CHESTER, Ill. — Drew Peterson, the former suburban Chicago police officer charged with trying to kill the prosecutor who helped put him in prison for his third wife’s death, is scheduled to stand trial in southern Illinois this summer.
A Randolph County judge on Tuesday set a July 6 jury trial for Peterson. The ex-Bolingbrook police sergeant is accused of enlisting another prison inmate whose identity has not been disclosed in a murder-for-hire plot to kill Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. Peterson is accused of soliciting an unnamed individual between September 2013 and December 2014 to kill Glasgow, who personally prosecuted Peterson for Savio’s murder. Peterson pleaded not guilty in March.
Peterson, 61, is serving a 38-year sentence at the Menard Correctional Center in Chester after his 2012 conviction in Kathleen Savio’s death eight years earlier. He’s also suspected in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, whose father and sister attended the brief hearing. The disappearance of Stacy Peterson eventually prompted the investigation into Savio’s death.
The sentence Peterson received in 2012 left him on track to be released in 2047, when he would turn 93. But court records show he is eligible for as many as 60 additional years in prison — because of his earlier murder conviction —if prosecutors are successful in the new case.
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Circuit Judge Richard Brown on Tuesday also approved a request by prosecutors to keep the taped prison conversations between Peterson and the unidentified informant under seal before the trial to avoid influencing potential jurors. Defense attorney Lucas Liefer didn’t oppose the request.
“I just don’t feel that it’s in the interest of justice that that come out any sooner than it has to,” said Randolph County State’s Attorney Jeremy Walker. “We’re not trying to purposely frustrate the public’s rights. But there’s a greater importance in making sure we aren’t prejudicial to Mr. Peterson’s rights.”
The judge previously had banned prosecutors and Peterson’s defense lawyer from publicly revealing evidence involving the use of eavesdropping devices in order to protect an unidentified informant. Prosectors had filed a notice with the court 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.
Peterson, who is charged with solicitation of murder for hire and one count of solicitation of murder, attended the hearing but did not speak. Each charge is a felony and carries a maximum sentence of 30 years.
Brown set a hearing for late May to consider three motions submitted by Walker.
One asks the court to allow prosecutors to cross-examine Peterson about his first-degree murder conviction should he choose to testify. Another seeks permission to discuss a 2003 attempt by Peterson to pay someone $25,000 to “take care of” Savio. The third seeks to limit discussion at trial about the details of the confidential informant’s own first-degree murder conviction.
Brown has already barred the defense and prosecutors from publicly revealing evidence to protect the informant.
Peterson did not testify at his first trial but blamed prosecutors after he was convicted for “the largest railroad job ever.” He challenged Glasgow to look him in the eye and then told him to “never forget what you’ve done here.”
Judge 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.
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.
Among those attending Peterson’s last court hearing, in early March, was Cassandra Cales, Stacy Peterson’s sister.
No criminal charges have been filed in connection with Stacy Peterson’s disappearance. But Peterson remains the sole suspect.
Contributing: Jon Seidel