Military Widow Elizabeth Ratliff Found Deceased at the Bottom of Stairs in Germany; Michael Peterson Last Person to See Alive, Adopted Ratliff’s 2 Daughters (Nov. 25, 1985)

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Elizabeth Ratliff (November 25, 1985)

Elizabeth Ratliff was found deceased at the bottom of the stairs in her home in Germany on November 25, 1985 in an apparent accident. Elizabeth was a military widow who was raising two daughters on her own after her husband, an Army soldier, died in a training accident. Elizabeth was a teacher at an Air Force base in Germany where she met Marine veteran Michael Peterson‘s wife, also a teacher. They all quickly formed a friendship and Elizabeth and her two daughters spent a lot of time with the Petersons. It is believed that Peterson was the last person to see Elizabeth alive and after Elizabeth died, Michael Peterson and his wife adopted her two daughters. Initially Elizabeth’s death was deemed an accidental death but when Michael Peterson’s new wife Kathleen Hunt Peterson was found dead at the bottom of her stairs in their home in Durham, North Carolina, investigators gave Elizabeth’s death a second look. The district attorney ordered the exhumation of Elizabeth Ratliff in Texas in an effort to re-examine her body to determine cause of death. The medical examiner conducted an investigation in North Carolina and ruled that the cause of death was a homicidal assault despite the initial finding of cerebral hemorrhage due to an accident. Michael Peterson was never charged with the homicide of Elizabeth Ratliff. As a side note, the two deceased women not only died in a similar fashion but they looked eerily alike.


With the knowledge of the criminal evidence against him, Aphrodite Jones speaks with convicted murderer, Michael Peterson, about the murder of his wife and his bisexual affair. -True Crime with Aphrodite Jones

Related Links:

MJFA Links:
Kathleen Hunt Found Deceased at Bottom of Stairs in NC Home; Spouse Michael Peterson Pleaded Guilty to Manslaughter to Avoid Second Trial (Dec. 9, 2001)
Marine Corps Veteran Michael Peterson Convicted of the Murder of Wife Kathleen; Sentenced to Life in Prison, No Parole (October 10, 2003)
Marine Vet Michael Peterson Pleaded Guilty to Manslaughter of Wife Kathleen to Avoid 2nd Trial; Agreed to Alford Plea, Released with Time Served (Feb. 24, 2017)
Investigation Discovery Premiered ‘An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase’ (April 8, 2018)
Netflix Premiered ‘The Staircase’: A Docuseries Examining Marine Veteran Michael Peterson’s Durham, North Carolina Murder Trial (2018)


Investigators are stunned to discover that sixteen years ago, Michael Peterson’s good friend Liz Ratliff also died at the bottom of a staircase, lying in a pool of blood. The trial begins and experts battle over the interpretation of blood spatter. -An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase

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