JOLIET, Ill. — Drew Peterson — the swaggering Chicago-area policeman who gained notoriety after his fourth wife vanished — lost his characteristic cool in court Thursday, screaming out his innocence before a judge sentenced him to 38 years in prison for the murder of a previous wife.
“I did not kill Kathleen!” Peterson shouted, leaning into a courtroom microphone.
His dead wife’s sister, Susan Doman, shouted back, “Yes, you did! You liar!” before the judge ordered sheriff’s deputies to remove her from the court.
For years, Peterson had casually dismissed and even joked about suggestions he killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio, or that he was behind the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.
His sudden explosion of fury Thursday as he stepped up to address the judge who would sentence him for Savio’s 2004 death left spectators gasping. Lead state prosecutor James Glasgow said it exposed the real Drew Peterson — the one more than capable of murder.
“We all got an opportunity to see a psychopath reveal himself in open court,” Glasgow told reporters shortly after the hearing. “That shrill ... screech. ... That’s the guy that killed Kathy.”
Illinois does not have the death penalty, and the 59-year-old Peterson had faced a maximum 60-year prison term. Judge Edward Burmila gave him four years’ credit for time he has served since his 2009 arrest.
After starting his statement with the scream, Peterson went on for 30 more minutes, continuing in hushed tones, crying and trying to regain his composure at times.