NEWS of the Day - September 7, 2012
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - September 7, 2012
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...


From the L.A. Daily News

Jury convicts Drew Peterson in third wife's death

by Michael Tarm

JOLIET, Ill. - Drew Peterson, the swaggering former suburban Chicago police officer who generated a media storm after his much-younger fourth wife vanished in 2007, was convicted Thursday of murdering his third wife in a case based mainly on secondhand hearsay statements from the two women.

Peterson, 58, sat stoically looking straight ahead and did not react as the verdict was read. Several of his third wife's relatives gasped before hugging each other as they cried quietly in the courtroom.

Illinois has no death penalty, and Peterson now faces a maximum 60-year prison term when sentenced in Kathleen Savio's death on Nov. 26.

The trial was the first of its kind in Illinois history, with prosecutors building their case largely on hearsay thanks to a new law, dubbed "Drew's Law," tailored to Peterson's case. That hearsay, prosecutors had said, would let his third and fourth wives "speak from their graves" through family and friends to convict Peterson.

Hearsay is any information reported by a witness that is not based on the witness' direct knowledge. Its use at the trial could also be grounds for an appeal from Peterson.

The verdict is a vindication for Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow and his team, who gambled by putting on a case that they themselves conceded was filled with holes. They then went on to commit a series of blunders during testimony that drew the judge's ire.

One question at trial was how much Peterson's personality might influence the jurors. Before his 2009 arrest, the glib, cocky Peterson seemed to taunt authorities, joking on talk shows and even suggesting a "Win a Date With Drew" contest. His notoriety inspired a TV movie starring Rob Lowe.

It all began with a gruesome discovery.

A neighbor came across Savio's body on March 1, 2004, and let out a scream. Others ran up the stairs of her suburban Chicago home to behold the scene: Savio lay face down in her dry bathtub. Her thick black hair was blood-soaked and she had a 2-inch gash on the back of her head.

The drowning death of the 40-year-old aspiring nurse was initially deemed an accident - a freak slip in the tub. After Peterson's fourth wife, 23-year-old Stacy Peterson, went missing in 2007 Savio's body was exhumed, re-examined and her death reclassified as a homicide.

Peterson had divorced Savio a year before her death. His motive for killing her, prosecutors said, was fear that a pending settlement, which included their $300,000 home, would wipe him out financially.

The 12 jurors, who raised questions about whether they were taking the case seriously by donning different coordinated outfits each day of testimony, deliberated for more than 13 hours before reaching a decision. The seven men and five women included a poet, a letter carrier and a man who said his favorite TV show was "Criminal Minds."

Fascination nationwide with the former Bolingbrook police sergeant arose from speculation he sought to parlay three decades of law enforcement expertise into getting away with murder.

Kathleen Savio's brother, Nick Savio, grew emotional as he read a statement from the Savio family outside court, calling Drew Peterson a "cold-blooded killer" and saying "everyone gets payback for what they have done to others.

"Stacy, you are now next for justice," Nick Savio declared as he finished speaking.

Prosecutors suspect Peterson killed his pretty, sandy-haired fourth wife because she could finger him for Savio's death, but her body has never been found and no charges have ever been filed. Jurors weren't supposed to link her disappearance to Savio's death, and prosecutors were prohibited from mentioning the subject.

Stacy Peterson's family hoped a conviction in Savio's murder could lead to charges against Drew Peterson in Stacy's disappearance. He says his fourth wife ran off with another man and is still alive.

In trying Peterson for Savio's death, prosecutors faced enormous hurldes.

They had no physical evidence tying Peterson to Savio's death and no witnesses placing him at the scene. They were forced to rely on typically barred hearsay - statements Savio made to others before she died and that Stacy Peterson made before she vanished. Illinois passed the hearsay law in 2008, making the evidence admissible at trials in rare circumstances.

The hearsay included friend Kristin Anderson testifying that Savio told her Peterson once warned her at knife point, "I could kill you and make it look like an accident."

