Shocking testimony in Drew Peterson trial
POSTED: Friday, August 24, 2012 - 1:30pm
UPDATED: Friday, August 24, 2012 - 1:34pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — The Rev. Neil Schori on Thursday provided some of the most dramatic testimony in the Drew Peterson trial so far.
Schori recounted a conversation with Stacy Peterson from August 2007 when he says she told him about what she saw the night Kathleen Savio died.
He said the former suburban Chicago police officer's fourth wife once tearfully recounted to him how her husband mysteriously disappeared from their home around the time of his third wife's death, then later coached her about how to lie to investigators.
"She was very scared," Schori said about Stacy Peterson.
The slender, blond 23-year-old pulled her legs up and hugged her knees nervously as she told him Drew Peterson warned her police would approach her to interview her and coached her for hours about how she should lie to them.
She did lie to investigators, he said, after Savio's body was found in a dry bathtub at her home just blocks from the Petersons' house. Schori didn't go into detail about the lies, but they apparently involved Peterson's whereabouts.
Defense attorney Joe Lopez blasted Schori for not coming forward sooner, or stopping Stacy from going home.
"She told you she lived with a murderer and you let her go back to the house?" Lopez said.
During his testimony, Schori said he invited a witness -- a church member -- to that initial meeting with Stacy Peterson. That person sat about eight to 10 feet away but was present only to observe, not listen, he said.
"He was there because I sensed from the phone call I received from Stacy the day before that I needed to have somebody else there to observe, to be able see what was going on," said Schori.
On cross, Lopez asserted the witness was there because "You knew that she was trying to seduce you."
There's an audible gasp from the courtroom that later prompted admonishment from Judge Edward Burmila.
Schori denied Lopez's assertion, repeating that he didn't know what Peterson wanted to tell him but wanted a witness there to maintain propriety.
Prosecutors have no physical evidence and are trying to build a compelling circumstantial case â€” one that will lead jurors to conclude Peterson must have killed Savio.
Her death was initially ruled an accident but was reclassified a homicide after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing in 2007. Peterson is a suspect in her disappearance but hasn't been charged.
Peterson has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Savio's death. If convicted, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 60 years.