Investigation Discovery Published ‘The Missing Pieces: The Staircase’: The True Crime Story of Michael & Kathleen Peterson (June 18, 2018)

In 2001, Kathleen Peterson’s body was found at the foot of a staircase in her home. The Missing Pieces looks at the nagging questions surrounding her death, dissecting a frantic 911 call, a potentially killer owl, and a blood-soaked stairwell. -The Staircase, Investigation Discovery

Related Links:
The Missing Pieces: The Staircase | Investigation Discovery (YouTube)
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)
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)

Deadly Women Premiered ‘Love Leaves Town’ on ID: Katrina Bridges Shot Her Sleeping Boyfriend for the Life Insurance (November 25, 2016)

With hearts of stone, these Deadly Women give their men special send-offs when “Love Leaves Town.” A young mom prefers her vices to her boyfriend. -Love Leaves Town, Deadly Women (S10, E12)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.

Related Links:
Love Leaves Town | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (S10, E12)
Love Leaves Town | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (website)
Love Leaves Town | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Love Leaves Town | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (Hulu)
Navy Veteran Christopher Ingraham Jr. Fatally Shot While Sleeping; Girlfriend Katrina Bridges Found Guilty, Sentenced to 47 Years (January 4, 2001)
Deadly Women: 30 Military and Veteran Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery

Forensic Files Premiered ‘A Novel Idea’: Michael Peterson Convicted of Murdering Two Women for Life Insurance Money (December 13, 2006)

Full Episode: Emergency Dispatch in Durham, North Carolina received a frantic call from a man who said his wife had fallen down the stairs; she was unconscious but still breathing. When paramedics arrived, they could do little more than pronounce the woman dead. The number and volume of bloodstains at the scene was greater than usual. It was up to forensic scientists to find out why. -A Novel Idea, Forensic Files (S11,E22)

Editor’s Note: Full episodes of Forensic Files are available on a variety of media platforms. FilmRise Channel and Forensic Files Channel both feature full episodes of Forensic Files on YouTube. You can also find full episodes of Forensic Files on both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. On Netflix, the seasons are grouped as collection 1-9. On Amazon Prime Video, you can find Season 1-10 here; Season 11; Season 12; Season 13; Season 14; Season 15; Season 16; Season 17; Season 18; Season 19; Season 20; and Season 21. Start bingeing and see for yourself why Forensic Files is such a hit!

Related Links:
A Novel Idea | Forensic Files | IMDb
A Novel Idea | Forensic Files | FilmRise (S11,E22)
A Novel Idea | Forensic Files | Full Episodes (YouTube)
A Novel Idea | Forensic Files | Netflix (Collection 2, E36)
A Novel Idea | Forensic Files | Amazon Prime Video (S11,E7)
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)
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 Veteran 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 (June 8, 2018)
Forensic Files: 7 Active Duty Military and Veteran Homicide Cases

Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives by Tanya Biank (February 7, 2006)

Army Wives Lifetime

Army Wives, a Lifetime television series based on the non-fiction book written by Tanya Biank.

In Their Name:
Colette, Kimberley & Kristen MacDonald, Fort Bragg (Feb. 17, 1970)
Michael James & Jackie Burden, Fayetteville, NC (December 7, 1995)
Captain Frank ‘Marty’ Theer, U.S. Air Force (December 17, 2000)
Lt. Col. Rennie Cory, U.S. Army, Fort Bragg (April 7, 2001)
Pfc. Gary Shane Kalinofski, U.S. Army, Fort Drum (March 4, 2002)
Army Spouse Teresa Nieves, North Carolina (June 11, 2002)
Army Spouse Jennifer Wright, North Carolina (June 29, 2002)
Army Spouse Marilyn Styles-Griffin, North Carolina (July 9, 2002)
Army Spouse & Veteran Andrea Floyd, North Carolina (July 19, 2002)
Major David Shannon, U.S. Army, Fort Bragg (July 23, 2002)
Sgt. Erin Edwards, U.S. Army, Fort Hood (July 22, 2004)
Sgt. Ronna Valentine, U.S. Army, Fort Bragg (May 21, 2005)

Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives or Army Wives by Tanya Biank was an excellent read. I first heard about the book when I was researching the 2002 Fort Bragg murders of Teresa Nieves, Jennifer Wright, Marilyn Griffin, Andrea Floyd and Major David Shannon. I ordered it from Amazon and threw it in a pile with all my other military crime books until I saw a Forbidden: Dying for Love episode about the murder of Army spouse Jennifer Wright. The show didn’t mention it but I knew Jennifer’s murder was one of five homicides at Fort Bragg that occurred within a two month period in 2002. I learned more about Jennifer Wright from Investigation Discovery than what’s available on-line. And at the time, the national media was quick to speculate whether war & violence, frequent deployments or anti-malaria drugs were to blame. But after the Army investigated itself, it determined that the high operational tempo after September 11, 2001 placed a great strain on already troubled marriages.

In other words, some form of domestic abuse, financial issues, and adultery in some cases were to blame for stained marriages. I researched the five murders and the motives were similar in four of the cases. Arguments were a pre-cursor to the murders and three out of four of the spouses wanted to leave the relationship. Was rejection the trigger? Domestic violence experts agree leaving the relationship is the most dangerous time. In Major Shannon’s case, it appears that the motive was greed, pure and simple, as greed is one of the most common motives for female killers. Major Shannon’s wife Joan stood to gain a large amount of money from his Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) if he died. This time the Army was most likely correct but unfortunately things haven’t changed to this day. There have been many more victims of domestic violence in the military since 2002 and this book inspired me to honor each and every one of them.

The author Tanya Biank grew up in a military family and covered military issues at Fort Bragg as a reporter for the Fayetteville Observer. Tanya was able to give us a realistic perspective of what was going on at Fort Bragg during the time period right before and after September 11, 2001. Tanya was the one writing about the rash of homicides for the local newspaper during the summer of 2002. As a result of Tanya’s reporting, the main stream media picked up the story and it went national and international. Fort Bragg was forced to answer to a frenzied pack of media outlets and in typical fashion, the Army investigated itself and found themselves not responsible. Although Tanya reported in the book that Congress authorized $5 million for domestic violence programs in the military that year. And on December 2, 2002, President Bush signed into law an act that makes domestic violence protective orders enforceable on military installations.

Tanya was the perfect person to write about Fort Bragg. She had a great understanding of the various perspectives and this was revealed in the book. She talked about how September 11th changed things for both the service member and the families. I found myself feeling thankful for the education about Fort Bragg’s missions and how they fit into the big picture. They train hard for a reason. They are some of the first on the front lines and some of the families have no idea where they are going or how long they will be gone. Unexpectedly, I experienced a myriad of emotions as I read along. Emotions about 9/11, emotions about what was happening at my own squadron, and emotions around the notifications of death. My Commander and a Chaplain informed me of my father’s unexpected death. And my colleagues helped me get home safely. I realized this was standard protocol while reading this book.

I couldn’t put the book down once I started, despite the emotions and memories it triggered. Tanya Biank did a great job of enticing the reader to learn more about the individual and the family, and just when you least expected, the unexpected would happen. It reminded me of my own life and how hard it was to put mission before self year after year when all one was doing was stuffing down the pain. But like those in the book, we don’t seek counseling because it’s considered a career ender. We don’t trust the system so most of us just keep our troubles to ourselves. And for those who want to maintain a security clearance, we know they are going to ask the question about mental health treatment. I understand why the question has to be asked because it’s important to identify someone with suicidal tendencies or anger problems but it prevents the rest of us from asking for the help we need, until it’s too late.

Tanya talked about the unusually high crime rates in Fayetteville and she said its civilians who commit most of the crime. She admitted Fort Bragg was under the shadow of the the murders of Colette, Kimberley & Kristen MacDonald in 1970 because former Captain Jeffrey MacDonald, despite being found guilty, swears he’s innocent. As recently as December 2018, MacDonald was denied a new trial by a federal appeals court and he continues to be the subject of both media and true crime programming. Tanya also talked about the racially motivated murders of Michael James & Jackie Burden in 1995. Army privates James Burmeister and Malcolm Wright were found guilty of the crime. This too made national news and the Army was forced to weed out any perceived Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and skinheads. The media speculated the Army was full of them; turns out this random attack by Fort Bragg soldiers was an isolated incident.