Stacy Peterson's pastor, Neil Schori, testified she told him that her husband got up from bed and left their house in the middle of the night around the time of Savio's death. Drew Peterson later coached his fourth wife on how to lie to police, Schori said.

There was some damning testimony not based on hearsay.

A former co-worker of Peterson's, Jeff Pachter, testified that Peterson offered him $25,000 to hire a hit man to kill Savio, though he never followed through. After Savio was found dead, Peterson told him, "That favor I asked you - I don't need it anymore."

Prosecutors had to establish the most basic fact for a murder trial: that there was actually a murder. Pathologists testified for the defense that Savio's wounds indicated an accident; those testifying for the state said it was impossible for a single fall to cause both the wound on the back of her head and the bruises on the front of her body.

Peterson's lawyers endeavored to cast doubt on the reliability of key witnesses. They accused Savio's sister, Susan Doman, of jazzing up her testimony to profit from a movie and book deal.

Peterson's band of colorful, wisecracking defense attorneys - who joked outside court that Stacy Peterson could show up any day to take the stand - committed their own share of errors.

As they sought to blunt the credibility of hearsay, for instance, they ended up prompting one of their own witnesses to repeatedly emphasize that Stacy Peterson was convinced her husband did kill Savio.

Peterson could still win release someday. His attorneys have said they may appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on grounds Illinois' hearsay law is unconstitutional.

Some legal experts worried about the precedent a conviction dependent on hearsay would set, saying it could open the floodgates for the admissibility of such evidence in Illinois and elsewhere.



Remains ID'd as Calif. teen missing since 1968

The Associated Press

SAN BERNARDINO - Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Ernstein was walking home from school when she vanished on March 19, 1968.

Law enforcement and volunteers searched for the girl for months but came up empty-handed, and the mystery of her widely reported disappearance endured for more than four decades.

This year, a renewed investigation by cold case detectives determined through DNA that human remains found the year after the disappearance and buried unidentified in a county cemetery were actually those of Elizabeth, the San Bernardino County sheriff's coroner division said in a statement.

The teen disappeared a block from home in Mentone, then a small community at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles.

The remains found in 1969 were in a shallow grave near Wrightwood, a town 6,000 feet up in the San Gabriel Mountains, about 35 miles west of Mentone.

In May of this year, the statement said, the coroner's division received "additional information" suggesting the possibility that the teen's remains had been recovered but not identified. The nature of that information was not disclosed.

"Investigators located and obtained DNA samples from Elizabeth's sister and brother," the statement said. "Those samples were sent to the California Department of Justice for entry into a database which routinely searches possible matches between family members and unidentified individuals."

The unidentified Wrightwood remains had been exhumed for DNA testing in 2011 and the coroner's division had learned that they were those of a young adult.

On Aug. 16, the Department of Justice confirmed a DNA match between the remains and Elizabeth's siblings.

Now, the sheriff's homicide cold case unit is trying to determine the circumstances of her disappearance and suspected murder, the statement said.

No further information was being released, Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Jodi Miller said Thursday.



From Google News

Peterson case shifts to appeal, missing 4th wife


JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — She loomed over Drew Peterson's murder trial, though her disappearance and the suspicion that the former Illinois police officer killed her was never mentioned in front of the jury.

But since jurors found Peterson guilty Thursday of first-degree murder in the 2004 death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, could now take center stage.

"We are going to aggressively review that case with an eye towards potentially charging it," Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow told reporters outside the Joliet courthouse shortly after jurors convicted Drew Peterson of killing Savio.

While Peterson faces up to 60 years in prison, the legal issues surrounding the accusations against him may be far from resolved. In addition to the separate Stacy Peterson case, his attorneys have vowed to appeal Thursday's conviction based on the unprecedented amount of secondhand hearsay evidence entered at trial. One of them vowed to take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Peterson, 58, was only charged in Savio's death after Stacy Peterson vanished in 2007. She is presumed dead, though her body has never been found. Her husband is a suspect in her disappearance but has never been charged in the case.

