Michael Peterson: Freed Novelist On ‘Dateline’ NBC About Kathleen Peterson’s Staircase Death Fall, Murder

Traciy Reyes - Author

Dec. 21 2017, Updated 5:11 a.m. ET

In case you missed it, Michael Peterson, famed book author and convicted felon, is out of prison. And this Friday on Dateline NBC, he will talk about the death of his 43-year-old wife, Kathleen Peterson, who was found dead at the bottom of the stairs more than fifteen years ago in their Durham, North Carolina, home. On Dateline’s episode about the case titled “Down The Back Staircase,” Michael Peterson will claim his innocence, a claim that he has continued to make since the death of Kathleen Peterson first hit newspapers. In 2017, Michael Peterson entered an Alford plea bargain deal, which reduced his charge to manslaughter. He was freed on time served. This interview will be the “first network television interview,” according to Dateline.

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Dateline: Bloody Death Scene At Durham Mansion

Kathleen Peterson’s death made headlines all across the nation in December 2001. That was the year that she was found dead at the bottom of the stairs. Her husband, book author Michael Peterson, made the shocking discovery. When police arrived at the 1810 Cedar Street mansion in Durham, they found Kathleen Peterson in a pool of blood, ABC News reported.

Right from the start police thought it looked like a lot of blood for a staircase fall. Staircase falls are also particularly rare. The evidence found at the scene and the lacerations found on Kathleen’s skull during an autopsy did not correspond with Michael Peterson’s version of events.

According to Michael Peterson, he was outside by the pool smoking after Kathleen had gone up to the couple’s bedroom to use the computer. When he came in, he found her at the bottom of the staircase.

Dateline: A Marriage Wrecked By Tales Of Gay Sex And Murder

Michael and Kathleen Peterson were the “it” couple. They seemed very much in love. Michael Peterson was the life of the party, and together, they lived a lavish life inside those mansion walls. Their friends and family loved them dearly.

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However, police say that a secret led to murder behind those walls. According to prosecutors, Kathleen Peterson had found the gay porn that Michael Peterson kept on his computer. They also allege that she must have found the emails between Michael Peterson and a gay man that he had planned to meet for sex.

They believe that Kathleen Peterson went downstairs to confront her husband over the seedy findings, where a bitter argument ensued. Kathleen, authorities alleged, was struck on the head with a fire poker as she tried to go back upstairs.

Michael Peterson has denied those allegations and has always maintained his innocence, stating that he had whispered her name a thousand times and that he loved her and would never kill her.

A jury did not agree. They convicted him and sentenced him to prison. But in 2011, that conviction was vacated, which allowed Michael Peterson to continue to claim his innocence while recognizing that the courts were presented with sufficient evidence.


Dateline: There Was Another Staircase Death In Michael Peterson’s Past

Kathleen Peterson’s death was eerily similar to the death Elizabeth Ratliff, a 43-year-old rich widow and former neighbor of Michael Peterson. In that case, Elizabeth Ratliff was found dead at the bottom of the staircase in Germany in 1985. It was ruled an accident in the beginning. But upon exhuming the body in 2001, they found that she had the same lacerations on her head as Kathleen, according to WRAL.

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Michael Peterson was the last person to see her alive, a former Forensics Files episode recounted.

On Dateline NBC’s upcoming episode, novelist Michael Peterson even admits that he understood why the case fascinated the public. With tales of sex, lies, money, and murder, it is a case worthy of a movie. In fact, the case has been the subject of many books and documentaries. In 2007, The Staircase Murders aired on Lifetime Television. It was based on the book “A Perfect Husband” by Aphrodite Jones.

Some Things To Think About

  • Was Kathleen Peterson’s death “the result of a drunken fall down the stairs or did Michael Peterson kill his beloved during a fit of rage?
  • Removing the death aspect from the case, some married bisexual men have claimed that they do love their wives, despite the fact that they enjoy sex with other men in what experts call a mixed-orientation marriage. In an email to a gay male escort, Michael Peterson claimed that his wife was dynamite and that they had a happy marriage. Is this true?

Let us know what you think in the comments. Dateline airs this Friday, March 7th at 9/8 p.m. Central on NBC.


[Featured Image by Sara Davis/AP Images]


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