At home with a murderer: Michael Peterson’s Durham House

At home with a murderer: Michael Peterson’s Durham House
At home with a murderer: Michael Peterson’s Durham House
There are strange cases of true crimes and those that are downright bizarre. Kathleen Peterson’s death falls into the latter category. With more twists than an Agatha Christie novel, her murder and the ensuing investigation are confusing to say the least. In the seemingly idyllic Durham, North Carolina mansion she shared with her husband, the writer Michael, and which was sold again last August, the 48-year-old Nortel Networks manager’s life ended at the end of a narrow flight of stairs in the early morning Morning hours of December 9, 2001. Whether Kathleen Peterson was the victim of a terrible accident, a coincidence Eulenangriff, or murder by her husband has been the stuff of tabloid fodder ever since.

To hear Michael tell it (and how he has told it many times), he and Kathleen spent their last night watching America’s Sweethearts and drinking wine – lots of wine. After the movie, around 11 p.m., the couple decided to hang out by the pool despite being outside brisk 51 to 54 degrees Weather. Kathleen went back inside at some point to prepare for a conference call scheduled for the next morning. When Michael re-entered the house at around 2:30 in the morning and found Kathleen at the end of the back stairs bloody, battered and barely alive. He called 911 claiming his wife fell but died before the ambulance arrived. Due to the enormous amount of blood at the scene and the seven head injuries discovered by the coroner, authorities quickly determined it was a murder and set Michael as the prime suspect. He was arrested only 11 days later.

And then the time had come Really strange. During the preparation of the trial, Peterson was approached by the French documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, who hoped to be able to cover his trial on film. Despite extensive scrutiny by detectives and the public, Peterson inexplicably agreed and allowed de Lestrade and his crew unimpeded access to his home, defense team, and family – including his four children! The result, a fascinating documentary with 13 episodes entitled “The Staircase”, is an incomparable view of our legal system, the prerequisites for a defense and what happens behind the scenes of a major criminal case. My mom and I devoured the show when it first premiered on Sundance TV in 2005 and then re-released on Netflix in 2018 with hours of extra footage. The story becomes more and more mysterious over time.

Click the gallery to learn more about Michael Peterson and his former home.

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