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Video: Web only: Lauer's full interview with Peterson

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TODAY contributor
updated 5/15/2009 9:40:15 AM ET 2009-05-15T13:40:15

In a phone interview from the Will County Jail in Joliet, Ill., recorded Thursday and broadcast Friday, Drew Peterson told TODAY’s Matt Lauer that he’ll “probably be found innocent” of the 2004 murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. The 55-year-old former Bolingbrook, Ill., police sergeant was also harshly critical of the grand jury system that indicted him.

Police have been investigating both Savio’s death and Stacey Peterson’s disappearance for some 18 months. Lauer asked Peterson if he had any thoughts on why he the indictment was handed down when it was.

“I believe that was the last day of the grand jury and I believe they had to do something. The state's attorney, I believe, was under a lot of pressure from both the media and the Savio family to do something,” he replied.

Flip with quips
“Do you have idea what the state's evidence is against you?” Lauer asked.

“No idea. And the grand jury system seriously needs to be revised,” he replied. “I truly believe that if they wanted to they could have indicted you for this incident. What you have is a bunch of lay people that are in there and they have been sitting there for 18 months, and they are uneducated on the points of law, rules of evidence and things like that.”

Lauer asked Peterson if he has any evidence to prove his innocence.

“There’s all kinds of evidence available. We’ll get discovery and we’ll basically piece-by-piece take apart their case,” Peterson replied, adding that he could not elaborate on what that evidence is.

Peterson was arrested after a traffic stop on May 7 after being indicted at the end of the local grand jury’s 18-month term. He is being held on $20 million bail, a sum that his attorney, Joel Brodsky, has called exorbitant and is trying to get reduced.

Image: Drew Peterson arrested on murder charges
John Smierciak  /  Getty Images Contributor
Former police officer Drew Peterson was arrested for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, near his home in Bolingbrook, Ill.

Peterson told Lauer he expected that he would be arrested when he was.

“I wasn't really that surprised. The news crews were outside which indicated to me that they were getting ready for something,” he said. “So I was trying to get to the bank to make a deposit so my family would have some money in the bank account. And all of a sudden I was swooped down on.”

After his arrest, Peterson quipped to reporters, “I guess I should have returned those library books.” Later, while being transferred in handcuffs and his orange jail clothes, he asked reporters what he thought of his “bling” and his “spiffy” clothes.

Video: Drew Peterson behind bars In an appearance on TODAY after Peterson’s arrest, Brodsky had explained Peterson’s flippant remarks as his wisecracking way of dealing with stress. Lauer asked Peterson, “Do you understand how it can tend to make you a very unsympathetic character in the eyes of the public?”

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“Well, there is no book written on how I'm supposed to act,” Peterson replied. “Would it be better if I hid my head down and tried to hide my face and hunched over and tears in my eyes? I mean, no, that's just not me.”

True or false?
Savio was found dead in her dry bathtub shortly after she and Peterson divorced. She had a cut on the back of her head, and the death was ruled an accidental drowning after she slipped and hit her head on the tub.

But after Stacey Peterson disappeared, authorities exhumed her body and conducted another autopsy, which concluded that she had been murdered. Peterson took a polygraph examination for a book, “"Drew Peterson Exposed,” by Derek Armstrong, which confirmed his contention that he had nothing to do with Savio’s death. Some of his answers relating to Stacey Peterson were deemed to be untruthful, but on the key questions of whether he harmed either wife, his denials withstood the lie detector. The reliability of polygraph tests is debated and their results are not admissible as evidence in criminal trials.

Lauer asked Peterson about the mixed results of the test.

Speaking hesitantly, Peterson said, “All of the questions about Kathleen I passed with no question.” As for the questions about Stacey Peterson, he said, “Did I remove her from the house, or did I hurt her in any way? I passed those in my answer that I did not.”

Savio had told others that she feared Peterson would kill her. Normally, those people would not be allowed to testify to that hearsay evidence in court, but the Illinois legislature recently passed a law that would allow the evidence to be admitted at the trial. Constitutional scholars have questioned whether the law will stand up to review, and Peterson told Lauer that he has information that the legislature may be having misgivings about the law.

Lauer asked, “Have you given consideration, Drew, to the possibility that you may never be free again; that you may be held until trial and found guilty at trial?”

“Right,” he replied, adding, “I'm also thinking I'm going to be released on bond and I’m probably [going to] be found innocent.

In the meantime, Peterson said, “I'm being treated pretty exceptional. This is a brand new facility — the Will County Jail in Joliet. The staff’s very courteous and professional. I'm in a cell where I'm pretty much isolated from everybody. The only contact I have with people are the guards and the people who bring me my food.” 

He also said that he hadn’t anticipated he would ever be arrested. “Now that it’s happened, we’ll have to move forward and defend it,” he said.

TODAY
Stacy Peterson had two children with Drew Peterson before her disappearance.
Peterson has two teenage children aged 16 and 14 by Savio, and two more aged 5 and 4 by his fourth wife, Stacey Peterson, who has been missing since October 2007. Stacey Peterson’s family and friends say he killed her. He maintains she ran off with another man.

The children are staying with an adult son he has from an earlier marriage, he said.

“I have phone contact with them daily, and they’re doing very well,” Peterson said. “The older two, they know what’s going on. They are aware of what's happening. And the younger two — I’m just with the police right now helping them.

“You told them you’re actually out helping the police trying to find their mom?” Lauer asked.

“I didn't say I was trying to find her, just said I was helping the police, and I believe that is what my son has told them,” Peterson replied.

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