanity as he ran after a vehicle he thought was taking Peterson to jail.