United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals Overturns the Sentence of Lackland Basic Military Training Instructor SSgt Eddy Soto (2014)

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SSgt Eddy Soto, US Air Force

“Soto faced as much as life without parole for the rape, one of six charges and eight specifications of misconduct.” -My SA

SSgt Eddy Soto was a basic military training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Soto was one of the 35 instructors courts martialed in what is referred to as the Lackland Sex Scandal. SSgt Soto was accused of unprofessional relationships, adultery, and the rape of one airman whom it appeared he had a relationship with. Investigators learned of the relationship Soto had with the airman who accused him of rape as part of a widespread probe into MTI misconduct. Soto faced life without parole but prosecutors asked for 12-15 years. Soto pleaded guilty to five charges and admitted that he had unprofessional relationships with a trainee and a civilian who had come to the base to see her husband graduate from basic training. He also admitted to adultery charges but he denied the rape accusation. He was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison in March 2013. After his confinement ended, he would be dishonorably discharged from the Air Force. Soto was the second instructor convicted of rape in the scandal. SSgt Luis Walker was the first conviction and he received 20 years for the rape of one airman and sexual assault of several others.

In an exceptional ruling by the Air Force Criminal Court of Appeals, Soto’s conviction for rape was overturned in Sept 2014. The military appeals court ruled the evidence was “factually insufficient” to support the conviction. In other words, there wasn’t enough evidence to find him guilty in the first place. The appeals court upheld the lesser charges of unprofessional relationships, adultery, and false official statement. The judge ruled the four year sentence and dishonorable discharge should be set aside and the case was referred back to the convening authority who had the authority to hold a new sentencing hearing. Soto remained jailed at the Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar in California while the government decided whether to ask the appeals court to reconsider their ruling. SSgt Eddy Soto served over a year and a half for a rape conviction that lacked evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Media reports stated Soto would be re-sentenced by a lower court for unprofessional relationships, adultery, and false official statement. Further on-line research did not find evidence of the final disposition of SSgt Soto’s case. We do not know if he was re-sentenced, released from prison and when, or if he was discharged from the military.

The findings of guilty for Charge III, Specification 1 are set aside and dismissed. The remaining findings of guilty are affirmed. The sentence is set aside. The record of trial is returned to The Judge Advocate General for remand to an appropriate convening authority who may order a rehearing to determine an appropriate sentence for the affirmed findings of guilty. If the convening authority determines that a rehearing on the sentence is impracticable, the convening authority may approve a sentence of “no punishment” or dismiss the remaining charges and specifications. –USAF Court of Criminal Appeals

Related Links:
General admits failure in Lackland sex scandal; 32 alleged culprits
Cross-Cultural Expert Brought In For Lackland Court-Martial
Lackland trainer handed 4 years in rape
Lackland sergeant found guilty in rape case
Air Force instructor gets 4 years for raping trainee
Air Force trainer convicted of raping ex-trainee
Air Force trainer found guilty of raping cadet in Lackland base abuse scandal
US v. SSgt EDDY C. SOTO, US Air Force, ACM 38422, 16 September 2014
Court throws out Lackland trainer’s rape conviction (San Antonio Express)
Court throws out Lackland trainer’s rape conviction (Stars & Stripes)
Air Force appeals court tosses MTI rape conviction
Military overturns Lackland Air Force Base rape conviction
SSgt Eddy Soto Court-Martial Conviction for Rape Set Aside by Air Force Appellate Court
The Lackland Air Force Base Sex Scandal, Texas (2011)
A Complete List of the 35 Basic Military Training Instructors Court Martialed in the Lackland Air Force Base Sex Scandal

Deadly Women Premiered ‘Secrets & Lies’ on Investigation Discovery: Everything You Need to Know About Serial Killer Anjette Lyles (October 28, 2010)

Preview: Anjette Lyles felt the best way to deal with her problematic home life was to poison the people around her. -Secrets and Lies, Deadly Women (S4, E11)

City Confidential:

Macon, Georgia | City Confidential | Anjette Lyles [Full Episode]

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:
Anjette Lyles to be one of Discovery’s ‘Deadly Women’
Deadly Women- More Than A Pretty Face (Preview)
Secrets and Lies | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (website)
Secrets and Lies | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Anjette Lyles | Macon, GA | City Confidential [Full Episode]
WWII Army Veteran Ben Lyles Jr. Died & Nobody Could Figure Out What Was Wrong; Poisoned by Wife, Anjette Lyles Sentenced to Death (January 25, 1952)
Deadly Women: 30 Military and Veteran Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery

