The Staircase is a 2004 documentary on the murder of Kathleen Peterson and the flaws in our criminal justice system. It was recently re-released on Netflix with a few extra episodes. I will say upfront that this documentary is VERY biased toward the defense and leaves out A LOT of compelling evidence that points to Michael Peterson's guilt. I may be getting ahead of myself, but I just wanted to address that right off the bat. If the only information you have on this case is based of the documentary, I would highly recommend you seek out some other articles and/or listen to the BBC podcast entitled Beyond A Reasonable Doubt. It's always good to get not just both sides of the story, but the complete story and not one that cherry picks facts.
In the early morning hours of December 9, 2001, a 911 call was made from Michael and Kathleen Peterson's home in Durham, NC. When authorities arrived, Michael's wife, Kathleen, was dead at the bottom of the stair steps. The scene was extremely bloody. Michael claimed he was out at the pool for an amount of time (his story changed as to how long he was out there) and when he came back in, he saw Kathleen laying there. Investigators immediately determined there was something not jiving between Michael's story and the crime scene. He was soon arrested for Kathleen's murder and put on trial.
The Trial, Appeal, and Alford Pleas:
At the trial, Michael was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Michael's changing story and blood spatter evidence helped seal his fate. The fact that he was cheating on his wife with other men and the Petersons were in $145,000 in debt pointed to a motive.
After about eight years in prison, the testimony of the blood spatter expert for the state was called into questioned and eventually dismissed. Peterson was released on bail. Instead of going to a second trial, he accepted an Alford Plea, which is basically where the defendant pleads guilty... not because they are admitting they are guilty, but because they realize the evidence against them is compelling enough to convict. Peterson was convicted of first degree murder for the second time. He was sentenced to time served and now lives life as a free man.
SO, DID MICHAEL PETERSON KILL HIS WIFE? OR IS HE INNOCENT? THERE ARE SEVERAL THEORIES.
Theory #1. Kathleen Peterson fell down the steps. The defense claimed that Kathleen fell down 4-5 steps and her death was a tragic accident. My opinion is there is a 0% chance that this is what happened.
Theory #2. Michael Peterson killed Kathleen. The prosecution contended that Michael Peterson beat his wife to death with a blow poke or similar instrument. My opinion is there is a 99.5% chance this is what happened.
Theory #3. An owl attacked Kathleen. Kathleen was found with two microscopic barr owl feathers in her hand, a few small pine needles, and her own hair. Some people believe she was attacked by an owl outside her home, then she ran up the stairs and fell. I feel like there is only a .5% chance this happened.
You can find a lot of information online about all three of these theories, so I won't repeat it on here. What I will do is tell you why I believe Theory #2: Michael Peterson is guilty of killing his wife, Kathleen.
Reasons I think Michael Peterson is guilty:
1. His changing stories. At first, Peterson told police he went outside to turn off the pool lights and when he came back inside, Kathleen was dead. That story did not line up with the blood evidence (a lot of it was dried!) so he changed it and said he was outside for 45 minutes.
2. The blood. So much blood. There was a bloody shoe print from Michael Peterson on the back of Kathleen's sweatpants. (She was found laying on her back.)
3. The clean up. Investigators used luminol to discover bloody footprints leading to the sink that Michael Peterson cleaned up. If he were innocent, why would he clean up his footprints? There was so much blood, the fact that there would be bloody footprints doesn't point to guilt, but the fact that he cleaned them up does. His shorts were also wet as if he was trying to clean blood off of them.
4. Kathleen's injuries. You can find sketches of her head lacerations online. I find it extremely hard to believe she could get all of those lacerations just from falling down a couple steps. Kathleen also had bruises on her arms, face and a crushed thyroid cartilage.
5. Red neurons. There were red neurons present in Kathleen's brain. Red neurons occur when the brain is deprived of oxygen. Experts believe her brain was deprived of oxygen for about two hours before she died. AKA: Kathleen Peterson bled to death for hours.
I don't know how Michael killed Kathleen. I don't know if he beat her with an object, if he smashed her head on the ground, or if he stomped on her head. He had plenty of time to get rid of a murder weapon, change his shirt, and do whatever he wanted to do before he called 911. I am confident that Michael killed Kathleen.
