Who is Michael Peterson?
American novelist and convicted killer Michael Iver Peterson was born in Nashville, Tennessee USA, on 23 October 1943, meaning that Scorpio’s his zodiac sign. He’s probably known best for having been convicted of killing his second wife Kathleen Peterson; Michael was sentenced to spend his life behind bars without the possibility of parole on 10 October 2003, but was released on house arrest after $300,000 bail was paid in 2011.
Education and early life
Michael was raised alongside his sister Ann Christensen and their brothers John and Bill in Nashville, by their mother Eleanor (nee Bartolino) and father Eugene Iver Peterson; not a lot else is known about Michael’s family, because he respects their privacy.
He was mostly focused on his education while attending a local high school, while some of the activities he was into the most included creative writing, playing soccer and dancing. Michael matriculated in 1962, and then enrolled at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina; he was the editor of the university’s newspaper “The Chronicle” during his four years there, and was the president of the fraternity Sigma Nu. Michael graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in political science in 1965, and then began taking classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Law School.
In 1965, Michael began working for the US Department of Defense, researching arguments in support of the US military involvement in Vietnam. The year 1968 saw Michael join the US Marine Corps, and he served in Vietnam for three years prior to being honorably discharged as a captain, after he was hit by a car and left with a disability.
In 1999, Michael claimed that he had been presented with two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star with Valor and a Silver Star for his service in the Marine Corps, but the newspaper “News & Observer” later revealed that no records showed that Michael had won any Purple Hearts.
He and his first wife lived in Germany after he was discharged, then Michael moved back to Durham in 1987.
— Fukumi Kimoto (@FukumiKimoto) October 24, 2022
He’s published three novels, all of which related to his time in Vietnam. His first novel “The Immortal Dragon” was published in 1983, followed by “A Time of War” in 1990, and his third “A Bitter Peace” in 2020.
Michael also co-wrote the biographical book “Operation Broken Reed”, together with Arthur L. Boyd, and “Charlie Two Shoes and the Marines of Love Company” with David Perlmutt. He also spent some time working as a columnist for the newspaper “The Herald-Sun”.
Love life and marriages
Michael married his first wife Patricia Sue in 1965, following his graduation; she taught at an elementary school on Rhein-Main Air Base in West Germany, where Michael was stationed. They had two children together, Todd and Clayton.
While living in Germany, Michael and Patricia befriended the Ratliff family, which comprised George and Elizabeth, and their children Martha and Margaret. After George and Elizabeth died in 1985, Michael became their children’s guardian, but he and Patricia divorced two years later, with their children staying with Patricia, while Michael, Martha and Margaret moved together to Durham. Todd and Clayton also eventually came to live with Michael.
He met successful business executive Kathleen Atwater in 1989 – they moved in together in the same year, married in 1997, and he became stepfather to Kathleen’s daughter Caitlin. The marriage ended when Kathleen died on 9 December 2001.
Kathleen’s death and Michael’s trial
Michael called the police on 9 December 2001, claiming that Kathleen was lying down on the floor unconscious, and that she had probably fallen down the stairs.
Toxicology reports showed that Kathleen had drunk some alcohol and taken the prescription drug Valium, while the autopsy showed that she had died two hours after the injuries that she had suffered. Kathleen’s sister Candace Zamperini, as well as her daughter Caitlin both believed that Michael had nothing to do with Kathleen’s death, but they changed their mind after learning that Michael’s bisexual.
Michael was accused of murder, as the autopsy showed that no fall could’ve resulted in Kathleen’s injuries; the prosecution claimed that Kathleen found out about Michael’s gay life, which he had tried to hide, and that he wanted to take her $1.5 million life insurance. It was then revealed that Michael’s friend from Germany Elizabeth Ratliff had also died from similar injuries as Kathleen, and was also found at the foot of her staircase; a second autopsy of Elizabeth’s buried body was ordered, and her cause of death was then officially changed to ‘homicide’. Michael wasn’t charged with Elizabeth’s murder.
He was found guilty of killing his wife on 10 October 2003, and sentenced to spend life behind bars. Michael’s lawyers filed a motion for a new trial on 12 November 2008, but it was denied. It was in the second half of 2009 that a new theory about Kathleen’s death surfaced; it was claimed that an owl had attacked her outside, causing some of her injuries, and that she then fell down and hit her head after running from the owl inside the house. The investigators found two microscopic owl feathers when re-examining Kathleen’s hair.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper began investigating the SBI analyst Duane Deaver in the first half of 2010, and Duane was suspended in August of the same year; he was the lead witness against Michael at his trial, and it was revealed that Duane had presented false evidence in 34 cases. Due to these new findings, Michael was released on a $300,000 bail on 16 December 2011, and placed under house arrest.
He entered the Alford plea on 24 February 2017, and was sentenced to seven years in jail, but because he had already served more than that, he was thus released.
The documentary series about the entire case, “The Staircase” was released in October 2004, while its sequel “The Staircase 2: The Last Chance” premiered in November 2012.
Interesting facts and hobbies
Michael’s been staying away from the media’s attention since he was freed in 2017, with the exception of when he published his novel “A Bitter Peace” in 2020.
He can rarely be seen spending time outdoors, as he enjoys the peace of his home; it’s been revealed that Michael no longer has a staircase at his house.
He was physically highly active during his 20s, 30s and 40s, as he worked out at the gym and played a number of sports.
Michael’s a huge fan of American actor and moviemaker Clint Eastwood, while some of his favorite movies include “The Outlaw Josey Wales”, “High Plains Drifter” and “Play Misty for Me”.
Height, eyes and wealth
Michael’s age is 79. He has brown eyes and grey hair, is 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall and weighs around 150lbs (68kgs).
Michael’s net worth’s been estimated at over $100,000, as of April 2023.