By Danya Hooker
A pathologist investigating the March 2004 death of Drew Peterson’s third wife has ruled her death a homicide, the Will County state’s attorney announced Thursday night.
Dr. Larry Blum, an independent pathologist who performed the autopsy on Kathleen Savio for the state, handed over his report to the Will County coroner’s office Thursday.
In it, he ruled the cause of death as drowning by homicide.
“It is my opinion based on my education, training, experience and personal observations, and to a reasonable degree of medical and scientific certainty, compelling evidence exists to support the conclusion that the cause of death of Kathleen S. Savio was drowning and further, that the manner of death was homicide,” Blum wrote in the conclusion of his report.
Savio was found drowned in her Bolingbrook home’s bathtub March 1, 2004. A six-person coroner’s jury later ruled her death an accidental drowning, but the case was reopened after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing Oct. 28. Investigators had been calling both cases possible homicides.
“We’re very happy with finally knowing for sure it was a homicide; we’re not just guessing anymore,” said Nick Savio of Hammond, Ind., Kathleen’s half-brother.
Drew Peterson has been named a suspect by police in Stacy’s disappearance, and some of Savio’s relatives have said they’ve long believed Peterson may have been involved in Savio’s death. He has denied any wrongdoing in either case and has not been charged with a crime.
Savio’s body was exhumed Nov. 13 and autopsies were performed by Blum and well-known pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, who has already publicly stated he believes Savio’s death was a homicide.
“It’s been a long time coming. … Still, it is one eerie feeling of dread,” said Pam Bosco, Stacy Peterson family spokeswoman. on Thursday night. “We realized that Kathleen and Stacy had one common denominator, and that’s Drew Peterson.”
The long-awaited autopsy results were delayed by a round of toxicology tests Blum ordered in December. Will County Coroner Pat O’Neil declined to specify the tests but called them “complicated” and “exotic.”
Baden later told Suburban Life Publications that he believes Blum ordered the tests to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Savio could not have drowned due to any pre-existing condition or drug that would have rendered her unconscious.
The full results of both autopsies are being used in the investigation into her death and will not be released to the public.
Meanwhile, a hearing on two requests by relatives to reopen the estate of Savio is scheduled for March 17. The sides have discussed the possibility of filing a joint petition and hope to lay the groundwork for a wrongful death lawsuit against Drew Peterson, according to attorney Martin Glink , who represents Savio’s father.
Peterson’s attorney, Joel Brodsky, has said lawyers for both sets of relatives are wasting their time because the two-year statute of limitations on filing a wrongful death lawsuit has long passed.
“We feel extreme sadness for Kathleen because she cried out so many times,” Bosco said.
Drew Peterson answered the door at his Bolingbrook home Thursday night. He referred all questions to his lawyer.
HERE’S A COPY OF THE RELEASE:
Pathologist declares Kathleen Savio’s death a homicide
JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced today that his office has received the final report on the autopsy performed on the remains of Kathleen S. Savio on Nov. 13, 2007.
Dr. Larry W. Blum, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, concludes in his report that the actual cause of Kathleen Savio’s death was drowning and that the legal manner of death was homicide. Dr. Blum’s report was delivered to the Will County Coroner’s Office on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008 and immediately forwarded to the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Illinois State Police.
“Dr. Blum’s forensic report renders his expert opinion that this is a homicide,” State’s Attorney Glasgow said. “We have been investigating this as a murder since reopening the case in November of last year. We now have a scientific basis to formally and publicly classify it as such.”
The complete autopsy report is a component of the investigation into the March 1, 2004 death of Kathleen Savio and will not be released. However, the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Illinois State Police are releasing the following quote from the conclusion in Dr. Blum’s report:
“It is my opinion based on my education, training, experience and personal observations, and to a reasonable degree of medical and scientific certainty, compelling evidence exists to support the conclusions that the cause of death of Kathleen S. Savio was drowning and further, that the manner of death was homicide.”
This was the second autopsy performed on Kathleen Savio’s remains. The first was performed shortly after her death in March 2004. Her body was exhumed on the morning of Nov. 13, 2007, and Dr. Blum performed the second autopsy that afternoon.
In his report, Dr. Blum notes that he reviewed photos taken from the scene at the time of Kathleen Savio’s death as well as reports of the initial scene investigation. He also carefully examined the physical location of Kathleen Savio’s death on Nov. 20, 2007 as part of his investigation.
His report includes the results of microscopic examinations and toxicological tests conducted on postmortem tissue specimens. The specimens examined by Dr. Blum were collected during the first autopsy on March 2, 2004, the second autopsy performed by Dr. Blum on Nov. 13, 2007, and a third autopsy performed by Dr. Michael Baden on behalf of Kathleen Savio’s family on Nov. 16, 2007.
The results of those examinations and tests are part of the investigation and are not being disclosed at this time.
The Illinois State Police are investigating the murder of Kathleen Savio as well as the disappearance of Stacy Peterson. Kathleen Savio’s murder and Stacy Peterson’s disappearance are simultaneously being investigated by a Special Grand Jury that was convened in November 2007.