In 3rd Trial, Retired Army MSG Timothy Hennis Sentenced to Death by Military Court Martial for the Murders of Kathryn, Cara & Erin Eastburn in Fayetteville, NC (April 15, 2010)

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MSG Timothy Hennis, US Army Retired

In 1985, a young military officer’s wife and two of her three little girls were viciously murdered in their Fayetteville, North Carolina home. Kathryn Eastburn was also raped. The crime occurred six miles from the location of where Jeffrey MacDonald was accused of killing his wife and two children on the base at Fort Bragg. Army sergeant Timothy Hennis became a suspect from the beginning because a day or so earlier, he bought the Eastburn’s family dog. In a background check, they found that he had 3 convictions for writing bad checks and a witness identified him as the same person leaving the Eastburn home during the time in question. Eventually he was charged and found guilty of the murders of Kathryn, Cara, and Erin Eastburn; he was sentenced to death by the civilian authorities in North Carolina. But he appealed, was granted a new trial and at his second death penalty trial, he was found not guilty.

After his acquittal, he joined the Army again for two more tours, worked his way up to E-8, and retired as a MSG from Fort Lewis, Washington. Twenty years later, DNA evidence from a vaginal swab taken from Kathryn Eastburn linked Hennis to the crimes. Civilian prosecutors could not charge Hennis due to double jeopardy; but the US military did claiming they have federal jurisdiction because Hennis is a retiree. As a result, he was ordered back into service due to his retirement status. Hennis tried to claim consensual sex which contradicted original testimony. In 2010, a military jury found him guilty of three counts of murder and he was sentenced to death again. Hennis sits on death row at Fort Leavenworth with three other service members: Ronald Gray, Hasan Akbar, and Nidal Hasan.

Source: Death Row Stories ‘Timothy Hennis Double Jeopardy’

Video Links:


In 1985, a young military wife and two of her three little girls are viciously murdered in their home. In a twisted case filled with unusual suspects, the man who gets convicted goes free. But nothing is what it seems. -Discovery ID


3 People on Death Row Who May Be Innocent | Criminally Listed


A man tried three times for his life but is he a killer? Find out! Death Row Stories.


While on death row, Tim Hennis received an anonymous letter confessing to the murders. The note didn’t produce any leads. -Death Row Stories


The star witness in Tim Hennis’ trial had doubts about whether Hennis committed the murders. -Death Row Stories


Timothy Hennis Double Jeopardy | Death Row Stories | CNN

MJFA Links:
Air Force Spouse Kathryn Eastburn & Daughters Cara & Erin Found Murdered in Fayetteville, NC Home; Youngest Toddler Jana Discovered Unharmed (May 9, 1985)
A Military Jury Delivered a Guilty Verdict in a Death Penalty Trial to Retired Army MSG Timothy Hennis for the Triple Murders of Kathryn, Cara & Erin Eastburn (April 8, 2010)
In 3rd Trial, Retired Army MSG Timothy Hennis Sentenced to Death by Military Court Martial for the Murders of Kathryn, Cara & Erin Eastburn in Fayetteville, NC (April 15, 2010)
Four Service Members on Military Death Row at Fort Leavenworth, Army Private John Bennett was Last Military Execution by Hanging in 1961
Violent Crime, Non Combat Death and Suicide at Fort Bragg, North Carolina (US Army)

Related Links:

1986
Death sentence sought
Jury in Hennis trial visits area where murder victims lived
Hennis Receives Death Sentence

1988
STATE of North Carolina v. Timothy Baily HENNIS

1989
Triple murder retrial to start
Witness firm on identification of murder suspect
Witness shaky on identifying Hennis

1996
Reversal of ‘Victims’: Made-for-TV Justice
ABC explores ex-city man’s prison plight MUG: Hennis BOX: On TV “Innocent Victims” airs at 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday on ABC, Rochester cable channels 5 and 6

2007
GI cleared in 1989 faces murder court-martial
Accusations follow ex-soldier
Expert links soldier to 1985 killings
DNA hearing wraps up
Acquitted of murder, he now faces Army justice
Ex-soldier faces trial in decades-old deaths
Army to try soldier who was acquitted of 1985 slayings