Stacy Peterson's sister, in court to hear the guilty verdict Thursday, sounded optimistic that charges in her sister's case would soon follow.

"He'll be charged. It'll come," Cassandra Cales said.

Savio family was as relieved and excited Thursday as Stacy Peterson's family was hopeful. As she stepped out of the crowded courtroom minutes after the verdict, Savio's sister, Susan Doman, threw herself into the arms of her husband.

"Finally, finally, finally," Mitch Doman, Savio's brother-in-law, said as he and his wife cried. Seconds later, he looked up at a reporter and said with a smile, "We finally got that murdering bastard!"

Glasgow drew cheers from the crowd gathered outside the courthouse.

"He was a thug," Glasgow said of Peterson, his voice rising in indignation. "He would threaten people because he had a gun and a badge. Nobody would take him on, but we took him on and he lost."

As Glasgow prepares for a Nov. 26 sentencing hearing for Peterson — during which he is certain to ask the judge to impose a sentence close to the maximum 60-year prison term — he strongly hinted that many of the things he was forbidden from saying in front of the jury about Stacy Peterson's 2007 disappearance will be part of his presentation.

Among evidence prosecutors could present at sentencing is that Stacy Peterson, like Savio before her, feared Peterson might kill her. Then there was a man, Thomas Morphey, who testified at a 2010 hearing that he helped move a blue barrel that he later came to believe contained the body of Stacy Peterson.

Stacy Peterson's disappearance was the reason Glasgow's office reopened the investigation into Savio's death, which ultimately led to Peterson's conviction Thursday. Glasgow's office long has maintained that Stacy Peterson did not just leave on her own and that they not only believe she is dead but that Drew Peterson killed her.

Glasgow said that the case against Peterson in his fourth wife's death is getting nothing but stronger.

"The longer any person is gone, the easier it is to prove that they haven't just simply run away, that they are deceased," he said. "Oct. 27, 2007, (when she disappeared) is way in our rearview mirror."

Peterson's attorneys promised to appeal his conviction, partly because of the reliance on hearsay evidence. It not only included Savio's family members testifying that she feared Peterson would kill her and make it look like an accident. It also included testimony from Stacy Peterson's pastor and a divorce attorney about comments Stacy Peterson made that she believed her husband killed Savio.

"It's a dark day in America when you can convict somebody on hearsay evidence," said Joe Lopez, one of Peterson's attorneys.

Juror Ron Supalo said the sheer volume of testimony persuaded him to vote to convict Peterson.

"I think I counted at least 10 of them with the hearsay and then the circumstantial evidence," Supalo said.

Attorneys suggested they will fight the conviction on two fronts. First, they contend that the judge allowed hearsay evidence he should have been barred even under the new state law. Second, they said, they will fight the law itself.

"The law has to be challenged," said Ralph Meczyk, another of Peterson's attorneys. "It's in the appellate court now, and it should go to the Illinois Supreme Court. Our belief is that it does violate the 6th Amendment," which details the rights of criminal defendants.

Meczyk said the U.S. Supreme Court has "ruled on the issue" but that the Illinois Supreme Court "does not have to follow in lockstep."

Glasgow said he isn't worried about an appeal.

"They're absolutely wrong," he said. Federal law is clear and has been upheld around the country, and state law is solidly in his corner, he insisted.

"If you murder a witness to silence them, you extinguish your right to confront the witness," he said.

Daniel Coyne, a clinical professor of law at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, said the hearsay evidence guarantees an extensive appeal process that could take the case's constitutional questions to the U.S. Supreme Court. He said attorneys could argue that Peterson's constitutional right to confront his accuser was infringed.

Whatever happens, Thursday's verdict was a stunning latest chapter in a saga that has been the stuff of tabloids and cable television in the five years since Stacy Peterson disappeared.

