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Stacy Peterson’s disappearance looms large over Drew Peterson trial

Drew Peters(left) is trial death his third wife Kathleen Savio.

Drew Peterson (left) is on trial in the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

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Updated: September 13, 2012 6:22AM

Kathleen Savio’s friends and relatives have told Drew Peterson’s jurors how they tried to report the former Bolingbrook police officer’s alleged threats on his third wife’s life to authorities in 2004.

They said they got nowhere. They said no one would listen. But now they’re being attacked by Peterson’s lawyers for failing to do anything more until 2007.

What they’re not being allowed to say, so far, is why people finally started listening to them that year.

The jurors already know if they were paying attention to Peterson lawyer Joel Brodsky’s opening statement.

“Stacy Cales Peterson is missing for some unknown reason,” Brodsky said, describing the unsolved disappearance of Peterson’s fourth wife in October 2007.

But Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow and his team of prosecutors have been much more cautious about approaching the sensational made-for-TV event that ultimately prompted a grand jury to indict Peterson for murder in Savio’s 2004 death. They seem to be looking for the right time — for defense lawyers to open the right door — to bring it up. And they’re not the only ones.

“I’m just waiting for that door to be cracked wide open not by the state but by the defense,” said Pamela Bosco, a spokeswoman for Stacy Peterson’s family who has attended every day of the trial. “Again, everyone wants to know why nobody did anything up until 2007.”

Friday, though, Brodsky said it could be extremely difficult to avoid Stacy’s disappearance for the entire trial.

“There’s going to have to be some mention of Stacy sooner or later,” Brodsky said.

Glasgow thought he saw his opening Wednesday when Kristin Anderson was on the witness stand. Anderson lived with Savio for two months in 2003. She told the jury Savio told her Peterson broke into her house dressed in a SWAT uniform, held her at knife-point and said, “I could kill you and make it look like an accident.”

Savio’s dead body turned up in her dry bathtub March 1, 2004, and authorities first called her death an accident. It wasn’t until after Stacy vanished that Savio’s body was exhumed and a second autopsy concluded she was the victim of a homicide.

Anderson stood up to a blistering attack from Joseph Lopez, another Peterson defense lawyer. He asked her if she felt guilty for moving away without reporting the threat, leaving Savio behind with Peterson, and he asked her if her life was more important than Savio’s.

She said she called the Illinois State Police days after Savio’s death but the police didn’t call back. Lopez pounced on Anderson for not making follow-up phone calls in 2005 and 2006. It wasn’t until 2007 that she connected with officers.

Glasgow tried to take advantage of Lopez’s interrogation. He asked Judge Edward Burmila — who has said comments about Stacy Peterson’s presumed death are forbidden — if he could ask a question that could prompt Anderson to talk about Stacy’s disappearance. Burmila appeared ready to oblige.

“You can’t use a shield as a sword,” Burmila told Peterson’s lawyers, commenting on Lopez’s “elaborate” cross examination.

Glasgow ultimately withdrew the question, though. Steve Greenberg, a third member of Peterson’s defense team, said the jurors likely already know Stacy is gone. In May he said they’d need to be “living under a rock” not to have heard about it.

“But the judge is doing the right thing in keeping it out because it’s irrelevant to what happened in 2004,” Greenberg said.

And Brodsky said any mention of Stacy during this trial should be small. Not to minimize her importance, he said, but because Peterson is not on trial for — nor has he been charged with — Stacy’s murder.

Still, Anderson wasn’t the only witness to be pressed on the timing of her conversations with police. Savio sister Anna Doman resisted telling jurors she didn’t turn over documents to the Illinois State Police until after Stacy Peterson disappeared — more than three years after Savio’s death.

“It was later,” Doman said.

But Lopez pressed on in his cross examination.

“Much later,” she said.

Paul DeLuca, a criminal defense attorney based in Oakbrook Terrace and a former prosecutor in Cook and DuPage counties, said Peterson’s defense attorneys need to be careful. If they make a mistake and open the door to testimony about Stacy’s disappearance, he said, “the state’s going to try to ram it through.”

But he said Burmila is going through a “weighing process” when he chooses to keep information from the jury that could jeopardize Peterson’s fair trial. When it comes time to decide on their verdict, he said, the jurors will have their instructions from the judge.

“They’re just going to have to put it aside,” DeLuca said.

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