Monday, February 13, 2017

Mystery Monday: Michael Peterson

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...



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.


Elizabeth Ratliff

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?

41 comments:

  1. Well, it does appear that way. Attacked by an owl? Now that is really odd.

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    1. And the really suspicious thing about that was that someone came up with it later. However, it isn't too far fetched, when you read what some experts say...

      http://www.audubon.org/news/was-owl-real-culprit-peterson-murder-mystery

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  2. It does sound like it with the evidence of the head injury, blood on her husband (though he could have gotten it from trying to revive her), the prior fall of his friend, and his affair. So many things add up this.

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    1. That's the problem with the blood evidence...it was found on the inside legs of his pants, as though he were standing over her with his legs wide apart. Also, the blood on the wall was smudged, like someone was trying to clean it up. But the blood expert that testified was the guy who was fired for shady practices, so when the new trial happens, all of that could be debunked by new experts...

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  3. It kind of sounds like it.

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    1. That's what I think...it's just another one of those cases where they have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. There are a lot of guilty people running around out there because attorneys can't quite prove they did their crimes...

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  5. I feel very sorry for their children.

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    1. I agree...but the children seem to 110% believe he didn't do it.

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  6. The evidence seems to point to him. What's the saying about blood doesn't lie. Either way, I don't think I'd ever want to be around him and a staircase.

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    1. LOL, I definitely will second that!

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  7. I think he did it. Interesting though this is the 3rd guy with last name with Peterson that's been accused of killing his wife (Scott Peterson abd Drew Peterson being the other two).

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    1. That's a good point! I always get Scott and Drew Peterson mixed up.

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  8. It does sound like he did it. Attacked by an owl is the weirdest thing.

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    1. Interestingly, though, owls do attack humans. I didn't realize that until I read an article about his case where experts said it could've happened!

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  9. Sounds guilty to me. I wonder what their kids think.

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    1. They all think he's innocent and have fought for him all these years.

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  10. Not sure what I think. Maybe if I went and read up on the case I could come to a conclusion.

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    1. I would recommend watching The Staircase and its sequel if you're interested in learning more. They're both on YouTube.

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  11. I think he's guilty; the motif invoked ,however, is not strong enough for someone to want to kill. So, investigators will have to concentrate on motif.

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    1. It isn't a very strong murder, but considering there's another woman who "accidentally fell" down a staircase when he was the only person around, I'm guessing he may have some issues...

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  12. I saw a documentary on this years ago. I did not realize he was being retried. This series of yours is fascinating. Thanks.

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    1. I just went online and saw that last week he agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter. Guess the owl is innocent.

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    2. Yes, apparently he did that so he won't have to serve any more jail time. His sentence will be less than the time he's already served. But I assume that means he'll never be exonerated if he didn't commit the murder? Hard to tell if he's guilty or if he just wanted not to have to go to jail and doesn't care what it does to his name...

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  13. I'm leaning toward guilty. Two women died on stairs with him in the equation? Very suspicious.

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    1. I know, right? All throughout the documentary he sits around with a pipe stuck in his mouth. Just seems like a total tool to me. Now that it looks like he's going to not have to serve any more jail time, I hope women know not to marry the dude. As someone above said, I'd definitely stay away from staircase if I were in the same building as him!

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  14. Was a magpie the killer bird in the other murder?? Give me a break! What was her life insurance policy? If there was none, they may have been arguing about the e-mail she found and he didn't want anyone to know about his liking the same sex. Image is a big thing and he had kids so I can see that as a motive. I have 2 friends, brothers, that I know are gay but have never told me. In fact, at a party once, they were freaking out to my other gay friend about me finding out. It's weird but that is how they feel even if today it is more acceptable. This guy looks creepy and the evidence must be strong

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    1. LOL...now I can't remember if there's something about life insurance in his story. There are a lot of cases where men fear there might be a divorce and murder is the cheaper option (due to life insurance), but in this case it feels like he might have been more worried about his affairs being leaked. Some of the men were mail prostitutes he contacted through Craigslist.

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  15. I saw something about this on TV. I don't know how he couldn't have been the killer. Attacked by an owl? Yeah, that happens all the time.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. LOL, yeah, the article I linked somewhere in the comments above says it's possible, but is it likely? I don't think so!

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  16. Oh yuck! Super creepy. I hope he gets convicted.

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    1. He plead guilty to manslaughter because the sentence he'll get will be less than the time he's already served. So he never really confessed...just did a plea bargain...and he'll spend the rest of his life a free man.

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  17. You would think he would have heard the owl attack. She would have been screaming. Was there any evidence that she had been up the stairs she supposedly fell down?

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  18. The owl and feathers is totally bizarre!

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  19. With just little information, the evidence seems to point that way. But, we'll never know. Maybe there's more to the story.

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  20. I know someone who was attacked by an owl, but she was a zookeeper--working in the bird department. With motive and a prior death with these stairs, it does sound like this guy is guilty.

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  21. I think he's guilty! I can't believe his children think he is innocent?

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  22. Oh wow, this all sounds like a work of fiction in itself! It seems like a CSI episode. Sad that it's not clear whether she was murdered or died by falling down the stairs.. I hope the truth reveals itself and all is put to rest properly.

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