updated 1/25/2010 3:50:14 PM ET 2010-01-25T20:50:14

The fourth wife of former Illinois police officer Drew Peterson was sure her husband would murder her, even telling a neighbor before her disappearance in 2007 that "'I'm already dead,'" according to testimony at a pretrial hearing on Monday.

The neighbor sobbed uncontrollably at times as she spoke during a hearing meant to determine what, if any, "hearsay" evidence prosecutors can use during Peterson's upcoming trial on charges he murdered his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004.

Sharon Bychowski told the court that she came upon Stacy Peterson, then 23, crying outside her suburban Chicago home one day. She explained how she had packed 10 boxes of Drew Peterson's clothes and asked her husband, 30 years her senior, to leave. But he'd refused.

"She said, 'If I disappear, Sharon. It's not an accident. He killed me,'" a visibly shaken Bychowski testified.

'He's going to kill me'
As Stacy Peterson described how she feared for her life, Bychowski advised her to put what she was saying in writing.

Her response, Bychowski said, was to say — "'It doesn't matter. I'm already dead. He's going to kill me.'"

At one point, the judge called a brief recess to allow Bychowski to regain her composure.

Peterson has pleaded not guilty in Savio's 2004 death. Officials exhumed her body and ruled her death a homicide only after Stacy Peterson vanished three years later. He hasn't been charged in her disappearance, but authorities do say he's the only suspect.

Bychowski testified that Stacy Peterson talked about her intention to divorce Peterson.

"She didn't love him anymore," Bychowski said. She added that, for Stacy Peterson, "having sex with him made her skin crawl."

Stacy Peterson told Bychowski she had mulled over whether to leave herself or insist Drew Peterson leave their Bolingbrook home. Stacy Peterson said she was certain she'd keep her own two children but hadn't decided whether to seek custody of her two stepsons, Bychowski said.

Stepbrother testified
The focus of the hearing, now in its second week, is the possible use of "hearsay" evidence in the Savio case. But Bychowski is only the latest witness to testify at length about Stacy Peterson.

Last week, Drew Peterson's stepbrother, Thomas Morphey, described how he believed he might have helped Drew Peterson dispose of Stacy's body in a large blue barrel.

In the initial investigation into Savio's 2004 death, retired Illinois State Police Sgt. Patrick Collins also testified last week that he never considered the possibility of murder. He said he never collected any forensics evidence from the home where her body was found in a bathtub.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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