The prosecution also used in its case against Peterson the death of Elizabeth Ratliff, who was the godmother of one of Peterson's children with his first wife.

Peterson’s big "happy" family was torn apart on Dec. 9, 2001, when he called 911, claiming to have discovered Kathleen alive, but unconscious, at the bottom of the staircase in their home.

Over the years, as the Peterson case has taken many twists and turns, de Lestrade has followed up his original series with two sequels. German authorities originally determined that her death had been caused by a cerebral hemorrhage, but Ratliff's body was exhumed after Kathleen Peterson's death and investigators then established that she had actually died as the result of blunt force trauma.

A look at the bizarre case that inspired your next true-crime obsession. When Peterson and Patricia's marriage began falling apart in the mid-'80s, the girls were the ones responsible for introducing Peterson to his next wife, Kathleen. "The words 'Alford plea' are meaningless. The state's blood-spatter expert claimed that blood droplets around the stairwell were made by the striking of a weapon, according to the outlet. All rights reserved.

Whatever they believe occurred that night, hopefully all of them have been able to move on. "You brutally took the life of a woman who provided for you, guarded your children, she loved you!". Shortly after, Peterson was charged with first-degree murder. He claims Kathleen went to bed, while he stayed outside to smoke a pipe. He affirmed that he and his siblings still maintain that Peterson was innocent in the death of their stepmother. According to CNN, Ratliff was also found dead at the foot of a staircase after spending an evening with Peterson, back in 1985. Peterson was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, despite the defense's argument that Kathleen Peterson had been intoxicated and stumbled down the stairs. It means nothing.

The same AP piece reported that, in 2011, the verdict was vacated by Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, after the judge found that a blood analyst who testified at the original trial had given false and misleading testimony. "The words 'Alford plea' are meaningless. According to The National Audubon Society, the "Owl Theory" posits that a Barred Owl—a common species in Durham—got entangled in Kathleen's hair, causing serious injuries, like the removal of part of her scalp, and caused her to fall to her death down the stairs. So most of the children he had a hand in raising are still standing beside Michael Peterson. In fact, Atwater filed a civil suit against her stepfather. According to local media reports, Tim Palmbach of the Department of Forensic Science at the University of New Haven testified that the analyst "focused on only some of the blood droplets in the area and didn't disclose to jurors that there was other blood at the scene that didn't fit his findings. Highlights include interviews with Peterson himself, family members, and his legal team. Except Kathleen's fingerprints weren't on either glass.

Kathleen's sister, Candace Zamperini, yelled at Peterson during the victim impact statements. This allows a defendant to maintain their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to secure a conviction. We may earn a commission from these links. The AP reported that Peterson now lives in a 1,200-square-foot, two bedroom condo in North Carolina, and plans to spend his time visiting his family and writing a book.

Former District Attorney Judge Jim Hardin told NBC she was there for around two hours. Kathleen's sister, Candace Zamperini, allegedly yelled at Peterson during the trial. The 13-part series includes French director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade's original ten episodes, which premiered on French television in 2004 to much acclaim, plus three new episodes delving into the almost two-decade long quest for truth. "And after the closing arguments, when all was said and done, I felt confident that I knew what happened. "She's still breathing. (This plea allows a defendant to maintain their innocence while simultaneously acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to secure a conviction.) Before Peterson met Kathleen in 1986, he lived in Germany with his first wife Patricia Peterson, an elementary school teacher at an American military base there, according to People. Peterson claimed that his wife knew about his sexuality, and that he was still devoted to her even as he sought sex from other men. Esquire participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites. An Alford plea allows a defendant to maintain innocence while still acknowledging that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict. "My wife had an accident," Peterson says on the 911 call. Per CBS News, Michael Peterson was tried and convicted of first-degree murder in 2003 and sentenced to life in prison. But though Peterson and his family rejoiced at his new freedom, Kathleen Peterson's living relatives were not happy with the verdict.

Prosecutors said they hoped the plea brought "a measure of justice" to Kathleen’s family. Peterson was not the only one who brought children from a previous marriage into his relationship with Kathleen.

