CHESTER, Ill. —Drew Peterson could stand trial all over again this summer.
But there are signs this will be a more modest affair for the former Bolingbrook cop, who looked older and feebler but still chuckled in court Tuesday even after spending two years in prison for the murder of his third wife.
The most telling sign came after Peterson, 61, waived his right to a preliminary hearing in downstate Randolph County as he stands accused of trying to hire a hit man from prison to kill Will County prosecutor James Glasgow.
Peterson stood with his hands clasped, wearing a short-sleeved white dress shirt, black pants and white sneakers on his shackled feet, and he told the judge he understood the implications of his surprise decision not to proceed to a preliminary hearing.
“Yes, your honor,” Peterson said.
Lucas Liefer, the attorney appointed to represent Peterson, later gave an explanation that buckedthe legal strategy Peterson hasrelied upon for years. The strategythat led to a “Win a Date With Drew” contest, inspired a Lifetime movie starring Rob Lowe, and ended withPeterson’s 2012 conviction for killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
“We didn’t want this case being tried before we get to a jury,” Liefer said Tuesday.
And Liefer said he didn’t make that decision on his own: “Drew and I made this decision together.”
Had Peterson allowed the hearing to go on, prosecutors would have begun to lay out their evidence that Peterson tried to hire an assassin from behind bars to kill Glasgow. Two FBI agents had been subpoenaed to testify.
Prosecutors did lift the veil slightly on their case against Peterson. They filed a notice Tuesday that said an eavesdropping device was used to overhear and record various conversations of Peterson’s between October and December 2014, when he was imprisoned at Menard Correctional Center in Randolph County.
The case against Peterson is being prosecuted by Randolph County State’s Attorney Jeremy Walker’s office and Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office. They accused Peterson last month of soliciting an unnamed individual between September 2013 and December 2014 to carry out a murder-for-hire plot against Glasgow, who personally prosecuted Peterson for Savio’s murder.
Randolph County Judge Richard A. Brown also granted an order prohibiting Peterson’s attorneys and prosecutors from disclosing to the public any evidence in the case to protect the unnamed individual at the center of it. Peterson is due back in court April 14.
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When he arrived for court Tuesday, Peterson tried to nod “hello” to reporters and turned toward them again as he pulled out a set of thick eyeglasses he wore for most of the hearing. As he waited for the judge to arrive, he chuckled from time to time with Liefer and appeared to make faces for courtroom sketch artists.
While it took three years to bring Peterson’s murder case to a six-week trial in Will County, Peterson has demanded a speedy trial in Randolph County. That means prosecutors have only until the end of July to make their case, and they said they’ll be ready.
Another conviction would add to Peterson’s 38-year prison sentence for Savio’s death. He is on track to be released in 2047, when he would turn 93.
Court records show he is eligible for as many as 60 additional years in prison if convicted in the new case because of his previous murder conviction.
The hearing on Tuesday drew a few familiar faces from Peterson’s previous trial. Ohio restaurateur Jeff Ruby, who was tossed from Peterson’s murder trial for mouthing an expletive at Peterson, made the trip in his black tour bus.
Also in the gallery was Cassandra Cales, the sister of Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy.
Stacy Peterson has been missing since 2007. She has never been found, and no criminal charges have been filed in connection with her disappearance.
But Peterson remains the sole suspect.