Drew Peterson, the former Illinois police officer, who became the focus of scrutiny in 2007 after the disappearance of his fourth wife, was found guilty Thursday of murdering his third wife.
The Associated Press reports that Peterson, 58, did not react as the verdict was read. Relatives of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, gasped before hugging each other as they cried quietly in the courtroom, the AP reported.
The former police officer from suburban Chicago now faces a maximum 60-year prison term when sentenced Nov. 26. Illinois has no death penalty.
The verdict reached by a jury of seven men and five women could prove controversial because it was based mainly on hearsay from the Peterson's third and fourth wives — Savio and Stacy Peterson, who has never been found.
Here's more from the AP about the evidence used to convict Peterson:
"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."
NPR's Cheryl Corley reported on the case in February 2010. Here's what she had to say at the time:
"Drew Peterson was a cop in Bolingbrook, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, for 29 years. He has been married four times and both of his last two wives told friends and relatives they feared him. Peterson's last wife, Stacey Peterson, disappeared two years ago. After she disappeared, officials reopened an investigation into the 2004 death of Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio, whose body was found in a bathtub. Her death was initially ruled an accidental drowning. Later her body was exhumed and a coroner ruled it a homicide.
"Peterson has courted the media throughout the investigations. He discussed the case as he made the rounds on national television shows such as CNN's Larry King Live and NBC's Today Show.
"There's been no physical evidence to link him to his third wife's death or his fourth wife's disappearance, and Peterson pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges. But during a nearly month-long hearing that ended Friday about 70 witnesses testified. Several said Kathleen Savio and Stacey Peterson were afraid of their husband, and that Savio, who was divorcing Peterson, feared he would kill her."
The AP quoted Ralph Meczyk, Peterson's attorney, as saying the defense would appeal the verdict.
Peterson has maintained that his fourth wife, Stacy, ran off with another man and is still alive. But her family hopes that a conviction in this case could lead to more charges in Stacy's disappearance.