Peterson, a former newspaper columnist, penned several novels, including the popular 1990s WWII-era book A Time of War, which garnered interest from a Hollywood studio. In 2012, De Lestrade released a two-part follow-up, Staircase II: Last Chance, and in 2018, Netflix unveiled three new chapters of the chilling story. Ratliff's death was later re-examined and ruled a "homicide," although jurors in Kathleen's case say they dismissed her death altogether in their decision-making process, according to the outlet. The French documentary series “The Staircase,” released on Netflix in June 2018, follows the Michael Peterson case in Durham.

Michael Peterson, who first found her body, made a frantic 911 call, per NBC News.

"I said, 'Are you aware that the same thing happened to Margaret and Martha’s mother and Michael Peterson was the last one to be with her?'" The bizarre case is the subject of the new Netflix docu-series The Staircase. The ME determined that Kathleen had been bludgeoned to death and suffered seven deep lacerations on the scalp. 'The Staircase' Is Your Next True Crime Obsession, This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. Whether the new spotlight shed on the Peterson case by An American Murder Mystery will convince audiences of Peterson's guilt or innocence remains to be seen. No motion for a new trial was filed. Todd Peterson lives in Tennessee. "You brutally took the life of a woman who provided for you, guarded your children, she loved you!". Peterson maintained his innocence, reportedly saying: "I didn't do anything. 2020 Bustle Digital Group. Kathleen's husband, Michael Peterson guilty of first-degree murder. In 2011, after a blood analyst’s testimony was discovered to be faulty, Peterson was granted a new trial . She was originally thought to have died due to a cerebral hemorrhage, but an exhumation and subsequent examination of her body found that the cause of death was actually blunt force trauma, per The News & Observer. ". The case inspired a Lifetime movie, an 8-part documentary series The Staircase, and now, an Investigation Discovery special titled American Murder Mystery: The Staircase, which will air Sunday, April 8 on Investigation Discovery.

But one morning in November 1985, their dear friend was found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs. According to, she and Michael Peterson settled for $25 million. "I don't think the DA cares about truth anymore," Peterson says in The Staircase trailer. The prosecutor theorized Kathleen stumbled across the photos and emails, prompting a physical—and ultimately deadly—altercation between husband and wife. "By entering into this agreement, I can only hope I'll be able to put some of this behind me," Atwater said at the time. During a break in a 2016 hearing, Peterson's son Clay told reporters, according to The News & Observer, "I certainly would like an outcome where justice would be served." While overseas, Patricia and Peterson befriended Elizabeth Ratliff, a mother of two young girls whose husband was killed while on a military mission. And I immediately thought—'a permanent sleepover!'" You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at, You Were Quick to Turn on Baby Yoda, Weren't You, The Drugs in The Queen's Gambit Explained, How Ahsoka Tano Will Return in 'The Mandalorian', This Jeopardy!

"The only thing that I have to say about the trial and all the subsequent fallout is that, if there was any closure to possibly come from all of this, it came after sitting through the entire trial and listening day after day to all the evidence — on both sides," Atwater shared in an interview with Indy Week about the 2003 murder trial. While there's no true closure that can ever come for an event like this, for a loss this deep, I was ready to walk away and start moving forward with my life.". But when Detective Art Holland of the Durham police arrived at their home, the scene immediately struck him as suspicious: Kathleen was "splayed out on the floor, her head resting on the landing of a back staircase," according to NBC. Plus, the strands in the victim’s left hand contained three small feathers. Will Netflix's The Staircase finally solve the mystery of Kathleen's death? In 2009, an attorney brought to light a new theory citing compelling evidence to prove that Peterson was, in fact, not responsible for Kathleen’s death. Ratliff was originally thought to have died from a fall down the staircase—until, of course, Kathleen Peterson was discovered dead in a very similar manner 15 years later. In 1987, the family moved in together, according to NBC. The evening before she died, Peterson had been at her house, helping put her daughters, Margaret and Martha, to bed, according to NBC. The series will revisit the investigation and trial that followed, which found Kathleen's husband, Michael Peterson guilty of first-degree murder, per the Associated Press. Peterson was never charged in her death, however. In fact, a medical examiner later determined that her blood alcohol content was so low she would have passed a breathalyzer test if she'd taken one.

The amount of blood spatter on the wall near Kathleen's body was deemed suspicious by authorities, who began to suspect foul play.

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