Drew Peterson's Dead Wife Kathleen Savio "Speaks from Grave," Will She Help Convict Him of Murder?

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
(AP Photo/Family of Stacy Peterson)
JOLIET, Ill. (CBS/AP) When Kathleen Savio was found dead in an empty bathtub, everyone -- perhaps especially her husband Drew Peterson -- thought she had been silenced forever. But now, she is "speaking from the grave," as some who knew her are telling the court that Savio feared her police officer husband, a former Bolingbrook, Ill. sergeant.

Photo: Drew Peterson in Joliet Ill., for his May 8, 2009 arraignment.

If a judge allows it, their testimony could be crucial to deciding Peterson's fate when he stands trial for murdering Savio, his third wife.

At a pre-trial hearing Tuesday, Isaam Karam, a one-time co-worker of Savio, testified that Drew Peterson threw Savio to the floor one night in 2003, grabbed her throat and told her he "could kill her there and then."

Photo: Kathleen Savio.

The list of witnesses remains under seal, but Savio's niece, Melissa Doman, said her mother, Anna Doman, is among those who have been called to testify.

"It would be about things my Aunt Kitty (Savio) told my mom about how she was afraid for her life, she said she was afraid of Drew," Melissa Doman said.

The pre-trial proceeding is projected to last about three weeks, with prosecutors presenting testimony from Savio's friends and family to Will County Judge Stephen White, who will determine whether the jury can hear the testimony in trial.

Photo: Stacy Peterson who was reported missing Oct. 29, 2007.

It's a test of a 2008 Illinois law, sometimes dubbed "Drew's Law," that allows hearsay testimony in first-degree murder cases, if prosecutors can prove a defendant killed a witness to specifically prevent him or her from testifying.

Peterson's defense attorney, Joel Brodsky, said that the testimony in question is nothing but gossip and innuendo, adding that "a lot of beliefs that people have about what was said and who said them are going to be burst, dashed."

Drew Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in 2007 and although authorities have not been able to directly link him to her disappearance, it gave them cause to exhume Savio's body and perform a second autopsy. It concluded that her death, which was originally ruled an accidental drowning, was in fact a homicide. Drew Peterson has pleaded not guilty to the charges and a trial date has not been set yet.