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Older son of Drew Peterson, Kathleen Savio says he believes dad is innocent

Updated at 7:30 p.m. ET: The defense at the trial of Drew Peterson, accused of killing his third wife, rested Wednesday after the former Illinois police officer stood in a Joliet, Ill., courtroom and told the judge he had chosen not to testify.

The statement came after Peterson’s older son, Thomas, 19, testified that he never believed his father killed his mother, Kathleen Savio.


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Drew Peterson has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder of Savio, found dead in her bathtub in 2004. Savio’s death was initially ruled an accident but was re-examined and reclassified a homicide after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared in 2007.

Thomas Peterson was 11 when Savio died. At the time, he and his brother were staying with Drew and Stacy Peterson at their home just blocks from Savio's house.

"I believe that my dad is innocent," he said.

"Are you here to support your father?" defense attorney Joel Brodsky asked.

"Yes, sir," he said.

Thomas Peterson told jurors he saw no change in his father's demeanor around the day his mother died, saying Drew Peterson was his usual jovial self.

"There was nothing out of the ordinary," Thomas Peterson said. "I would remember if there was."

He said that when his father broke the news about their mother's death to them, he seemed genuinely distraught.

"I have never seen someone so shaken," Thomas Peterson told jurors. "It was troubling to see."

The teen, a valedictorian of his Bolingbrook, Ill., high school class and a current student at the University of Pennsylvania, last year withdrew himself from the wrongful death suit filed on his behalf by his aunt and grandfather. His younger brother, Kristopher Peterson, followed suit when he turned 18 years old earlier this month.

Related: Judge denies request for acquittal in Drew Peterson murder trial

Thomas Peterson's testimony came after some key medical testimony from two pathologists who said Savio's injuries were consistent with an accidental death. Dr. Jeffrey Jentzen said he thinks Savio died by an accidental drowning after slipping and falling in her tub.

"As I mentioned before, this is a classic injury caused by a fall, especially in an area where there are numerous areas for the body to strike," said Jentzen, who up until 2008 was the chief medical examiner in Milwaukee.

Related: Drew Peterson trial stalls as judge challenges pathologist's testimony

His testimony was in contrast to that offered last week by Dr. Larry Blum, who performed the second autopsy on Savio's body. As a witness for the prosecution, Blum said someone falling in the tub would have spread their extremities in an attempt to break their fall. Additionally, he said the tub's edges were not pronounced enough to cause the two-inch, straight-line wound on her head.

Peterson's attorneys disputed Blum's testimony.

"It was an accident," said attorney Steve Greenberg. "It's always been an accident, it's still an accident, it'll be an accident when we do the closing arguments, it'll still be an accident when the jury comes back."

Related: Former colleague testifies Drew Peterson said life better if 3rd wife dead

Prosecutors said their list of rebuttal witnesses include Dr. Larry Blum and Dr. Michael Baden.

Closing arguments could follow Thursday, and the jury would be expected to start deliberating. With the Labor Day weekend ahead, it's not clear what the judge will decide in terms of timing and days off.

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