The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

"The Staircase" Revisits the Downfall of Novelist Michael Peterson for Murdering His Wife

Marion Charatan

Posted on May 21, 2021 11:02

1 user

A new true crime thriller is being filmed as an 8-part miniseries by HBO Max. Best-selling novelist Michael Peterson was accused and convicted of killing his wife, Kathleen, in 2001.

The Staircase, a new HBO Max true crime series, will be out soon. Award-winning French actress Juliette Binoche has just been added to an accomplished cast that includes Colin Firth, Toni Collette, and Rosemarie Dewitt.

The series was developed from Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s true crime docuseries and the books written about the gruesome death.

I recall the story. It's a harrowing tale about the suspicious demise of Kathleen Peterson in 2001. She was 58 at the time and married to Michael Peterson, a successful writer. He claimed Kathleen, his second wife, died after she tumbled down the stairs in their mansion following a binge of booze and Valium, but an autopsy revealed otherwise; Mrs. Peterson had succumbed to multiple injuries to the back of her head, likely inflicted by a blunt instrument. Her husband said he was outside smoking a cigar. Prosecutors believed Peterson killed his wife for the insurance payout.

At the time of Peterson's arrest, I was working as court reporter for WHWH Radio in Princeton, NJ. I had covered my share of grisly crimes. Although I was not assigned to this story, I remember thinking the circumstances surrounding Kathleen Peterson's death seemed questionable.

Kathleen Peterson was a philanthropist and prolific businesswoman. The attractive and statuesque blonde (5'11'') was the first woman at Duke University to be accepted into the School of Engineering. She later advanced to hold executive roles in the IT and pharmaceutical industries.

Michael Peterson, rugged and handsome, was also 5'11''. The Duke University graduate worked as a government consultant. He told Kathleen he won a Purple Heart for heroism in Vietnam as a Marine, but there were contradictory reports that Peterson actually received his injuries from a car wreck in Japan. Other accusations surfaced along the way, including affairs, some bisexual, he had hidden from his wife. However, Kathleen allegedly knew about Peterson's attraction to both women and men.

By the time he met Kathleen, Peterson had written the novel The Immortal Dragon, which became a best-seller and A Time of War, and A Bitter Peace- about his war experiences. He also worked as a newspaper columnist for the Durham Herald-Sun

Peterson was sentenced to life in prison after an emotional trial in 2003. As he was dragged off to jail, he screamed out to his daughters that he loved them. He spent the better part of 16 years trying to clear his name, unsuccessfully.


In 2017, Michael Peterson acquiesced and changed his plea to involuntary manslaughter. He was released from prison because he had already served 98.5 months and the lower charge reduced his sentence to 86 months.

Peterson currently lives in North Carolina and will turn 78 this October. He released his own account of how Kathleen died in 2019 in the self-published book, Behind the Staircase. His first wife passed away under exactly the same circumstances as Kathleen did--under a staircase. 

Marion Charatan

Posted on May 21, 2021 11:02

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Source: E!

Kerry Washington is officially an Emmy winner! The Scandal alum received the honor for her work as an executive producer...

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest