CHICAGO – Less than 24 hours after screaming out his innocence in court, Drew Peterson was transferred to an Illinois prison to begin serving his 38-year sentence for the murder of his third wife.
The former suburban Chicago police officer, whose case attracted widespread media attention and inspired a TV movie, entered the maximum-security Stateville prison outside Joliet early Friday. Prison officials said he could eventually be moved after an evaluation period.
A judge sentenced him Thursday for the 2004 drowning death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
He’s also a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. Savio’s death was originally ruled an accident, but it was re-examined after Stacey Peterson vanished in 2007 and eventually ruled a homicide.
Peterson, 59, had faced up to 60 years in prison. He will get four years’ credit for time he already served in jail.
“I had prepared him for 60,” one of his attorneys, Joe Lopez, said Friday. “He felt good ... He thought he might get more.”
Peterson will likely remain at a maximum-security facility because he was convicted of first-degree murder, but his fame and status as a former police officer, which could make him a target of fellow inmates, may factor into a decision about where he is housed, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said Friday.
Appearing calm as he sat to address the judge at Thursday’s sentencing, the usually calm Peterson suddenly exploded. Looking at Savio’s family, he leaned into a microphone and shouted, “I did not kill Kathleen!” He then made a 30-minute statement, during which he cried, shook uncontrollably and stopped several times to regain his composure.
At one point, he challenged the lead prosecutor, Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, to look him in the eyes. Glasgow laid down his pen, folded his arms and looked straight back at Peterson.
“Never forget what you’ve done here,” Peterson, his eye narrowing, told him. Glasgow later told reporters that Peterson’s scream gave everyone in court a glimpse at the “psychopath” who killed Savio.
On Friday, Lopez said his client still believed he had been railroaded by Will County prosecutors.
“He is looking forward to getting out of Will County,” Lopez said.