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Drew Peterson Trial: Jury selection to begin for former Chicago cop charged in ex-wife's death

Drew Peterson AP Photo/Will County Sheriff's Office

(CBS/AP) CHICAGO - Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the long-delayed murder trial of Drew Peterson, a suburban Chicago police officer charged in the death of one of his ex-wives.

Peterson, 58, is charged with killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004. Her body was found in a dry bathtub in her home, her hair soaked with blood. The ex-Bolingbrook police sergeant is also a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.

Prosecutors want the former officer's wives to effectively testify from their graves about his threats to kill them.

Those picked for the jury are likely to hear statements that the wives allegedly made to friends and relatives about threats Peterson made. Such hearsay is usually barred, but an appellate court ruled jurors can hear the statements.

A judge will vet would-be jurors starting Monday. A 200-person jury has been waiting three years for a trial to get under way. It was put off because of appellate court battles over the hearsay statements.

An appellate court ruled this year that jurors can hear witnesses say Savio and Stacy Peterson told them Peterson threatened them. There's apparently no physical evidence, so the hearsay is the heart of prosecutors' case.

At a hearing in 2010 to determine what hearsay a jury could hear, dozens of witnesses testified that Savio told them she feared Drew Peterson would kill her and make it look like an accident.

The 40-year-old Savio's death was initially declared an accident, but Peterson was charged after fourth wife Stacy Peterson disappeared. The 23-year-old Stacy Peterson's body has never been found, but authorities say they believe she's dead.

Peterson, jailed since his 2009 arrest, pleaded not guilty. His attorneys say Savio's death was an accident and that Stacy Peterson - 30 years younger than Drew Peterson - ran off with another man and is alive.

The legal saga surrounding Peterson and whether he used his status as a police officer to try to get away with murder has attracted national attention. Rob Lowe portrayed Peterson in a 2011 TV movie, "Drew Peterson: Untouchable."

Opening statements at Peterson's trial in Joliet are slated for next Tuesday.

Complete coverage of the Drew Peterson case on Crimesider

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