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Drew Peterson murder trial begins; neighbor weeps on stand

Drew Peterson's trial is beginning nearly eight years after Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio, was found dead in the bathtub.

Drew Peterson trial Enlarge
Drew Peterson will finally head to trial to face his murder charges. Peterson is accused of murdering his ex-wife. Peterson is also under investigation in the disappearance of his wife Stacy Peterson. (Scott Olson/AFP/Getty Images)

Drew Peterson, the Chicago-area police officer accused of murdering his third wife, finally headed to trial today -- nearly a decade after his third wife, Kathleen Savio, was found dead in the bathtub. 

Among the first witnesses called Tuesday afternoon was a neighbor, Mary Pontarelli, who wept on the stand as she recounted finding Savio’s body in 2004, telling the court she was like family.

Pontarelli was with another neighbor and Drew Peterson at the time and said Peterson checked Savio’s pulse. She asked Peterson if Savio was dead

“Yes, Mary. She is," he responded, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The trial in Joliet, Illinois, is expected to last at least a month.

As Peterson faces murder charges in Savio's death, he is also still under investigation for the disappearance of his 23-year-old wife Stacy Peterson. Judge Edward Burmila has told the prosecutors that Stacy Peterson cannot be mentioned to the jurors and they may not hint at her disappearance as that case is still ongoing. 

According to the AP, Peterson's defense has described Savio's death as a tragic accident, while they say that Stacy Peterson, whose body has never been found, may have run off with another man.

Prosecutor James Glasgow will face certain challenges trying the case. The initial investigation into Savio’s death left prosecutors with little to no physical evidence, the Washington Post reported. Glasgow will have to rely heavily on hearsay evidence, which is normally barred at trials.

"This is as unusual a case as a case can be," Terry Sullivan, a former prosecutor who helped convict serial killer John Wayne Gacy told the Associated Press. "You have unique rulings ... reliance of hearsay ... the sensationalism of the case."

Judge Burmila said he would decide what hearsay statements to admit only as testimony proceeds, the Post reported. 

What it comes down to in this trial is motive. Kathleen Zellner, a Chicago-area defense attorney, told the Post, “If you can show motive and opportunity, they could get conviction."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120731/drew-peterson-murder-trial-begins-today