After researching the five Fort Bragg murders in 2002 on-line, I realized that Tanya’s book was the most comprehensive discussion of the incidents. The book gave us an inside look at the people involved and the way it unfolded real-time. Tanya shared that the military likes to keep their problems under wrap because of the way the media speculates. I can see why they would be annoyed with how scandals are reported. Once the information is out there, it’s hard to fight off the perception. But the bottom line is the acts of a few don’t represent the whole. Unfortunately, I could write book after book about clusters of domestic violence related homicides in the military since 2002. This book made me realize how long the military has known about the problems and that throwing money at the problem doesn’t fix it. We need real solutions that save lives.

Editor’s Note: Tanya Biank’s book Under the Sabers inspired the creation of Army Wives on Lifetime television. After reading the book, I can understand why the series was created in 2007. I included links to the show below if you are interested in watching the series. It was cancelled after seven seasons. 

Related Links:
Tanya Biank (Official Website)
Under the Sabers | Tanya Biank | Macmillan
Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives
Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives
Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives Kindle Edition
Under the Sabers by Tanya Biank (Kirkus Review)
Season 1 | Army Wives | Lifetime Television | Amazon (2007)
Season 2 | Army Wives | Lifetime Television | Amazon (2008)
Season 3 | Army Wives | Lifetime Television | Amazon (2009)
Season 4 | Army Wives | Lifetime Television | Amazon (2010)
Season 5 | Army Wives | Lifetime Television | Amazon (2011)
Season 6 | Army Wives | Lifetime Television | Amazon (2012)
Season 7 | Army Wives | Lifetime Television | Amazon (2013)
‘Army Wives’ Deployed as Lifetime Series
Lifetime embraces ‘Wives’ amid show cuts
A Sneak Peek at “Army Wives”
Home front key to “Army Wives”
‘Army Wives’ Still Holding Down The Fort
Lifetime’s popular ‘Army Wives’ has a local ties
Lifetime Cancels ‘Army Wives’ | The Wrap
‘Army Wives’ cancelled by Lifetime | Entertainment Weekly
‘Army Wives’ canceled by Lifetime; retrospective special planned
Lifetime’s ‘Army Wives’ Cancelled After Seven Seasons, Will Wrap Run With Special
Fort Meade: Military spouse writes book about servicewomen
Army Wive: Where is the Cast Now?
Army Wives | ABC | Season 1-7

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)

