In 2001, catalen Peterson was uncovered dead at the bottom the the stairs in the phibìc Carolina residence she common with her husband, the novelist Michael Peterson.

"My wife had actually an accident," Peterson says on the 911 call. "She"s still breathing. She fell down the stairs."

Shortly after, Peterson to be charged with first-degree murder. The attempt that complied with was full of twists and kooky theories—blaming the fatality on whatever from one owl strike to connecting it to a second slaying comparable in nature. The bizarre instance is the topic of the brand-new Netflix docu-series The Staircase.

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The Staircase, directed by Oscar winner Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, originally aired ~ above French television as an eight-episode miniseries in 2004 and earned the reputation Peabody compensation in 2005. Over the years, together the Peterson situation has taken plenty of twists and also turns, de Lestrade has adhered to up his original series with two sequels. The Netflix version of The Staircase, which premieres on June 8, has three new episodes that research Peterson"s life this day after the an extensive legal fight that ensued ~ his wife"s death.

"I can vividly remember detect Kathleen," Peterson says in the trailer. But, together plays out over the 13 episodes, Peterson might not be who he seems.

Here"s what to know about Peterson, his family, and his murder trial.

Peterson"s family friend was also found dead in ~ the bottom of a staircase

Before Peterson met catalen in 1986, he lived in Germany v his an initial wife Patricia Peterson, one elementary college teacher in ~ an American armed forces base there, follow to People. The pair had two sons, Clayton and Todd.

While overseas, Patricia and also Peterson befriended Elizabeth Ratliff, a mother of 2 young girls whose husband was eliminated while ~ above a army mission. Yet one morning in November 1985, their dear friend was uncovered dead in ~ the bottom of a flight of stairs. The evening prior to she died, Peterson had been at her house, helping placed her daughters, Margaret and also Martha, come bed, according to NBC.

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Ratliff was initially thought to have passed away from a loss down the staircase—until, of course, catalent Peterson was found dead in a very similar manner 15 years later. When Ratliff"s sister, Margaret Blair, heard of Kathleen"s death, she phoned the detective functioning on the case. "I said, "Are you aware that the very same thing occurred to Margaret and Martha’s mother and also Michael Peterson was the critical one to be with her?"" she told NBC.

Ratliff"s fatality was later on re-examined and ruled a "homicide," back jurors in Kathleen"s situation say lock dismissed her fatality altogether in your decision-making process, follow to the outlet.


A "Happy" Life in Durham

After Ratliff died, the Peterson family embraced Margaret and also Martha and moved earlier to the U.S.

When Peterson and also Patricia"s marriage started falling personally in the mid-"80s, the girls to be the people responsible for presenting Peterson to his following wife, Kathleen. The sister were playmates v her daughter, Caitlin, that lived under the street in Durham, north Carolina. In 1987, the family members moved in together, according to NBC.

"They all satellite me down and also said: "How would certainly you choose it if Martha and Margaret come live v you?" and also I automatically thought—"a permanent sleepover!"" Caitlin called NBC.

Peterson, a former newspaper columnist, penned several novels, including the popular 1990s WWII-era publication A Time of War, i m sorry garnered attention from a Hollywood studio. According to NBC, he’d gotten “more than a fifty percent million dollar advancement from his publisher" for among his books.

He and Kathleen, a telecommunications firm executive, raised the kids in a sprawling home, reports alphabet News. According to the outlet, Peterson claimed in 2006, "We lived together for 14 years, and we to be happy every one of those years."

His wife was discovered dead in their home

Peterson’s big "happy" family was take it apart top top Dec. 9, 2001, as soon as he called 911, claiming to have discovered Kathleen alive, however unconscious, in ~ the bottom of the staircase in your home.

Earlier in the evening, Peterson states the couple had eaten dinner, watched the movie America’s Sweethearts, and sat out by the pool. He claims Kathleen saw bed, while that stayed outside to acting a pipe. The defense declared that Kathleen, after ~ drinking some wine and also taking valium, tried come walk up the poorly lit stairwell, fell, and bled come death.

But as soon as Detective arts Holland of the Durham police arrived on their home, the scene instantly struck him together suspicious: Kathleen was "splayed the end on the floor, her head resting on the landing that a ago staircase," according to NBC. Police likewise saw a bottle of wine and two glasses on the kitchen counter "neatly arrayed—implying, perhaps, the pair had passed a relaxing night at residence sipping alcohol together," reports the outlet. Other than Kathleen"s fingerprints weren"t on either glass. In fact, a medical examiner later figured out that she blood alcohol content was so low she would have actually passed a breathalyzer check if she"d bring away one.

The ME figured out that Kathleen had been bludgeoned come death and suffered 7 deep lacerations on the scalp. The blood roughly the victim was mainly dry, an interpretation that she"d to be lying in ~ the bottom that the stairs for a lengthy time. Previous District Attorney judge Jim Hardin called NBC she to be there for approximately two hours.

The state"s blood-spatter expert claimed that blood droplets about the stairwell to be made by the striking the a weapon, according to the outlet.

The secret prostitute

Not lengthy after Kathleen"s body to be found, Peterson, the element suspect, to be arrested and charged with first-degree murder. His trial started in July 2003.

In court, the state said that his motive, in part, was connected to his sexuality. Follow to NBC, the prosecutor believed Kathleen had uncovered 2,000 pictures of naked men on her husband"s computer, plus an email exchange through a 26-year-old masculine escort who very first contacted that four-months before the murder and also whom Peterson was planning to meet. The prosecutor theorized catalent stumbled across the photos and also emails, prompting a physical—and eventually deadly—altercation between husband and wife.

Peterson to be convicted the first-degree killing

On October 10, 2003, the jury discovered Peterson guilty the the murder of his wife. He to be sentenced come life in jail without benefit of parole. Peterson maintained his innocence, apparently saying: "I didn"t perform anything. I"m innocent. I did not believe until the jury clerk check out the sentence that I would be convicted."

He maintains his innocence come this day, speak in The Staircase: "They lied, they cheated, lock did everything to convict me."


The owl theory

In 2009, one attorney brought to light a brand-new theory citing compelling proof to prove the Peterson was, in fact, no responsible for Kathleen’s death. Instead, he asserted an owl to be to blame. Follow to The national Audubon Society, the "Owl Theory" posits the a prohibition Owl—a common types in Durham—got entangled in Kathleen"s hair, bring about serious injuries, choose the removal of component of she scalp, and also caused she to fall to her fatality down the stairs. The society says Kathleen"s "autopsy revealed seven lacerations, including an extremely deep people in the earlier of she scalp, and pine needles grounding to among her hands, which both held clumps the her very own hair." Plus, the strands in the victim’s left hand contained three tiny feathers.

"When girlfriend look at she injuries, lock do show up consistent with being made by one owl’s talons," Peterson’s defense attorney mar Jude Darrow said Audubon. "But I would hate to danger my client’s life or future on the argument."

According to WRAL, lawyer Lawrence Pollard filed a new motion in premium Court in 2009 the stated: "Thus, that is new and compelling evidence, and probably the single most necessary piece of evidence found so much in this case, due to the fact that it connect the assault by a bird through the victim, and it is held in the victim"s hand." No activity for a brand-new trial was filed.

Peterson go away, after ~ discredited testimony

In 2011, a judge vacated the verdict and ordered a new trial after finding that a blood spatter analyst offered false and also misleading testimony in ~ Peterson"s very first trial, reports ABC. according to neighborhood media reports, Tim Palmbach that the department of Forensic scientific research at the university of new Haven testified that the analyst "focused on just some the the blood droplets in the area and didn"t disclose to jurors that there was various other blood at the scene the didn"t fit his findings. Also, numerous of "s tests appeared to be provided to check a theory quite than type through the evidence for the most most likely scenario."

The taking place legal saga ongoing all the way until February 2017, once Peterson reportedly entered an Alford plea to voluntary manslaughter in his wife’s murder and was exit from custody. One Alford plea permits a defendant to keep innocence while still acknowledging that the beginning has enough evidence to convict. Prosecutors said they hope the plea brought "a measure of justice" to Kathleen’s family.

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His plea, back technically guilty, did no officially settle the an enig of Kathleen"s death. "The words "Alford plea" room meaningless. Alford smalford. It method nothing. Guilt!" Kathleen"s sister, Candace Zamperini, accused yelled at Peterson throughout the trial. "You brutally took the life of a mrs who detailed for you, guarded her children, she love you!"

Peterson, currently a grandfather of two, resides in a 1,200-square-foot two-bedroom condo. The plans come visit his family and write a book, according to ABC.

Netflix rereleases The Staircase

Will Netflix"s The Staircase lastly solve the an enig of Kathleen"s death? The 13-part collection includes French director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade"s original ten episodes, i beg your pardon premiered on French tv in 2004 to lot acclaim, to add three new episodes delving right into the practically two-decade long quest for truth. Highlights include interviews v Peterson himself, household members, and also his legal team. Will we finally find out who—or what—killed catalent Peterson?

"I don"t think the DA cares around truth anymore," Peterson claims in The Staircase trailer. "This has become a show."

Rose MinutaglioStaff WriterRose is a employee Writer in ~ ELLE spanning culture, news, and women"s issues.
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