2008
3 capital murder trials to put Army in spotlight

2009
Army holds hearing for soldier charged in 1985 murders

2010
Judge Delays Murder Trial For Recalled Soldier
Rochester native accused in N.C. triple murder
Why ‘exonerated’ needs to be used sparingly
Federal judge: Hennis court-martial can proceed
Soldier acquitted in 3 deaths faces military trial
Soldier acquitted in 3 deaths faces military trial
Hennis court-martial begins at Fort Bragg
Twenty-five years later, third trial begins in triple slaying
Hennis Trial Underway
Army presents its case in trial over 1985 killings
Hennis jury shown clothes of victims
Army expert: DNA from scene matches NC soldier
Friends, family testify for convicted NC soldier
Family testifies in Hennis sentencing
Military jury finds Hennis guilty of murder
Jury considers death for Hennis
Soldier Gets Death Sentence in Military Court after Civil Acquittal
Ex-Lakewood resident gets death in 1985 slayings
Soldier gets death sentence in 1985 Fayetteville triple slaying
Soldier sentenced to die for 1985 triple murder
For 2nd Time, Man Sentenced to Death for Murders
Prosecutor Emphasizes DNA in Hennis Closing
At 3rd Trial, Sergeant Guilty of 1985 Triple Murder
In 3rd Trial, Conviction in Murders From 1985
Military Jury Finds Hennis Guilty of Murder
Hennis found guilty of decades-old murders
Military Jury Convicts Soldier of Murder 20 Years After his Civilian Acquittal
Soldier’s family pleads for jury to spare his life
25 years later, widower recalls slain family
Father, daughter tell of pain 1985 triple murder caused
A murder conviction, but pain still felt
Tim Hennis case to be featured on 20/20

2011
NC soldier: SBI lab problems should mean new trial
Court-martial murder conviction appealed
Ex-Soldier Convicted Twice of Eastburn Triple Murder Appeals Again
Three Trials for Murder: In the name of justice, did the military sidestep double jeopardy?

2012
‘Unusual Suspects’: Military Man Convicted & Sentenced To Death Twice, Acquitted Once 
Court Rules Against Ex-Soldier in NC Triple Murder
Fort Bragg commander approves Timothy Hennis conviction, death sentence
An Execution Draws Closer
Timothy HENNIS, Petitioner–Appellant, v. Frank HEMLICK; Patrick Parrish, Colonel; Lloyd J. Austin, III, General; John McHugh, Honorable, Respondents–Appellees
Timothy Hennis v. Frank Hemlick et al. (US Court of Appeals)

2013
Nidal Hasan, and the 5 other men on the military’s death row

2014
Master sergeant on death row files new petition
Former Fort Bragg soldier again appeals conviction
Master sergeant on death row files new petition
What to Watch on Sunday: CNN’s ‘Death Row Stories’ looks at Hennis case in NC
Triple murder suspect goes from guilty to innocent and back to guilty
NC triple murder suspect goes from guilty to innocent and back to guilty

2015
10 Mysteries Resolved By Unbelievable Surprise Twists
CNN special with local attorney set for tonight
Timothy Hennis seeks relief in federal court; former Fort Bragg soldier questions Army’s jurisdiction in court-martial
Timothy Hennis case: Federal judge dismisses latest appeal
On military death row, execution is anything but guaranteed
Fair and Impartial? Military Jurisdiction and the Decision to Seek the Death Penalty
TIMOTHY B. HENNIS, Petitioner, v. ERICA NELSON, Commandant, USDB-Ft. Leavenworth, Respondent
Setting the Right Example: Removing the Military Death Penalty

2016
Eastburn Murders Expose a Loophole in the Law
Army court upholds death sentence of former Bragg soldier
Appeal by former Fort Bragg soldier who murdered mother and 2 daughters was rejected in military court
Timothy Hennis’ death sentence fits his gruesome crimes, court rules
Army CCA affirms death for Hennis
Army court upholds death sentence of former Bragg soldier
A look at the 6 inmates on US military death row

2017
Court-martialing retirees? ‘Fat Leonard’ cloud still looms for many current and former sailors
Hennis lawyers argue for more resources in murder appeal
Innocent Victims: The Horrific Eastburn Family Murders
The Eastburn Family Murders and The Three Trials of Staff Sergeant Tim Hennis
Army moves closer to first execution in 50 years; Ronald Gray on death row since 1988
Tim Hennis and the Eastburn Murders
Episode 3: The Case of Timothy Hennis | Death’s Door
The Many Trials of Tim Hennis
Episode 28: The Eastburn Family Murders | In Sight Pod
028 The Eastburn Family Murders | In Sight: A True Crime Podcast
United States v. Timothy Hennis | US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
US Appellee v. Timothy B. HENNIS, Master Sergeant, United States Army, Appellant | US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