Last week, I had some of my friends who watched The Staircase come over to discuss the case! Our initial vote was 5 guilty, 2 not guilty. Of the two not guilty, their biggest reason was due to the tainted evidence of the blood spatter expert. Although one of my friends who initially voted not guilty in the beginning said, "Okay, he's guilty!" before she left, but I don't know if she said that under duress!
It was so fun to hang out with my gal friends and discuss true crime. Our next case is going to be The Keepers. I have no idea what it is about but I look forward to it!
Have you watched The Staircase? Guilty or innocent?
Any true crime cases that interest you?
Any true crime cases that interest you?
I've decided I have NO IDEA how you can read about murder cases before bed. I got up before dawn this morning for a run, and as I was sipping my coffee I came to your blog and had to click away until the sun rose! Just reading the first sentence of your post while it was still dark out scared me!ReplyDelete
I don't know anything about this case other than what you've written here, but did they mention why he wouldn't have changed his shorts too if he changed his shirt? Not that it matters. I mean if I suddenly got up the nerve to kill my spouse for whatever reason even if I intended to do it I would probably not be thinking clearly after.
Also I had to look up what a blow poke was. I only had ever heard of a slow poke LOL! Now I am going to get rid of our blow poke because we never use the fireplace and I don't want that in the house since like you always say, you're most likely to be killed by your partner. If Adam's going to get me that's not the way I want to go.
LOL this isn't even a SCARY one to read about before bed. The scary ones are the ones where there is a home invasion. Because that is what could happen to me in the middle of the night. So anything about the East Area Rapist or the Original Night Stalker scares me at night but not this.Delete
They never said why he didn't change his shorts. I see a lot of people on reddit point to innocence by saying "well why didn't he do ______" (fill in the blank). My answer is always: Murderers are dumb. They can't cover up everything. It's not like he's a master murderer. Does that make sense? I mean, I have no idea why he didn't change his shorts too, but the fact that he didn't change his shorts doesn't override the blood evidence, the luminol, the changing stories....
I think I first heard of a blow poke during this case and I envisioned it as something that you could use to just prod the wood/fire/tinder. We don't have a fireplace and I didn't grow up with one so it wasn't in my vocab. So you have a blow poke but you didn't know what it was called?
I hope if Adam ever decides it's your time, he finds a peaceful way to end it. IS that weird I just said that? I don't care if it's weird. I said it.
Thank you I honestly appreciate that so much. I hope that he would find a peaceful, FAST way to do it too. And I hope that you would investigate my sudden death and make sure he gets convincted or murder!Delete
We do have a blow poke! When we bought our house the former owner left us all the fireplace utensils. I have no idea what any of them are called!
Girl, if you die I AM ALL OVER IT.Delete
Hide the blow poke though, maybe? Hahahaha
Thank you for sharing. It was a wonderful article, but I only saw part of it. I hope to share more.ReplyDelete
Megan - So I had this whole thing written about how I thought Michael Peterson was innocent and how he couldn't have killed his wife, but after reading this new information that you provided, he probably is guilty! I think he has a very off-putting personality, and is quite arrogant and self-important. and the way he seemed to "hold court" with his brain-washed children seemed to make him very unlikable. Even the way he speaks, the inflection of his voice is annoying! I do think that there was reasonable doubt and he should never have been convicted based on the evidence, although the documentary certainly left so much out that I am not totally certain about that doubt now. I do think they should have kept the bi-sexuality out - made the jury very biased I believe.ReplyDelete
The whole family was bizarre - his ex-wife was quite a character.
Anyway, it was a fascinating watch and was kind of bummed when it was over. Wasn't it annoying how his attorney said "blow poke"? what a strange name for something!
I can TOTALLY see how someone who only watched the doc thinks he's innocent. There was a lot left out. It sucks that the blood guy did not do scientifically accurate tests. It's not good for ANYONE to have a flawed trial.Delete
I agree that Michael was unlikable and his kids are brainwashed. Paul thought he was guilty just after hearing him talk lol.
As for the bisexuality, I agree it should have been left out BUT I think the fact that he was cheating on his wife should have been allowed in. I don't know how you get that in without the bisexuality. But if putting in the bisexual stuff would make the jury to biased, then I am okay with that out and the cheating. I think there is enough evidence without both of those things.
