Officer: I gave favors to Peterson during probe

/ Source: The Associated Press

The lead investigator in the death of Drew Peterson's third wife said he never collected any forensics evidence from the home where her body was found in a dry bathtub, telling a pretrial hearing Friday he never considered the possibility she was murdered.

Retired Illinois State Police Sgt. Patrick Collins, testifying at a hearing to determine what, if any, "hearsay" evidence prosecutors can use during Peterson's murder trial, also said he granted Peterson favors during the investigation because he was a fellow police officer.

Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police officer, has pleaded not guilty in Kathleen Savio's 2004 death. Officials exhumed her body and ruled her death a homicide only after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in 2007. He hasn't been charged in her disappearance, but authorities say he's the only suspect.

Collins said he even allowed Peterson to sit in on questioning of Stacy Peterson as investigators inquired about Drew Peterson's whereabouts the day Savio died — something Collins acknowledged was unusual. He said Drew Peterson even spoke up to answer one question to his then-wife about what he and Stacy had eaten for breakfast that day.

Among the potential evidence crime technicians failed to collect from Savio's home was a glass of orange juice left on a counter and the clothes she had been wearing that day, Collins testified. He also never interviewed members of Savio's family.

One of the things that led him to believe Savio's death was accidental was that he found no defensive wounds on her body.

But when someone else at the scene suggested Savio may have received a gash on her head by accidentally hitting the back if the tub, Collins said he never tried to verify that. Collins also didn't attempt to account for why her body was slumped forward when investigators arrived; he said he didn't ask if anyone had touched or moved her body.

Collins also said it never occurred to him that the scene in the bathroom might have been staged. After Stacy Peterson's disappearance, authorities said they did believe Savio's death was a homicide staged to look like an accident.

Collins stopped short of admitting he was ever wrong to believe Savio's death could only be accidental, though he conceded his investigation could have been more thorough.

"If I had to do certain things over, yes, I would," he said.

Defensive on the stand
Both prosecutors and the defense hit Collins with tough questions, with prosecutors trying to show he could have gathered evidence pointing to Peterson's involvement in Savio's death. For their part, the defense appeared to want to demonstrate that the investigation was so shoddy that it would be impossible to discover the identity of any killer now.

On a few occasions, an otherwise calm Collins appeared defensive on the stand, saying at one point in response to questions about the initial Savio investigation, "I'm not going to beat myself up right now."

Although the hearing is intended to focus on "hearsay" evidence, Collins was the latest witness to focus on direct evidence that had nothing to do with "hearsay." Prosecutors haven't explained why they have called such witnesses.

At Thursday's hearing, 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. She has not been seen for more than two years.

He said Peterson suggested when they talked on Oct. 27, 2007, that he intended to kill his fourth wife because she planned to divorce him, win custody of their children and take Peterson's money.

Morphey stopped short of saying Peterson directly admitted murdering Stacy and he said the two men never talked about what was in the barrel. Morphey also testified that he had told Peterson that he always assumed he had killed Savio, but that Peterson denied it.