Written by Aphrodite Jones
Pinnacle Books 2004
|On December 9, 2001
in a wealthy suburb of Durham, North Carolina, police were called to investigate the death
of Kathleen Peterson, 48 who lay in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase. Husband
Michael Peterson, 58, said that shed accidentally fallen down the stairs. But
forensic experts concluded that shed been beaten to death.
Aphrodite Jones does a wonderful job of telling the horrific and sordid tale of how Michael Peterson murdered his wife Kathleen. It seems as though on the night of December 9, 2001 Kathleen found out about her husbands homoerotic interests when she discovered some of his e-mails to a male escort and some lewd pictures of men that were in a folder with some paperwork she needed for her job. Either Michael walked into find Kathleen in his office with the folder or she approached him after to question him about it. To me, it would seem pretty obvious that this sent Michael Peterson off the handle and led to him murdering Kathleen.
Michael Peterson tried to make Kathleens death look like an accident. The problem is that the forensic experts were able to determine that the blood spatter patterns on the walls of the stairwell and criss-cross lacerations on top of Kathleens head where not consistent with an accidental fall down the stairs.
The motive, Prosecutors pointed to a 1.4 million life insurance policy. Though Kathleen had been a high-earning corporate executive, Michael had not been making money for years as a novelist and they were deep in debt. Plus the reality of the situation was that Kathleen was most likely going to lose her job because of layoffs. All of these factors triggered Michael to act out and murder his wife.
On top of this, Michael Peterson had been part of a supposed accidental death that had taken place six years prior in Germany. In 1985, Elizabeth Ratliff had been found dead at the bottom of a staircase. Michael Peterson lived closed by; he was named in her will to inherit Ratliffs two daughters if anything happened to her. After the nanny discovered Ratliffs body, she took the two girls, who were still asleep and rushed to the Peterson house to for help. Peterson hurried back to the scene and proceeded to take over as the moderator between the German and military police saying definitively that Ratliff must have had an accident. Coincidence? I dont think so.
The one aspect of the story that I found very inspiring was how Kathleens natural daughter Caitlin Atwater, fought for justice for her mother against her brothers, sisters and step father. It took a lot of courage, intelligence and endurance to take on such a situation and prevail. Im sure her mother is proud of her daughter in the heavens above.