Screen Shot 2018-05-18 at 3.45.47 PM

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

Related Links:
Novelist Accused In Wife’s Death
Finances continue to dominate novelist’s murder trial
Plea in wife’s staircase death lets man maintain innocence
Michael Peterson: Author charged in wife’s murder
Mike Peterson Found Guilty Of First-Degree Murder, Taken To Central Prison
Peterson Trial: Verdict: Guilty – Durham novelist sentenced to life term in wife’s death
N.C. appeals court grants new trial for Michael Peterson
A New Trial for Michael Peterson
Novelist Michael Peterson gets new trial
Wait continues for Peterson retrial; assistant DA would prosecute and Hudson again would preside
Mike Peterson seeks dismissal of murder charge in wife’s killing
Durham novelist Michael Peterson back in court for motions hearing
Michael Peterson asks gay porn evidence be kept out of retrial
Author in case covered by ‘Dateline’ wants gay porn kept out of new trial
Michael Peterson Will Plead Guilty to Manslaughter, But He Still Claims He Didn’t Do It
Attorney: NC novelist reaches plea deal in 2001 murder case
Writer accepts plea deal that allows him to maintain innocence in wife’s death
Mike Peterson walks free as 15-year murder case ends with plea deal
Plea in wife’s staircase death lets man maintain innocence
Wealthy novelist walks FREE despite being convicted of his wife’s manslaughter at a retrial because he has already spent eight years behind bars
After Fifteen Years, the Michael Peterson Case Concludes But Provides Little Closure
How Did Kathleen Peterson Die? Watch an Exclusive Clip from An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase
Closure in the death of Kathleen Peterson 16 years too late – Tom Gasparoli
The Final Answer to a 16-Year Murder Mystery: Did Noted Novelist Kill His Wife in Their Mansion?
Some People Blame Kathleen Peterson’s Death on Husband Mike Peterson, Others Blame It on an Owl
An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase Steps Up Kathleen Peterson Coverage
‘An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase’ Sneak Peek: Neighbor Says an Owl Killed Kathleen Peterson
Investigation Discovery Explores Death of Kathleen Peterson in An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase
Who was Kathleen Peterson, did her husband Michael Peterson kill her and what is the Staircase doc about?
Murder Most Fowl: Did An Owl Commit the Michael Peterson “Staircase Murder”?
‘Gallons’ Of Blood & Unsolved Murder: Inside Kathleen Hunt’s Grisly Crime Scene
Investigation Discovery’s ‘Staircase’ looks at the Michael Peterson case
‘An American Murder Mystery:’ Neighbor Says an Owl Killed Kathleen Peterson
The Staircase: A True Crime Documentary That Surprises Even After It Ends
Beyond Reasonable Doubt?: The story of Michael and Kathleen Peterson
The Staircase/Michael Peterson Owl Theory, Alford Pleas & A Stranglers Podcast Review
Novelist, whose conviction in wife’s death was overturned, says he’s innocent despite manslaughter plea
Bizarre Murder Theory: Was Kathleen Hunt Peterson Killed by Owls?
Did famous novelist Michael Peterson batter his ‘beloved’ wife to death with a poker in their luxury mansion?
‘The Staircase’ Revisits a Man Convicted of Murder
The Michael Peterson “Staircase Murder”: 5 Facts You Need to Know Now
Orlando Hudson, Jim Hardin open up on BBC’s Peterson case podcast
Where Is Michael Peterson In 2018? His Wife’s Death Has Fascinated True Crime Fans For Years
Where Are Michael Peterson’s Kids In 2018? ‘The Staircase’ Trial Caused A Rift In The Family
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
Lightning Strikes Twice | An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase | ID
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

Navy Sailor Nicholas Cox Fatally Shot While Home on Leave in Louisiana; Alan James Convicted of Murder, Sentenced to Life in Prison (November 24, 2001)

FullSizeRender

Nicholas Cox, US Navy

ID Go: An abandoned car belonging to missing sailor Nicholas Cox turns up in a parking lot. Inside, Demery uncovers a grisly cache of blood evidence, but no Cox. In order to find justice for his fallen brother-in-arms, Demery must first locate his body. -Friendly Fire, Murder Chose Me (S1, E3)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.

Related Links:
Nicholas A. Cox (Nick), US Navy
State of Louisiana v. Alan James (2004)
Friendly Fire | Murder Chose Me | Investigation Discovery
Friendly Fire | Murder Chose Me | Investigation Discovery (S1, E3)

Navy Seaman Bryant Davis Died in Non Combat Related Accident After Falling Overboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Kitty Hawk in North Arabian Sea (2001)

Bryant Davis

Bryant Davis, US Navy

Machinist’s Mate Fireman Apprentice Bryant L. Davis, 20, US Navy, died of a non combat death on November 7, 2001. Davis was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in the North Arabian Sea. The Department of Defense reported in the press release that Davis was declared deceased after falling overboard. Search and rescue efforts were conducted but after a couple of days were halted.

Now, his family and friends are searching for an explanation. The Pentagon has provided no details on how the accident occurred, they said. “I don’t know what happened to my baby,” said Helen Davis, his grandmother. “I’m looking for answers. I will not stop until I get an answer.” –Chicago Tribune

Related Links:
DOD Casualty Update
Navy Machinist’s Mate Fireman Apprentice Bryant L. Davis
Sailor said God called him to serve
Kitty Hawk Completes Enduring Freedom Deployment