Kathleen Peterson was a Lancaster, Pennsylvania native who attended Duke University over Princeton and made history as the first woman to ever be accepted to Duke’s engineering school. Sadly, this brilliant woman’s story does not have a happy ending. After separating from her first husband, with whom she had a daughter, Kathleen married Michael Peterson in 1996.
Kathleen Peterson’s Death
Tragically, in December of 2001, Kathleen Peterson was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in her Durham home. Her husband, author Michael Peterson called 911, saying she accidentally fell down the flight of stairs. In 2003, Michael Peterson was convicted of murdering his wife and given a life sentence. However, he was granted a new trial in 2011 once a key prosecution witness had been discredited. Not everyone was in agreement about his guilt.
Before we get to the court case and appeals, we should give you some more background. In 2004, a miniseries was created about Kathleen Peterson’s suspicious death and Michael Peterson’s subsequent murder trial. The French TV miniseries was called Soupçons or The Staircase in English. Film crews working on the series were able to speak with Michael Peterson’s defense attorneys, extended family and even granted access to the court room. Their documentary surged public interest in the case.