Drew Peterson once warned a judge, “I don’t do well in incarceration.”
He made the comment in February 2013, having already spent nearly four years in solitary confinement. Within moments, the judge would sentence him to 38 years in prison for the 2004 murder of his third wife — a sentence Peterson has mostly served in downstate Menard Correctional Center, home to Illinois’ most violent criminals.
But before he was sent to languish in the Randolph County prison on the bank of the Mississippi River, the brash and cocky former Bolingbrook cop growled at Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. The wife killer told the man who personally led his prosecution to “never forget my face; never forget what you have done here.”
And within a year, from behind bars, Peterson would allegedly try to have Glasgow killed.
Now the man whose 2012 murder conviction for the death of Kathleen Savio made international headlines is set to go on trial all over again. The courtroom drama will play out this time in Chester, the Randolph County seat 300 miles south of Peterson’s west suburban hometown. While the case is more straightforward than the Savio investigation, jurors might also get to hear about the notorious trial that earned Peterson, 62, his cell at Menard.
Randolph County Judge Richard A. Brown was scheduled to preside over jury selection in the case Friday. Opening statements are expected to begin Monday.
The case has already lured familiar faces to the courthouse on the Missouri border. Ohio restaurateur Jeff Ruby, who was tossed from Peterson’s murder trial for mouthing an expletive at Peterson, visited for an early hearing in the case. So did Cassandra Cales, the sister of Peterson’s still-missing fourth wife, Stacy.
Both had the opportunity to view an older and feebler Peterson, who still smiled and joked around in court last year even while facing fresh criminal charges that could land him an extra 60 years in prison.
Randolph County State’s Attorney Jeremy Walker’s and Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s offices are prosecuting the case. They charged Peterson in February 2015 with one count each of solicitation of murder for hire and solicitation of murder, accusing Peterson of tapping an unnamed individual between September 2013 and December 2014 to carry out a murder-for-hire plot against Glasgow.
They have also said an eavesdropping device was used to record Peterson’s conversations between October and December 2014.
Lucas Liefer, the attorney appointed to represent Peterson in the case, did not return calls seeking comment this week.
Peterson has been accused before of trying to hire a hit man. One of the most highly disputed pieces of evidence at Peterson’s 2012 trial was a claim that Peterson offered a former co-worker $25,000 in 2003 to find someone to kill Savio. Jeffrey Pachter worked with Peterson when Peterson moonlighted as a cable TV installer.
The offer to Pachter came during a late-night ride in Peterson’s squad car. Pachter testified that Peterson wanted a warning before anything happened so he could set up an alibi for the day. Peterson even said he might get into a fight at Six Flags Great America so there would be a police report showing he had been there. When the conversation ended, Peterson allegedly told Pachter to take it to his grave.
Pachter said he never tried to recruit a killer. And Peterson told him in a phone call a few months after Savio’s death that he no longer needed the “favor” he had asked about earlier.
Randolph County prosecutors sought permission to tell the downstate jury about the Pachter plot. They also intend to cross-examine Peterson about his murder conviction if he takes the stand.
Peterson is still fighting that conviction. It was upheld last fall by a three-judge appellate panel, but the Illinois Supreme Court agreed earlier this year to hear the case.
Meanwhile, the family of Peterson’s missing fourth wife has continued the search for her body. Stacy Peterson vanished in October 2007, triggering a chain of events that led jurors to convict Peterson for Savio’s death.
More than eight years later, no one has been charged in connection with Stacy’s disappearance.
But Peterson remains the prime suspect.