By Danya Hooker, firstname.lastname@example.org
A Will County judge ordered Kathleen Savio’s estate reopened Thursday, paving the way for Savio’s family to investigate whether there is sufficient evidence to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Judge Carmen Goodman granted a petition filed on behalf of Savio’s father and four of her siblings. The order removed her ex-husband’s uncle as executor of the estate and appointed Savio’s father and sister as administrators of any new assets that come into the estate, potentially from a wrongful death lawsuit.
“They’re (the family) doing this out of love and affection for their sister or daughter,” said Lawrence Varsek, attorney for Savio’s brother Henry and sister Anna Doman. “It’s been a long haul for them.”
Peterson’s attorney Joel Brodsky requested the petition be dismissed on the grounds that the two-year statute of limitations on filing a wrongful death lawsuit has passed and that filing such a suit does not constitute a newly discovered asset, which is required to reopen an estate.
Savio, the third wife of Drew Peterson, was found drowned in a dry bathtub in March 2004, just months before the couple was to finalize the financial agreement of their divorce. A six-person coroner’s jury ruled the death an accident shortly after.
More than three years later, on Oct. 28, 2007, Peterson’s fourth wife Stacy went missing. The investigation into her disappearance led police to re-examine Savio’s drowning. Her body was exhumed in November and two pathologists, one at the family’s request and the other on behalf of Will County, performed autopsies. Each recently concluded the drowning was a homicide.
Brodsky pointed to testimony from the 2004 coroner’s inquest, in which Savio’s relatives blamed Peterson for her death, as proof the family could have acted within the statute of limitations.
“They (the family) did nothing for four years,” Brodsky said. “They waited for Fox News to pay for Dr. Baden to conduct an autopsy.”
But the family had no control over the estate while it was being administrated by Peterson’s uncle James Carroll, Varsek and Glink argued.
The judge agreed with them and granted their petition to reopen the estate. She also granted a request by Brodsky to appoint an attorney to act as guardian for Peterson and Savio’s two teenage sons, the beneficiaries of Savio’s estate.
The attorney will act as the “eyes and ears” of the court to ensure the boys’ wishes and interests are represented throughout the estate hearings.
“We are very pleased that she appointed a guardian to keep an eye on the Savios and make sure they don’t do anything adverse to the children’s interest,” Brodsky said. That was our main concern – that they don’t take any action that will injure the children’s best interest.”
Brodsky accused the Savio family of having an ulterior motive in filing the suit since they can’t benefit financially. Any money gained would go directly to Savio’s sons. Brodsky speculated the family may be trying to gain media attention to make a book deal more profitable.
“They want justice,” Varsek countered. “Don’t ask me how to define it, I can’t, I’ve been practicing 40 years. But we want an airing of what occurred.”
The judge’s order essentially gives Savio’s family a legal right to investigate whether there is enough evidence to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Brodsky said he believes his client will never face civil litigation in the case.
“There’s nothing at all that connects Drew to Kathleen’s death,” Brodsky said.
Brodsky said he is considering appealing the judge’s decision. Goodman set a status hearing on the case for May 22.