By Danya Hooker
State lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday that could play a role in the possible murder trial against Drew Peterson.
Sponsored by Sen. A.J. Wilhelmi (D-Joliet) with strong support from Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, the bill would allow judges to admit hearsay testimony in first-degree murder trials if prosecutors prove a witness was murdered to prevent his or her testimony.
House members approved the measure 109-0, with one present vote, Wednesday. The bill had already unanimously passed the Senate on Nov. 12. The House and Senate had previously approved the bill but Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued an amendatory veto because the original bill did not contain a date for which the law would become effective.
The new bill makes the law effective immediately upon approval.
Friends and family of Drew Peterson’s missing fourth wife, Stacy, have been eagerly awaiting the bill’s passage, believing it may help prosecutors convict Peterson of at least one murder.
Stacy Peterson disappeared Oct. 28, 2007. Those close to her said she feared her husband, a Bolingbrook police sergeant at the time, and planned to leave him. After her disappearance, at least one person told police Stacy Peterson confided to him that Drew Peterson had killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
The disappearance moved investigators to reopen Savio’s March 2004 drowning investigation, which had been ruled an accident. Savio’s family has also said she feared Peterson would kill her. The death has since been ruled a homicide but no suspects have been named. Drew Peterson is the sole suspect in Stacy’s disappearance, which police are calling a “potential homicide.”
Peterson has maintained his innocence and has not been charged with a crime in either case.
A special Will County grand jury has been hearing testimony on the cases since November. Last month, Glasgow’s office released a statement saying he was confident an arrest in at least one of the cases would come in the near future.
Glasgow has declined to elaborate on whether his office will use the law if it ever brings homicide charges against Peterson, but said the bill will help the state aggressively prosecute domestic violence and gang activity cases.