Jury convicts Drew Peterson of 3rd wife’s death

Posted Sept. 06, 2012, at 9:44 p.m.

JOLIET, Ill. — Drew Peterson — the crass former Illinois police officer who gained notoriety after his much-younger wife vanished in 2007 — was convicted Thursday of murdering a previous wife in a potentially precedent-setting case centered on secondhand hearsay statements.

Peterson, 58, sat stoically looking straight ahead and did not react as the judge announced jurors had found him guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Her relatives gasped, then fell into each other’s arms and cried.

Illinois has no death penalty, and Peterson now faces a maximum 60-year prison term when sentenced Nov. 26.

The trial was the first of its kind in Illinois history, with prosecutors building their case largely on hearsay thanks to a new law, dubbed “Drew’s Law,” tailored to Peterson’s case. That hearsay, prosecutors had said, would let his third and fourth wives “speak from their graves” through family and friends to convict Peterson.

Popular kids more likely to smoke, research says

LOS ANGELES — Popular children are more likely to smoke cigarettes, according to new research.

The conclusion, published Wednesday in the Journal of Adolescent Health, is based on surveys among teenagers in ninth and 10th grades at seven predominantly Latino high schools in the Los Angeles area. It confirms previous studies about high school students in the U.S. and Mexico.

Thomas Valente, a professor of preventive medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, and colleagues asked 1,950 students whether they had tried smoking and how frequently they’d smoked in the last month. They also asked the students how they thought their friends felt about smoking, the smoking habits of their peers, and who their five best friends were. The frequency a student was identified as a friend was used to measure popularity.

Among ninth graders, 25.6 percent reported smoking; among 10th-graders, it was 28.1 percent.

The researchers found that students’ perceptions of their peers’ behavior mattered as much as whether or not they actually smoked.

Turkey: 25 killed in ammunition depot blast

ANKARA, Turkey — An explosion and blaze triggered by an accidentally dropped hand grenade killed 25 soldiers during a stock check at a Turkish ammunition depot, the government said Thursday.

Four other soldiers were injured in the blast, which lit up the night sky late Wednesday with flames, and shattered windows in homes in the nearby town of Afyonkarahisar in western Turkey, terrifying residents.

Forestry and Water Minister Veysel Eroglu ruled out terrorism and sabotage, saying the blast occurred in a section where hand grenades were kept. The soldiers’ remains were discovered early Thursday after a subsequent blaze was extinguished.

Syrian troops take town on refugee flight route

BEIRUT — After hours of heavy shelling, Syrian troops recaptured a border town Thursday in what activists said was a government attempt to stem the flood of people fleeing their country’s civil war.

Syrian rebels had been in control of Tel Chehab, along the Jordanian border, for months despite repeated assaults by pro-government troops, local activist Mohammed Abu Houran said.

In the latest clashes, hundreds of Syrian soldiers backed by 20 tanks assaulted Tel Chehab, according to Abu Houran and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Rebels fought back but were pushed out, activists said.

The activists did not have casualty figures. Abu Houran said at least 2,000 refugees were waiting in the town for the chance to cross the border. Most of them were staying in two schools.

Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA, said troops arrested “several terrorists” in Tel Chehab and confiscated large amounts of explosives, including C4. Other explosives were also dismantled, it reported, without giving further details.

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