JOLIET, Ill. – Authorities must hand over eight guns they seized from the home of Drew Peterson after a judge on Thursday ruled the former Bolingbrook police sergeant can transfer ownership of the weapons to his son.
Peterson has fought for the return of the weapons, seized shortly after his wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in late October, arguing that investigators have had plenty of time to do whatever tests they needed to do.
Chuck Pelkie, spokesman for the Will County State's Attorney's office, said prosecutors were disappointed with the ruling that gives Peterson 14 days to transfer ownership of the weapons.
But Pelkie would not comment on whether the order hurts the investigation or prevents any necessary tests on the weapons, saying only that the case is "moving forward and is productive and methodical and there will be a resolution."
Peterson has been named a suspect in the Oct. 28 disappearance of his wife. He maintains that he believes his wife left him for another man. The death of Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio, is also under investigation. Initially ruled an accident, her body was exhumed after Stacy Peterson vanished and after an autopsy, authorities reclassified the death as a homicide, though they have not named Peterson a suspect.
The judge's order comes one day after Peterson turned himself in to authorities on a weapons charge. Peterson, charged with unlawful use of a weapon, spent a couple of hours at the Will County Jail before one of his adult sons posted $7,500, or 10 percent of a $75,000 bond. The charge is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Authorities contend the gun, a semiautomatic assault rifle that was taken by authorities at about the time the other weapons were seized, was illegal because the barrel is too short.
Pelkie said that despite Peterson's attorney Joel Brodsky's contention that the weapon's barrel was less than a half inch shorter than the 16-inch limit, it is actually a full five inches shorter than is allowed under Illinois law. He added that even with a flash suppressor that easily screws off still attached it is still shorter than 16 inches.
When the charges were announced, Brodsky said that Peterson did not break the law because weapons peace officers use as part of their duties are exempt from the length provision of the law.
Brodsky said Peterson used the weapon as part of his duties on the Bolingbrook Police Department's SWAT unit. Earlier in the day, he filed subpoenas against the police department and a sergeant, asking them to hand over registration forms regarding Peterson's duty weapons. The subpoenas also ask for SWAT records and other documents that "authorizes" Peterson to carry the Colt model Sporter Lightweight .223 Remington rifle since 1985, said Brodsky.
Pelkie would not discuss how Peterson may have used the weapon, but he stressed that Peterson "privately owned" it.
But Brodsky said Peterson, like many officers, bought his own weapons.
"That doesn't make them any less a duty weapon," he said.