By Danya Hooker, email@example.com
Drew Peterson’s son will soon receive eight of 11 guns seized from his father’s home Nov. 1.
Will County Judge Richard Schoenstedt Thursday ordered police to relinquish the weapons, ending a six-month court battle over who should have possession of the firearms.
State police must now hand over the eight weapons within two weeks. Two of the remaining guns belonged to the Bolingbrook Police Department, according to a department spokesman, and have been returned. While the eleventh gun is now considered evidence in a felony weapons charge against Peterson.
Peterson’s attorneys called Schoenstedt’s decision a vindication of their client’s rights but their victory was shadowed by Wednesday’s felony charge.
“[Drew’s] happy. This is what was expected today,” attorney Andrew Abood said. “It would’ve been more of a celebration had we not had what [police] did yesterday.”
Police seized the weapons, along with other items, while carrying out a Nov. 1 search warrant as part of the investigation into the Oct. 28 disappearance of Peterson’s fourth wife Stacy. Police are also investigating the March 2004 drowning of Peterson’s third wife Kathleen Savio, whose death was recently reclassified as a homicide. Peterson has been named a suspect in his wife’s disappearance. He has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime in either case.
But Peterson was briefly taken into custody Wednesday after state police issued a warrant for his arrest. The charge alleges that one of the seized guns, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, was shorter than the minimum 16 inches required by law.
Peterson turned himself in to state police after the warrant was issued and was processed at the Will County jail. Hours later, he posted the $7,500 bond with the help of his son Stephen, an Oak Brook police officer, who will take possession Peterson’s weapons.
Schoenstedt said the weapons charge, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, did not play a role in his decision to force police to return the weapons and that the state did not mention the issue while presenting evidence in secret over the last several months.
“The first time this court learned of the possible illegality of the weapon was in the last two to three days,” Schoenstedt said.
Will County State’s Attorney’s office spokesman Charles Pelkie called the decision disappointing.
“We’re disappointed but [Schoenstedt is] a very thoughtful and deliberate judge and we’ll comply with is order,” Pelkie said.
With Peterson’s son set to receive the firearms, his attorneys will now focus on the weapons charge, which they said should be dropped because the rifle was used as Peterson’s second SWAT team weapon.
Peterson’s attorneys expect the Bolingbrook Police Department to soon receive a subpoena for records that could prove the rifle was a duty weapon and therefore exempt from state law.
Bolingbrook police spokesman Lt. Ken Teppel called Brodsky’s argument a “half-truth,” in that weapons bought and issued by police departments are exempt but not those that are personally bought by officers.
“Drew had authority to carry an AR-15 but not this AR-15,” Teppel said. “Drew Peterson was issued a department weapon but this weapon (AR-15) was not issued to him. It was his personal gun so the law enforcement exemption doesn’t matter. We may have seen this gun (AR-15) but not in this [illegal] condition.”
Teppel said he worked with Peterson on the SWAT team for two years and did not recall seeing the AR-15.
Also Thursday, Kathleen Savio’s niece Melissa Doman testified before the grand jury investigating her aunt’s death and Stacy Peterson’s disappearance.
Doman declined to comment on her testimony. Last week, her mother Anna Doman appeared before the grand jury, also declining to comment.
Anna Doman is one of five of Savio’s relatives who have filed a petition to reopen Savio’s estate in preparation for a possible wrongful death lawsuit.
Will County Judge Carmen Goodman granted the family’s petition to reopen the estate on April 17. Days later, Brodsky filed an appeal of the decision.
On Thursday, Goodman granted a continuance request by Savio family attorney Lawrence Varsek, who asked for more time to respond to Brodsky’s motion to stay the court proceedings pending the appeal’s outcome.
Goodman set another hearing on the case for July 17.