Michael Iver Peterson (born October 23, 1943) is an American novelist who was convicted in 2003 of the December 9, 2001, murder of his second wife, Kathleen Peterson. After eight years, Peterson was given a new trial after a judge found that a key prosecution witness provided false testimony. Peterson entered an Alford plea to the reduced charge of manslaughter in 2017. He was sentenced to time served and released.
The Staircase, a French documentary miniseries about Peterson's case, began filming soon after his arrest in 2001 and followed events until his ultimate Alford plea in 2017. In 2019, he wrote Behind the Staircase, an independently published book about his life since his wife's death.
This murder case is also the basis of The Staircase, 2022 miniseries starring Colin Firth and Toni Collette. Several further films, including a sequel to the 2001 miniseries, as well as podcasts, radio shows, and other media, have been created in the aftermath of Kathleen's death.
Personal and Professional Life
Eugene Iver Peterson and Eleanor Peterson gave birth to Michael Iver Peterson near Nashville, Tennessee. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Duke University. From 1964 to 1965, Peterson served as president of Sigma Nu fraternity and as editor of The Chronicle, the daily student newspaper. He attended classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's law school.
After graduation, Peterson accepted a civilian position with the United States Department of Defense, where he was tasked with researching arguments in favor of further military participation in Vietnam. That same year, he married Patricia Sue, an elementary school teacher at the Rhein-Main Air Base in Gräfenhausen, West Germany.
Clayton and Todd were their two children. Peterson joined the United States Marine Corps in 1968 and served in the Vietnam War. After an automobile accident left him permanently disabled, he got an honorable discharge with the rank of captain in 1971.
Years later, while running for mayor, Peterson claimed to have received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Valor, and two Purple Hearts. He had all of the medals but claimed he didn't have the paperwork for them. Peterson claimed he won two Purple Hearts, one for being hit by shrapnel when another soldier stepped on a land mine and the other for being shot.
He then revealed that his battle wounded was not the consequence of a shrapnel wound in Vietnam, but of a car accident in Japan, where he was stationed as a military police officer after the war. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, records show no mention of the two Purple Hearts Peterson claimed to have gotten.
Peterson's Net Worth
Michael Peterson is a convicted criminal and an American novelist with a net worth of $500 thousand. He is best known as the subject of the Netflix miniseries “The Staircase,” which is about his wife Kathleen Peterson's death.
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Michael Peterson was born in October 1943 in Nashville, Tennessee. He was convicted of murdering his second wife in 2003. After eight years, he was granted a second trial, and in 2017, he was sentenced to time already served before being released.
On December 9, 2001, Peterson dialed 911 to say that he had just discovered Kathleen Peterson unconscious in their Forest Hills neighborhood house in Durham, North Carolina and that she had fallen down “fifteen to twenty, I don't know” stairs. He later claimed that he had been outside by the pool and returned to find Kathleen at the bottom of the stairs at 2:40 a.m. She must have fallen down the steps after taking booze and Valium, according to Peterson.
Kathleen's blood alcohol content was 0.07 percent (70 mg/100mL) according to toxicology results. According to the autopsy report, the 48-year-old woman suffered a variety of severe injuries, including a fracture of the superior cornu of the left thyroid cartilage and seven lacerations to the top and back of her head, consistent with blows from a blunt object, and died from blood loss 90 minutes to two hours after the injuries.
Caitlin, Kathleen's daughter, and Candace Zamperini, Kathleen's sister, both initially declared Michael's innocence and publicly supported him alongside his children, but Zamperini changed her mind after learning of Peterson's bisexuality, as did Caitlin after reading her mother's autopsy report. Both afterward separated from the rest of the family.