Peterson defense witness: Savio death an accident
BY DAN ROZEK AND JANET LUNDQUIST Staff Reporters August 28, 2012 1:22PM
Updated: September 30, 2012 6:16AM
Kathleen Savio accidentally drowned in her bathtub after falling and striking her head so hard she knocked herself out, a pathologist testified Tuesday at Drew Peterson’s murder trial.
“She sustained a head injury, was rendered unconscious and in an unconscious state, she drowned,” Dr. Jeffrey Jentzen told jurors as he testified on behalf of the former Bolingbrook cop.
Jentzen, the first medical expert called by Peterson’s defense team, directly disputed earlier testimony from two pathologists called by prosecutors who concluded Savio’s 2004 death was a murder.
Prosecutors later Tuesday are expected to heavily question Jentzen later Tuesday about his conclusions, including how the 5-foot, 5-inch Savio inadvertently drowned in a 40-inch-long, oval-shaped tub.
Jentzen, a University of Michigan pathologist, said he found nothing suspicious about an inch-long cut discovered on the back of Savio’s head or other fresh bruises on her body.
Bruises found on the left side of her body, including bruises on her left breast and left hip, were consistent with the way Savio was discovered lying on her left-side in her tub, Jentzen said.
The bloody cut on the back of Savio’s head, Jentzen said, likely was caused when she struck the edge of the tub as she fell, he said.
“These injuries are classic for people who fall,” Jentzen said.
The two pathologists who testified earlier for prosecutors testified the smoothed, curved edge of the tub couldn’t have inflicted the laceration on Savio’s head.
Her body also appeared wedged into the tub with her knees pulled up and the toes on her right foot bent back so severely there was virtually no blood in that foot, said Dr. Larry Blum, a pathologist who conducted an autopsy in 2007 after Savio’s body was exhumed.
Her drowning death initially was labled an accident, but then was reviewed and classified a homicide after the October 2007 disappearance of Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy.
Peterson in May 2009 was charged with murdering Savio and staging her death to look like an accident.
Jentzen testified that in an accidental fall a person’s feet typically rise up in the air, but he didn’t address how Savio’s feet were pinned at the bottom of the tub.
Dr. Mary Case, a neuro-pathologist and head injury expert who has performed more than 11,000 autopsies in her career, also told jurors the blow that inflicted the cut wasn’t severe enough to knock her unconscious.
Though not board-certified as a neuro-pathologist, Jentzen flatly disagreed with Case’s testimony on that point.
“I disagree vehemently with that opinion,” he said.