Death Penalty Information Center:
Description of Cases for those Sentenced to Death in U.S. Military
Former Death Row Inmate Acquitted in One Court, Now Convicted in Another

Video Links:
3 People on Death Row Who May Be Innocent Part 2
Unusual Suspects: Mother’s Day Murders (Investigation Discovery)
20/20 on ID: Witness | Investigation Discovery
Death Row Stories: Hennis Trailer | CNN
I did the crime…you’re doin’ the time | Death Row Stories | CNN
Death penalty case’s ‘Perry Mason moment’ | Death Row Stories | CNN
Timothy Hennis Double Jeopardy | Death Row Stories | CNN
Timothy Hennis | Death Row Stories | Netflix
Innocent Victims | ABC Television Movie

Book:
Innocent Victims: The True Story of the Eastburn Family Murders (Google)
Innocent Victims: The True Story of the Eastburn Family Murders (Amazon)

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Deadly Women Premiered ‘Dark Secrets’ on ID: Black Widow Judy Buenoano Murdered Family Members for Life Insurance Benefits (October 30, 2008)

Deadly Women 2

Dark Secrets are the stock-in-trade of Deadly Women (S2,E4)

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:
Lethal Dosage | The New Detectives | YouTube (S3,E5)
Dark Secrets | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (S2,E4)
Air Force Sgt. James Goodyear Died of Arsenic Poisoning; Judy Buenoano Murdered Husband and Son Michael for Military Life Insurance Benefits, Executed in Florida (September 16, 1971)
Army Veteran Michael Buenoano Drowned in Canoe Accident; Judy Buenoano Murdered Son for Life Insurance Benefits, Executed in Florida (May 13, 1980)
‘Black Widow’ Judy Buenoano Executed by the State of Florida for Three Homicides; First Woman to Die by Death Penalty in Florida Since 1848 (March 30, 1998)
Deadly Women: 30 Military and Veteran Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery

Navy Reservist Paul Berkley Murdered While Home on Leave From Middle East; Wife Monique Berkley Sentenced to Life in Prison (December 18, 2005)

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Paul Berkley, US Navy Reserve

Navy Reservist Paul Berkley was murdered by his wife, Monique Wallace Berkley, her teenage lover, and his friend in Raleigh, North Carolina on December 18, 2005. Paul was home for Christmas on leave from a deployment in the Middle East. Monique, Andrew Deshawn Canty, and Latwon Darrell Johnson were all charged with first degree murder. The motive was the $400,000 Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance payout. Monique pleaded guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The state announced it was going to seek the death penalty if Berkley had gone to trial. Andrew Canty pleaded guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Latwon Darrell Johnson pleaded guilty to second degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison. Johnson appealed his sentence claiming that it was too harsh given his role in the slaying and his cooperation with police and prosecutors.

Paul Berkley survived his deployment in the Middle East without any injury, but he couldn’t survive one week with his wife Monique. -Profiler Candice DeLong

Oxygen:

A military wife is caught in deadly love triangle. -Monique Berkley, Snapped, Oxygen (S8,E8)

Investigation Discovery:

The young and wild Monique Wallace is married to 40-year-old Paul Berkley, a navy reservist and father of two in suburban North Carolina. But with Paul leaving on a mission overseas, temptation and lust will lead them all down a dark path to murder. -Rules of Engagement, Scorned: Love Kills (S2,E7)

Some women like others to do their dirty work. A drama queen brings her love triangle to a permanent end; an intimate betrayal turns friends into deadly foes; and a loose woman will do anything to protect her freedom. -Murder for Me, Deadly Women (S9,E11)

