Front row at the Peterson trial
By BRIAN STANLEY Bstanley@stmedianetwork.com August 5, 2012 7:32PM
Crystal Lake residents Hannah Zuidema (left), and Erica Veach display their tickets for public seating at the Drew Peterson murder trial at the Will County Courthouse Friday, Aug. 3, 2012, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 7, 2012 6:09AM
JOLIET — Erica Veach and Hannah Zuidema have never been willing to camp out for concert tickets or a movie premiere.
But for second-row seats at a murder trial?
“We arrived about 3 a.m. Thursday with the tent, camping chairs and snacks because if we were going to come down we wanted to be sure we got in,” Zuidema said.
For the Crystal Lake crime fans, the Drew Peterson trial offers an amazing live show. Veach, 27, is a former paralegal working on a doctorate in forensic neuropsychology so she can “study the brain functions of psychopaths.” Her cousin, Zuidema, 23, teaches high school English, but has never missed an episode of “Law & Order” or “Criminal Minds.”
Veach took time off work to watch the Casey Anthony trial on television and decided to see another nationally-covered case for herself. Since television showed a line around the courthouse hours before the Anthony trial started each day, Erica warned Hannah they’d be coming downtown by themselves in the early-morning hours.
“We were a little tired. We even got nervous because we thought the statues (silhouettes of the Marx Brothers in front of the Rialto Square Theatre) were guys waiting on the street as we drove by,” Veach admitted.
Peterson, 58, is on trial for the March 2004 death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, who was found in a dry bathtub of her Bolingbrook house. She and Peterson were divorced at the time of her death but were fighting over assets.
With no one else waiting ahead of them Thursday morning, Veach and Zuidema left the camping gear in the car and waited for the sun to come up before lining up at the courthouse door. Zuidema sang “I Got A Golden Ticket” as she was issued the marker for Public Seat #1 and Veach was given #2.
Zuidema walked into a courtroom substantially smaller than most Hollywood dramas look and the first person she saw was Peterson.
“I’d seen him on TV, but wasn’t sure it was him because he was wearing a suit and acting normal. For a moment I thought he might be one of the attorneys,” she said.
As the ladies sat directly behind Peterson in the second row, Veach said he seems more low-key than his infamous interactions with the media, but you can still see an “arrogance.”
“We’re not here because we’re into Drew. But the case is fascinating,” she said. “I love watching the jurors and people (when they) aren’t talking.”
They returned Friday morning and would come back everyday if their schedules permitted. Veach believes defense attorney Steven Greenberg has given the most impressive “performance” with his emphasis on facts during cross examinations while Zuidema said the jurors have done a good job showing neutrality with their expressions and taking lots of notes.
And based on everything they’ve read and watched about the case, both women say they believe the defendant is guilty, but doubt it will be proven.
“If the jury puts bias aside, everything against him seems very circumstantial and being a cold case doesn’t help,” Veach said. The investigation into Savio’s death was not reopened until his fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared three years later.
“We haven’t seen a bunch of solid evidence,” Zuidema agreed.