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)

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Kathleen Hunt Peterson (December 9, 2001)

Kathleen Hunt Peterson was found deceased by her husband Michael Peterson at the bottom of the stairs in her Durham, North Carolina home. When investigators arrived at the home, they were suspicious because the scene did not appear to match Michael’s theory of what had occurred. Kathleen’s head had been bludgeoned with a blunt instrument. Once the prosecutors learned that Michael also found military widow Elizabeth Ratliff deceased at the bottom of her stairs in Germany, they felt this was not a coincidence. Michael Peterson and his wife at the time adopted Ratliff’s two daughters. Years later Peterson divorced his wife and eventually married Kathleen Hunt (Peterson). Sixteen years after Ratliff died, Kathleen was dead and it was in the same manner as Elizabeth Ratliff. Investigators decided that they needed to take a look at the Ratliff case again and exhumed her body. Peterson was never charged with the death of Elizabeth Ratliff and her two daughters stand behind their adopted father.

After an extensive investigation, Michael Peterson was charged with the first degree murder of his wife Kathleen Peterson. In 2003, Peterson was convicted of the first degree murder of Kathleen and sentenced to life in prison with no parole. Although a few years later in 2011 Michael Peterson was able to get a retrial on appeal. In the second trial, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2017, using an Alford Plea, and was freed from prison with time served after 8 years. Investigation Discovery (ID) featured a series called “An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase” that showcased the case details of both Elizabeth Ratliff and Kathleen Peterson. Michael Peterson maintains his innocence and his attorney’s theorized that an owl most likely caused the injuries on Kathleen’s head. Netflix is also featuring a series titled “The Staircase” and it is premiering on June 8, 2018. The ID docu-series left the viewer seriously questioning the actions of the courts after Peterson was released.

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

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Coincidental Deaths? | CBS
Reversal of Fortune’, Part 1 | Dateline NBC
‘The Staircase’: Money, Sex and Secrets | ABC
Reversal of Fortune | An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase | ID
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I Whispered Her Name | An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase | ID
An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase | Investigation Discovery

MJFA Links:
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)
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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