If you're a novelist, you might find this week's mystery interesting. It involves a best-selling novelist accused of killing his wife. This is one of his books:
Before he was a novelist, Michael Peterson was a Duke University graduate and former Marine. He lived with his wife in Durham, North Carolina in this 10,000+ square foot house:
Michael married Nortel executive Kathleen Atwater in 1989. They combined their children from previous marriages into one happy family.
On Sunday, December 9, 2001, according to Michael, he and Kathleen watched a movie. Around 11:00, the movie ended and they took their glasses of wine to the pool area.
|Image credit: The Staircase|
They talked for a while on the lounge chairs until it got so late, Kathleen decided to go in.
At 2:40 a.m., 911 received a call from a frantic Michael Peterson, saying he'd found his wife at the bottom of the stairs. When the operator asked how many stairs his wife had fallen down, Michael said, "What? Huh???" After she repeated the question two more times, he finally said, "Oh 15, 20. I don't know. Please! Get somebody here, right away. Please!"
Kathleen was dead by the time first responders arrived. He said that she must have fallen down the stairs after drinking too much wine. Her blood alcohol level was .07.
Unfortunately for Michael, the evidence called Kathleen's cause of death into question. Seven lacerations were found on the top of her head, consistent with someone being hit over the head with a blunt object. Later, Michael would claim that she must have been attacked by an owl while walking back to the house from the pool. Traces of a bird's feather were found in Kathleen's hand, mixed with pieces of her hair.
However, blood spatter on Michael's pants and the wall indicated he'd been involved...and that she'd struggled with her attacker at the bottom of the stairs. There was also the fact that in 1986, Michael had a friend named Elizabeth Ratliff who had also been found dead at the bottom of the stairs.
In 2003, Michael was found guilty of the murder of Kathleen Peterson. However, in 2011 the case was overturned as part of an investigation of the state's blood analyst, Duane Deaver. Deaver was one of the top witnesses against Michael, along with serving as top witness in many other cases, and when he was fired it called several convictions into question. Michael Peterson was released from jail on December 16, 2011.
A new trial is set to begin in May. The evidence will be presented again, although it isn't certain whether the prosecution will be allowed to mention Michael's extramarital activities. Apparently, he'd been involved in same-sex affairs. In the original case, the prosecution suggested that night, his wife discovered an email he'd sent to a male escort. When she confronted him about it, they theorized he'd used a fireplace poker to kill her.
Do you think Michael Peterson is guilty?