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Opening statements in Drew Peterson trial set for Tuesday

The murder trial of the ex-police officer gets underway in a courtroom outside Chicago.

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In this file booking photo provided by the Will County Sheriff's office in Joliet, Ill., former Bolingbrook, Ill., police sergeant Drew Peterson is shown. Opening statements are slated for Tuesday, July 31, in the much-anticipated trial of the 58-year-old Peterson, who was charged with the 2004 murder of his 40-year-old fourth wife, Kathleen Savio.

Will County, Ill. Sheriff's Dept./AP/File

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The saga of Drew Peterson and his ill-fated wives has drawn widespread attention outside the courtroom, and now the murder case against the ex-police officer finally goes to trial Tuesday with opening statements and testimony from the first witnesses.

The 58-year-old Peterson's day in court comes nearly a decade after his third wife was found dead in a bathtub, and five years after his much younger fourth wife vanished without a trace.

The real-life drama inspired a TV movie and a national spotlight was put on the case, with speculation about whether Peterson used his law-enforcement expertise in a bid to get away with the 2004 murder of Kathleen Savio, 40, and to make 23-year-old Stacy Peterson disappear in 2007.

Those who have observed major criminal trials for years say the outcome of this one is especially hard to predict.

"I think it will be a close case," said Kathleen Zellner, a leading Chicago-area defense attorney.

Tuesday's openings in Joliet pit the dry but dogged James Glasgow, Will County's state's attorney, against flamboyant defense lawyer Joel Brodsky, both of whom have staked at least part of their reputations on the final result.

Peterson's attorney says he will tell jurors, who include a part-time poet, a letter carrier and a research technician whose favorite TV show is "Criminal Minds," the life story of his client and Savio.

Peterson, a former police sergeant in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook, was charged with first-degree murder in Savio's death only after Stacy Peterson went missing. He is a suspect in her disappearance but hasn't been charged.

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