It was then — after the fourth wife of the police officer, 30 years her senior, vanished — that authorities reopened the investigation into the death of Savio, whose body was found in a dry bathtub three years earlier.

While search teams were scouring the woods lakes and even construction sites near Peterson's Bolingbrook home, Glasgow's office was digging up Savio's body — an exhumation that led authorities to determine her death was not an accident, but a homicide.

The trial was the first of its kind in Illinois history, with prosecutors building their case largely on hearsay thanks to a new law, dubbed "Drew's Law," tailored to Peterson's case. That hearsay, prosecutors had said, would let his third and fourth wives "speak from their graves" — through family and friends — to convict Peterson.

Hearsay is any information reported by a witness that is not based on direct knowledge.

One after another, witnesses told jurors that Savio told of being threatened by Peterson, that she feared for her life and slept with a knife under her mattress out of concerns that Peterson would follow through threats and kill her.

During the trial — as Peterson sat quietly, his face never betraying any emotion — witnesses testified about how Savio's body was discovered by a neighbor March 1, 2004. She was face down in her dry bathtub, her thick, black hair soaked in blood and a 2-inch gash on the back of her head.

Defense attorneys presented their own experts to counter pathologists who told jurors Savio's death was murder. Her death, they said, was an accident in 2004 and it remained an accident in 2012.

Jurors heard that Peterson had divorced Savio a year before her death and, according to prosecutors, killed her out of fear that a pending settlement, which included their $300,000 home, a tavern they both owned and Peterson's police pension, would wipe him out financially.

With Peterson often acting glib and cocky during the investigation — seeming to taunt authorities, even suggesting a "Win a Conjugal Visit With Drew" contest on a radio show after his 2009 arrest — the case was tabloid fodder from the start and even was turned into a TV movie starring Rob Lowe.

What jurors did not hear or see was any physical evidence tying Peterson to Savio's death. Nor did they hear from any witnesses who placed Peterson at the scene at the time of Savio's death, or even an exact time she died or how Peterson might have drowned her.

Savio's brother mentioned Stacy Peterson as he read a statement from the family outside court after Thursday.

"Stacy, you are now next for justice," Nick Savio declared as he finished speaking



Subject of explosives hoax later arrested in Texas

by Kathy Matheson

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man flying home to Texas to celebrate his 29th birthday instead spent the day as the unwitting victim of a midair explosives hoax that forced the plane's return to Philadelphia. The man was escorted off the aircraft at gunpoint, then cleared of any link to explosives.

Later Thursday, he ended up getting arrested on outstanding warrants when the plane reached Dallas

Authorities determined the initial scare was a hoax after searching the US Airways jet and questioning the man, who did nothing wrong and was the victim of "a pretty nasty trick," Philadelphia police Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan said. Police said they were acting on a tip they received Thursday morning.

Officials didn't name the man, but Philadelphia resident Christopher Shell identified himself in a phone call with The Associated Press as the passenger removed from the plane. He declined further comment.

Hours later, however, Shell ran into legal trouble when he was arrested on outstanding warrants after arriving at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, airport spokesman David Magana said. Magana said the warrants are from North Texas law enforcement agencies but declined further comment.

Shell's Facebook page was filled with references to the episode in Philadelphia and photos of him aboard the aircraft before departure.

"We just spent a half-hour in the air to be notified that the plane, 'has technical difficulties' and had to fly back! Flight 1267 CANCELED," Shell later wrote, apparently unaware he was the reason for the return.

Police at Philadelphia International Airport received a call around 7:30 a.m. that named a passenger who was on his way to Texas and said he was carrying a dangerous substance, Sullivan said.

The name matched a passenger on Flight 1267 to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, prompting officials to turn the aircraft around after it had flown a third of the way across Pennsylvania. Passengers said they were told the plane was having electrical problems.

After landing, the airplane taxied to a remote section of the airport, where law enforcement vehicles surrounded it.