Do you believe him that Kathleen knew he was bisexual and had affairs? I can believe that she knew he was bi but not that he was cheating on her. I just can't believe she would be okay with cheating whether it was with a man or a woman.
I don't remember how his attorney said blow poke! But I liked his attorney a lot, and even though he didn't win, I would want him to defend me if I was ever charged with murder!
Do you like podcasts? Listen to that BBC podcast with an open mind. There is one whole ep with Candace and one whole ep with Michael and it was fascinating to listen to.
OH his first wife Patty... those freaking red glasses and scarves. I think I am going to be Patty for Halloween next year. Paul can be an owl.
I think that he told her that he was bisexual BUT I highly doubt that she knew about his affairs. Not many people I know are okay with being cheated on. I liked his attorney too, he was very passionate and had faith in his client, which is what you want in someone defending you. I LOVE podcasts and will definitely check that out. Kathleen's sister was pretty nutty - it's like she couldn't get beyond the whole death, and I believe that one should for the sake of inner peace. She carried such hatred, which seemed to eat her up and consume her.Delete
HA! that is great - if you guys do go as Patty and the owl, please post pics!! Kristen
Let me know what you think of the BBC podcast. :) I agree, Candace couldn't let it go. She would be healthier if she was able to find inner peace, like you said. I'm sure it's so hard. I would probably have screamed at him in court too! He's a smug mother-effer!Delete
oh, and there is a theory that the older daughter, Margaret, is Michael's biological child. I can totally see that, she looks like the sons and she looks a lot like Michael. Bizarro! KristenReplyDelete
I think she looks like him too! The odd thing is, Elizabeth Ratcliff and Kathleen looked A LOT alike. I read that there was a DNA test and it was proven that she is not his daughter. BUT I don't have a good source for that so don't take my word for it!Delete
OMG, I actually saw this one on Dateline!ReplyDelete
How fun that you get together with your girlfriends to debate crime!
If you lived closer, you would be invited too. :)Delete
So many people have recommended The Keepers. I can't wait to watch it. Paul and I need something in between episodes of Big Brother. :)ReplyDelete
Okay, so I have listened to a majority of the podcast from the BBC. Really enjoying it and feel totally different about the whole case. I actually really liked the interview with Candace and I can say that she sounded really likable. Hearing all those nice things about Kathleen really made you think how much her family lost.ReplyDelete
They left out SO MUCH stuff in the documentary, it's unbelievable. If they had talked about any of the things that were left out, there would be no doubt that he was guilty. I still don't know exactly what happened, but it much clearer now how he could have done it.
My husband and I are watching The Keepers now - all I can say is WOW! let me know what you think - it is incredibly well done and so sad. Kristen
Hey thanks for popping back in the let me know what you think! I'm glad you listened to the BBC one, it just gives another side than what the staircase cherry picked. I agree, I do NOT know exactly what happened. I think he killed her but I don't know exactly how. We started the keepers and we are halfway through episode one. I am having a really hard time getting into it because it's moving so slow. It also makes me really mad about what men were able to get away with back then, and I'm sure it still happens.Delete
Megan - Yes, the smug, self-important, mother-effer probably did kill her and convinced himself that he didn't. It certainly wasn't planned and it seems that he was trying to figure out a way to cover it up. I am surprised that they didn't mention anything about her windpipe being crushed! that is majorly important i would think!Delete
For some reason (regarding The Keepers) I am so transfixed with all of the women and how they talk and present themselves. It's that Baltimore accent!
It infuriates me what they got away with for so long. Needless to say, I ain't a fan of the Catholic church for many reasons. Kristen
I think the owl attack may have happened but is inconsequential. Like, sure, maybe she messed with an owl before getting in a fight with Michael and then he killed her. Maybe the owl attack somehow instigated him. There's a reason those feathers were in her hand but I don't think it MATTERS, it's just a weird mystery!ReplyDelete
My argument against the owl attack is that the feathers were MICROSCOPIC. I mean, if an owl attacked her, wouldn't the feathers be bigger? There was also a pine needle. I am wondering if he hit her with a stick and the pine needle and owl feathers were just on that?Delete