JOLIET -- A man who dated Drew Peterson's third wife told jurors Friday at the former police officer's murder trial that he saw no bruises on her naked body days before she died -- potentially key testimony meant to support the state's claim she was attacked before her death.
Peterson, 58, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Kathleen Savio's 2004 death, which was initially ruled an accident. Her death was reclassified as a homicide only after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, vanished three years later. Peterson is a suspect in her disappearance but hasn't been charged.
Steve Maniaci's testimony came as prosecutors tried to back up their theory that bruises on Savio's body, including one on her buttocks, were the result of an attack and not a fall in her bathroom. But defense attorneys, who have called Savio's death a tragic accident, offered other explanations for the marks.
A sometimes ill-at-ease Maniaci, 52, was asked extensively about his sexual relations with Savio, telling jurors that explained how he knew there were no noticeable marks on her body only three days before the 40-year-old was found dead on March 1, 2004.
But during cross-examination, the defense sought to suggest the bruises may have been caused by the sex Maniaci and Savio had several days earlier. At one point, Maniaci had to indicate with a laser pointer where on the floor in Savio's suburban Chicago home they had sex.
Defense attorney Joe Lopez also asked Maniaci if Savio bruised easily.
"She used to tell me that," he conceded.
Maniaci also told jurors he spoke to Drew Peterson outside Savio's house about an hour after her body was found inside. Someone had called Maniaci to break the news, and he had rushed to her home.
"I went up and asked him, 'What the hell happened?'" Maniaci said. "He said he didn't know."
But Maniaci conveyed to jurors that he had his suspicions and he expressed them to Peterson.
"I sure hope you didn't have anything to do with this," Maniaci recalled telling Peterson as they stood under a lamppost outside Savio's house, with other police and onlookers gathered nearby. "He said he didn't."
Maniaci began dating Savio seriously in 2002, while she and Peterson were getting a divorce. They were legally divorced when she died but their financial settlement hadn't been finalized.
Maniaci said he noted that fact as he spoke to Peterson that night.
"I said, 'This sure worked out well for you,'" he recalled. "He said, 'She would have lost anyway.'"