Bolingbrook family who bought Savio home want Peterson trial over
By Janet Lundquist email@example.com July 14, 2012 12:04AM
The Hernandez house at 392 Pheasant Chase Drive in Bolingbrook, IL on Tuesday July 3, 2012. It is the house Kathleen Savio died in. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media .
Updated: August 17, 2012 6:54AM
World, meet Rodolfo and Marleni Hernandez.
They’re the Bolingbrook couple who, eight years ago, unwittingly bought ground zero of former cop Drew Peterson’s upcoming murder trial for the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. At the time, the couple didn’t know they were buying a crime scene, including the bathtub where Savio’s body was found.
And, while the nation’s attention is focusing on Peterson’s upcoming trial, the only thing they care about the case is that it goes away. The police, lawyers, pesky reporters and curious bystanders — they can all can just go away. The Hernandez family doesn’t like the publicity that comes with owning the home — they wouldn’t even agree to have their pictures printed in the newspaper.
“I hope the truth comes up, whatever it is,” Marleni said. “I hope everything ends, too. No more nobody coming here.”
Peterson sold them the home where Savio lived during their divorce in 2004, about eight months after Savio’s death — six months after her demise was first ruled accidental. He attended the closing and told the Hernandezes that he was selling the house because his kids liked the swimming pool at his other house down the street, Marleni said.
They did not know someone died in their house until three years after they moved in to the house on Pheasant Chase Drive. They awoke one morning in 2007 to a crush of media outside taking pictures and video of their home.
That’s when they learned Savio was found dead in their bathtub.
“I felt like, ‘Whoa.’ I was not in shock, but I didn’t know somebody was killed here,” Marleni said. “We were surprised.”
Peterson’s trial for Savio’s murder is scheduled to begin in Will County on July 23.
Peterson, 58, claims Savio died after she slipped and hit her head on the tub, then drowned.
Her death was ruled an accident by a Will County coroner’s jury in May 2004.
In 2007, after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, vanished and sparked a national media frenzy, investigators reopened Savio’s case.
Since then, the Hernandez house has been visited by police, prosecutors, reporters and random sightseers. The visits became more frequent after state police arrested Peterson for Savio’s murder in May 2009.
Through the years, investigators have taken the bathtub Savio’s body was found in and other evidence from the house. The family was compensated for the items that were taken, said Charles B. Pelkie, spokesman for the Will County state’s attorney’s office.
“They had no idea when they bought the house,” said Harold Edwards, who lives two houses down. He said he’s seen investigators walk out of the house with rolls of carpet under their arms.
“Can you imagine moving there and your house is being picked apart?” he said.
The news that Kathleen was found dead in the house was a real jolt and difficult for the couple to fathom, said Charo Fiorenzo, the real estate agent who helped the couple buy the house in November 2004.
“I understood that (Marleni) got very nervous, she didn’t want to go in the bathroom anymore,” Fiorenzo said. “(Rodolfo) said all the cops were there, the newspapers. They removed the tub and they had a big hole in the bathroom.”
At the time of the sale, none of them knew there had been a death in the house, Fiorenzo said. And Illinois property owners or Realtors are not legally required to disclose a death in a building for sale.
Recently, prosecutors floated the idea of bringing the bathtub into the courtroom for jurors to see during the trial — that or reinstalling the tub in the Hernandez house and allowing jurors to walk through and look at it.
Judge Edward Burmila balked at the reinstallation idea, saying he did not want to impose on the Hernandez family.
Both Marleni and Rodolfo say nobody asked them about the idea of reinstalling the bathtub and letting jurors walk through their house.
With the trial rapidly approaching, the Hernandezes and their neighbors are bracing for another onslaught of media and curious bystanders.
Edwards, who has lived in his house since 1999, said he’s had random people come by, asking him to point out Savio’s former home.
While he said he doesn’t remember the day Savio’s body was found dead in the bathtub, Edwards said he is reserving judgment on Peterson.
“I know Drew. He’s a quirky guy,” Edwards said, adding that he did not know Savio well. “I feel the guy is innocent until proven guilty.”
Marleni said she did not know many details of the investigation.
“I’m not a news person,” Marleni said.
And, she said, the less she knows, the better.
“I don’t know if he’s guilty,” Marleni said. “If it was an accident, well, accidents happen. But if it wasn’t, if somebody did it, that’s bad.”
Rodolfo said the media frenzy from several years ago was “crazy.” He said he’s not spending much time thinking about the upcoming trial, though he is scheduled to testify.
“I don’t know” if Peterson is guilty, he said. “Ask the judge, don’t ask me.”
The Hernandezes’ next-door neighbor, who declined to comment, saying it was too difficult a subject, had told Marleni that Savio was a sweet person.
“They said she was a good mother, friendly. A good person. She was like an angel, they said,” Marleni said.