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:
Rapist on the Loose; Police Investigate Murder of Navy Reservist
Slain sailor’s knowledge, skills lauded at Bahrain memorial service
Wife, Teen Lover Held in Slaying of Sailor
Tampa Native Accused in Husband’s Slaying
Wife Charged In Reservist’s Murder
Wife, her teen lover charged with killing husband in park
Reservist Slain Allegedly by Wife and Teen Lover
Berkley frantic on 911 tape
Bizarre Murder Case Raises New Blogging Issues
Wife Of Murdered Navy Reservist Gets Life
Wife of murdered reservist gets life
Wife in Fatal Love Triangle Admits Guilt, Gets Life Sentence
Man Appeals Sentence in Naval Reservist’s Slaying
Murder of SP native takes new turn with appeal filed by one defendant
Home From Iraq and Dead Within Days
Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance is a Common Motive for Murder
Navy Reservist Murdered by Cheating Wife’s Teen-age Lover
Monique Berkley | Snapped | Oxygen (S8,E8)
Monique Berkley | Snapped | Oxygen (Amazon)
Rules of Engagement | Scorned: Love Kills | Investigation Discovery (S2,E7)
Rules of Engagement | Scorned: Love Kills |Investigation Discovery  (website)
Rules of Engagement | Scorned: Love Kills |Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Murder for Me | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (S9,E11)
Murder for Me | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (website)
Murder for Me | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Murder for Me | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (Hulu)
Snapped Premiered ‘Monique Berkley’ on Oxygen: Navy Reservist Paul Berkley Shot and Killed While Home on Leave for Christmas (May 26, 2011)
Scorned, Love Kills Premiered ‘Rules of Engagement’ on Investigation Discovery: Navy Reservist Murdered While Home on Leave (March 9, 2013)
Deadly Women Premiered ‘Murder for Me’ on ID: Greedy Navy Spouse Plans Murder While Paul Berkley was Home on Leave (October 23, 2015)
Scorned, Love Kills: 6 Active Duty Military Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery
Deadly Women: 30 Military and Veteran Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery

Air Force SrA Andrew Witt Sentenced to Death for the Pre-Meditated Murders of Jamie & Andy Schliepsiek; 13 Years Later, Military Court Re-sentenced Witt to Life In Prison, No Parole (October 13, 2005)

Air Force SrA Andrew Witt murdered Airman Andy Schliepsiek and his wife Jamie at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia on July 5, 2004. According to reports, Andrew Witt made a ‘pass’ at Andy’s wife Jamie at a July 4th cookout. When Andy confronted Witt about the inappropriate sexual advance, he informed him that he would not only report the assault to their Commander but also that he was sleeping with an officer on base. This was motive enough for Andrew Witt to drive back on base and stab them to death in the early morning hours of July 5th. Another airman Jason King was also stabbed in the back as he was attempting to flee the scene. On October 5, 2005, Andrew Witt was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to the death penalty by a military court on October 13, 2005. After an appeal, the death sentence was overturned in 2013. In early 2016, the death sentence for Andrew Witt was reinstated. On July 19, 2016, the highest military appeals court ruled in favor of a new sentencing hearing for Andrew Witt. In July 2018, a military panel re-sentenced Andrew Witt to life in prison without parole. Witt also received a dishonorable discharge from the Air Force as part of his sentence. At one point, Witt was the only Air Force service member on military death row at Leavenworth in Kansas. He was joined by four other Army soldiers: Timothy Hennis, Ronald Gray, Hasan AkbarNidal Hasan. (Army soldier Dwight Loving‘s death sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017).

Related Links:
Fast hearing promised in couple’s slaying
Witness: Spurned advance led to stabbings at Air Force base
Airman Charged with Killing Couple May Get Death
Air Force to move quickly in murder case
Mother of convicted airman pleads for mercy
Airman sentenced to death
Convicted airman sentenced to death for killing couple
Two killers closer to first military executions since 1961
Strain and battle fatigue of war hit home front
The death penalty: What is justice?
Sergeant offers hope to inmates
Air Force court reinstates airman’s death sentence for 2004 killing
Ga. airman’s death sentence overturned on appeal
Ga. airman’s death sentence overturned on appeal due to ignoring of critical evidence
Georgia airman escaped murder scene, fought PTSD
On military death row, execution is anything but guaranteed
CAAF to examine the Air Force CCA’s reconsideration of Airman Witt’s death sentence
New jury to decide fate of airman convicted in murder of former Peoria couple
Judge in USS Cole case refuses to step down for death penalty bias
Judge in Cole bombing case refuses to step down
United States v. Andrew Witt, US Air Force (2016)
The survivor: Airman escaped murder scene only to fight new battles
New hearing for airman awaiting military execution
Only airman on military’s death row gets new sentencing hearing
New Sentencing Hearing for Airman on Military Death Row
Murderous airman sentenced to death, still dodging execution after 12 years
Death sentence upheld for Robins airman
Air Force court reinstates airman’s death sentence for 2004 killing
New hearing for airman awaiting military execution
Only airman on military’s death row gets new sentencing hearing
U.S. v. Witt – U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (July 2016)
Nidal Hasan, and the 5 other men on the military’s death row
Description of Cases for those Sentenced to Death in U.S. Military
This former airman was spared the death penalty a 2nd time in 2004 double homicide case
Former airman from La Crosse off death row after new sentence in 2004 slayings
Murderous airman sentenced to death, still dodging execution after 12 years
Air Force SrA Andy Schliepsiek & Wife Jamie Stabbed to Death at Robins AFB Home; Military Court Re-sentenced SrA Andrew Witt From Death Penalty to Life In Prison, No Parole (July 5, 2004)
Four Service Members on Military Death Row at Fort Leavenworth, Army Private John Bennett was Last Military Execution by Hanging in 1961
What the DoD Doesn’t Want You to Know: 50 Shocking Military Homicides in the Last 30 Years (2018)