Passenger Steve McNeal, of Milton, in central Pennsylvania, said he was sitting next to Shell when five heavily armed officials boarded the plane.

"They turned the gun and pointed it at the guy sitting right next to me. I was shocked," McNeal said after the flight eventually made its way to Dallas. "I had been talking to him on the way out for the first 15 minutes of the flight. Nothing seemed abnormal."

Another passenger, Lisa Flanagan, from Philadelphia, said it looked as though Shell "was in shock. He didn't know what was going on."

Authorities escorted Shell from the airplane and put him in the back of a police car, Sullivan said.

"He was obviously very alarmed, as I would be if heavily armed police officers entered a plane to take me off," Sullivan said. "And he was certainly stunned. And that's why this is no joke. This is no laughing matter."

Bomb technicians and specially trained dogs searched the plane but found nothing illegal or hazardous, said Sullivan, who stressed that the passenger is not a suspect.

Police are treating the hoax seriously, he said, because it resulted in a heavy police response and a significant hassle for all those on the plane, which had 69 passengers and five crew members.

"It's just an incredibly foolish and irresponsible thing to do and, bottom line, it's criminal," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said the investigation into the call had been turned over to the FBI. Earlier, an FBI spokesman said the flight was diverted because of a call reporting liquid explosives were on board.

A pre-departure Facebook post from Shell described how someone he knew at the airport allowed him to go "through security with a breeze." Sullivan said social media posts would be part of the investigation.

Shell's hometown is Fort Worth, and he works in Philadelphia for 2020 Companies, a sales and marketing firm, according to his Facebook page. Various posts and public records indicate he turned 29 on Thursday and planned to spend the weekend in Texas.

Police in Fort Worth and nearby Dallas didn't immediately return messages from the AP seeking information about the Texas arrest, and a local FBI spokeswoman said the arrest wasn't an FBI matter. Shell isn't listed in online records for the jails serving either city.

FBI special agent Richard Quinn said it was too early to speculate about what sort of charges could be filed against the caller but they could be severe.

McNeal, who was sitting next to Shell, said he hopes whoever made the call "pays for it."

"Because in this day and age," he said, "it's not funny."



U.S. to designate Haqqani network as terrorist group: State Department

VLADIVOSTOCK, Russia (Reuters) - The United States will designate the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, accused of some high-profile attacks, as a terrorist group, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has signed a report to Congress saying the network met criteria for a terrorist designation, the department said.





New YPD officers could help attack community crime

We usually think of “stimulus” money as involving efforts to boost the economy but it looks like the Yuma Police Department will benefit from a different kind of “stimulus” grant.

The Yuma City Council gave the go-ahead earlier this week for YPD to proceed with its efforts to obtain a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program.

This federal program provides a major contribution to local police departments to hire additional officers who are to be used in community police efforts and community crime prevention programs. A portion of the cost of the new officers must come from the communities themselves in the form of matching funds.

In the case of Yuma, eight officers would be hired as part of a two-year grant.

There are three significant aspects of the program.

First, it helps Yuma put more “boots on the ground,” as YPD Chief John Lekan noted, at a lower cost than would be normal. More than half of the cost would come from the federal government.

Second, the program specifically requires the city to retain those officers at the end of the two-year period at its own cost. Some similar programs in the past have not had this requirement, resulting in reduced effectiveness when the grant runs out and officers are let go. That is a double-edged sword, of course, because it puts the city on the hook to keep paying for the officers.

Third, it helps YPD put additional focus on community policing and crime prevention instead of just reacting after the crime has been committed. It is a new way of policing that tries to head off crime before it happens. It is a more effective approach rather than simply catching criminals and punishing them.

For example, gang activity and violence are a problem here. Law-abiding citizens don't want it in their neighborhoods and will help police deal with it if there is a closer relationship and respect among police and citizens. That's community policing.

If city leaders are willing to make the necessary financial commitment, the program can be very beneficial.