By Michael Christian and Greg Botelho, CNN
(CNN) — After years policing Illinois streets for criminals, Drew Peterson is now among them — and will be for more than three decades, a judge ruled Thursday.
Will County Judge Edward Burmila sentenced Peterson to 38 years in prison in the murder of his third ex-wife, Kathleen Savio, said state’s attorney spokesman Charles B. Pelkie.
The former Chicago-area police sergeant will get credit for nearly four years that he has been in custody, according to Pelkie, a spokesman for Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. He could have received as much as 60 years in prison; Illinois does not have a death penalty.
Peterson was convicted of murder in September but had fought for a new trial, an effort that Burmila denied Thursday, just ahead of the sentencing, Pelkie said.
Savio was found dead in her dry, clean bathtub on March 1, 2004. Prosecutors said Peterson killed her, though the defense contended that she fell, hit her head and drowned.
The headline-grabbing case did not arise until after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared in October 2007. It was during the search for Stacy Peterson — who still has not been found — that investigators said they’d look again into Savio’s death, which was initially ruled an accidental drowning.
Authorities altered their judgment and ruled Savio’s death a homicide in February 2008, setting the stage for the first-degree murder trial last year of Peterson, a police officer in Bolingbrook, Illinois.
A Will County jury convicted him of murder after nearly 14 hours of deliberation.
“Finally, somebody heard Kathleen’s cry,” the victim’s mother, Marcia Savio, said after the verdict. “Twelve people did the right thing, oh, thank God.”