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

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)
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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

Cold Case: Maria Ridulph of Illinois Reported Missing and Later Found Fatally Stabbed; Air Force Veteran John Tessier Wrongfully Convicted of Homicide and Set Free (1957)

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Maria Ridulph, 7, Illinois

Maria Ridulph, 7, disappeared on December 3, 1957 in Sycamore, Illinois. She was found stabbed to death a few months later. Air Force veteran John Tessier (aka Jack McCullough) of Seattle, Washington, 17 at the time, was convicted in 2012 of the kidnapping and murder of Maria and sentenced to life in prison. It was the oldest cold case in the country to be solved but soon that victory would be lost and conviction overturned on appeal. A prosecutor found evidence that supported McCullough’s long-held alibi that he had been 40 miles away at the time of the disappearance. As a matter of fact, the former Captain was enlisting in the Air Force and left for active duty service a few days later. A certificate of innocence was issued and Jack McCullough was set free on April 15, 2016. Despite the past sexual abuse of minors allegations, which McCullough doesn’t deny, he wants to clear his name of the homicide. McCullough is suing the State of Illinois for wrongful conviction. The case remains unsolved to this day.

Related Links:
Jack McCullough: The Last Man Standing
48 Hours: Cold as Ice
Jack McCullough Case: A Timeline
Footsteps in the Snow: The Cold Case Murder of Maria Ridulph
Train ticket could solve 50-year Maria Ridulph murder mystery
Maria Ridulph Alleged Killer Arrested: How Cops Finally Found Jack McCullough
Man guilty of murder in 1957
Jack McCullough, 72, convicted in 1957 murder of Maria Ridulph, 7
Former cop convicted in 1957 murder of 7-year-old Illinois girl
McCullough gets life for 1957 killing of 7-year-old
Ex-police officer convicted in murder of 7-year-old Illinois girl ,Maria Ridulph, snatched from a small-town street corner 55 years ago
Oldest U.S. cold case closed in Illinois
The murder that became the oldest solved cold case in America
Illinois: People v. McCullough (2015)
Newly discovered evidence in one of the oldest unsolved crimes in U.S. history to ever make it to trial means a 76-year-old convicted and sentenced to life in the 1957 slaying of a 7-year-old Illinois girl has a chance to go free
Prosecutor moves to dismiss 1957 cold case murder conviction
Police eye new suspect over 1957 murder of seven-year-old girl after receiving an anonymous letter in the mail possibly naming her real killer
Illinois prosecutor: Wrong man convicted of 1957 murder of 7-year-old girl
Judge: I’m not ready to free ’57 cold case convict
Jack McCullough freed after conviction vacated in ’57 Sycamore murder
Prosecutor: Man wrongly convicted of 1957 cold-case murder
Man wrongfully convicted in 1957 cold case murder declared innocent
Schmack: Jack McCullough falsely convicted in 1957 Maria Ridulph murder
Man wrongfully convicted in 1957 cold case killing of Maria Ridulph, 7, ruled innocent
Jack McCullough Free After Judge Orders New Trial In 1957 Murder Of Maria Ridulph
Wrong Man Convicted of 1957 Murder in Illinois, Prosecutor Says
Seattle man wrongly convicted in 1957 child’s killing goes free
Schmack Posits McCullough’s Innocence
The Sad Tale Of Maria Ridulph’s Disappearance And The Trial Of Jack McCullough
The Bizarre Murder Of Maria Ridulph — Still Unsolved!
Police eye new suspect in 1957 abduction, murder of 7-year-old girl
Man wrongfully convicted in coldest murder case: ‘I want my name back’
Maria Ridulph A Tragic Case
BrainScratch: Maria Ridulph


2017 Illinois History Fair State Superior documentary on the longest cold case in US history. Produced by River Ridge High School Hanover, Illinois.