Former Illinois police sergeant Drew Peterson was sentenced Thursday to 38 years in prison for the 2004 drowning death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
The ruling came just a couple hours after Judge Edward Burmila denied a motion by defense attorneys to give the former cop a new trial and essentially means Peterson, 59, will spend the rest of his life in custody.( Tue Feb 19 16:51:40 PST 2013 $__output )
"I pray that during the last minutes of his life, he is able to clearly see her and she is watching his descension into hell," Savio's brother, Henry, told the judge.
Peterson was found guilty in September of murdering Savio. He is also a suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, but has not been charged in that case.
His attorneys vowed to wage an appeal.
"We all have some very viable issues. We're putting our big boy pants on, we're going to go with these issues, and we're going to be back here. We're confident of that,' said attorney John Heiderscheidt.
In reading his statement prior to being sentenced, Peterson told the court he was forced to sit silent during his entire trial. He then screamed into a courtroom microphone: "I did not kill Kathleen."
He took issue with a law passed by the Illinois General Assembly in in July 2009 that allowed hearsay to be admitted as evidence in cases where prosecutors believe the victim was killed specifically to prevent them from testifying. The law was dubbed the "Drew Peterson Law."
"Hearsay is a scary thing," Peterson told the court. "It requires no proof of truth. Anything can be said and no one is accountable."
He said the statements made against him were from "women trying to better position themselves in a divorce. ... Everybody lies in a divorce."
In two days of testimony, Peterson's current legal team argued for a new trial alleging the former lead attorney, Joel Brodsky, botched the first trial by calling divorce attorney Harry Smith to the stand.
Smith testified that Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, told him her husband killed Savio and that he warned Stacy she had to tell someone. Several jurors said that bombshell testimony led them to convict Peterson.
During the sentencing hearing Savio's sister, Anna Marie Savio-Doman, asked the judge to give her sister "justice, once and for all."
"One of the hardest things for me is knowing the pain and fear that Kathleen must have suffered at the time of her murder," Doman said. "The horror and betrayal she must have felt when she realized that someone she had trusted and loved more than anything was actually killing her. "
Henry Savio said Peterson terrorized his sister, brutalized her and drowned her.
"I will be mending my family, including my family's relationship with Kitty's children, while he is rotting in jail for the rest of his life," he said. "While he is in jail, I hope that Kitty is what he sees every night before he sleeps and I hope that she is haunting him in his dreams."
"He took Kathleen's future and now she has taken his."
NBC Chicago's Kim Vatis, Lauren Jiggetts, Lauren Petty, Courtney Copenhagen, Lisa Balde and BJ Lutz contributed to this reported. Additional reporting by The Associated Press.