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Drew Peterson coached wife for hours to lie for him, witness says

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Updated: September 25, 2012 10:44AM

Drew Peterson ordered his fourth wife, Stacy, to lie to police investigating the death of his third wife, a minister testified Thursday.

The Rev. Neil Schori was not allowed to disclose damning details of what Stacy Peterson claimed her husband told her — but it was one of Drew Peterson’s own lawyers who sarcastically labeled his own client a “murderer” in an attempt to ridicule the minister’s story.

“You did nothing to prevent her from going to live with this murderer?” defense attorney Joe Lopez asked, his voice rising in the Joliet courtroom.

Testifying for the prosecution, Schori said a tearful Stacy Peterson claimed her husband had coached her for “hours” to provide phony information when questioned about the 2004 drowning death of his ex-wife, Kathleen Savio.

“She said she lied on Drew’s behalf to the police,” Schori told jurors hearing Peterson’s murder trial.

In his cross examination, Lopez pounced on the minister, contending Schori couldn’t have believed what Stacy Peterson allegedly told him during a 2007 counseling session because he then allowed her to return to Peterson, whom Lopez again and again sarcastically called a “murderer.”

“I did not stop her from going home,” Schori replied quietly.

The emotional testimony came as prosecutors neared the end of their case against the 58-year-old Bolingbrook cop, who is charged with drowning Savio in her bathtub during a bitter divorce battle.

Prosecutors expect to finish offering evidence Friday, Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said.

“I think we had a powerful finish to our case,” Glasgow said, referring to Schori’s testimony.

But jurors didn’t hear even more explosive claims Stacy Peterson allegedly made against her husband, including that he returned to their home the night authorities believe Savio died and bragged he had just committed “the perfect crime.”

Judge Edward Burmila earlier barred that statement under the grounds of marital privilege, along with a more explicit description of how Drew Peterson allegedly told Stacy Peterson that he hit Savio in the back of the head to make her drowning death look like an accident.

Savio had an inch-long cut on the back of her head when she was discovered dead on March 1, 2004.

That allegation hadn’t been publicly disclosed before, but Glasgow referred to it Thursday while unsuccessfully urging Burmila to allow Schori to testify in more detail about Drew Peterson’s alleged statements.

But Schori still offered disturbing testimony relating to Savio’s death.

Stacy Peterson confided during a counseling session that she saw her husband come home late at night, dressed in black and carrying a bag of women’s clothes that weren’t hers, Schori said.

Drew Peterson threw those garments, as well as his own clothes, into a washing machine — then warned his wife that police would be coming soon, Schori said, recounting a conversation he contended he had with Stacy on Aug. 31, 2007.

“He said soon the police would want to sit down and interview her. He told her what to say,” Schori said.

Though Stacy didn’t give Schori a specific date when she purportedly saw Peterson slip into their home, Peterson’s attorneys acknowledged that her claims related to Savio’s death.

But Lopez outside the courtroom derided Schori’s purported conversation with Stacy Peterson, saying his actions show he didn’t believe her claims.

“It sounds ridiculous that he would let her go home and get murdered herself,” Lopez said.

Stacy Peterson vanished less than two months after meeting with Schori. Drew Peterson was named a suspect but has not been charged with her still-unsolved disappearance.

In court, Lopez repeatedly questioned Schori about why he met Stacy Peterson at a Starbucks coffee shop and brought an assistant to sit 10 feet away during their two-hour conversation.

Lopez drew gasps from the courtroom gallery by asking Schori whether he took those steps because “you knew Stacy was trying to seduce you?”

Schori answered: “I didn’t know what to expect, but I felt more comfortable bringing someone to observe from a distance.”

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