Stranger Than Fiction

 Michael Peterson Trial -- News & Views



In the un-humbled opinion of one,
Poetic Justice...

Lawyers Weekly USA
Top Ten List . . .

Jim Hardin
Jim Hardin

Lawyers Weekly USA honored Durham District Attorney Jim Hardin Jr. by naming him one of the nation's Top 10 Lawyers of 2003.

The soft spoken, hard-working Hardin was gracious as always and took the opportunity to acknowledge others. "The prosecution of the Peterson case was truly a collaborative effort. Very few decisions were made without full collaboration and debate," he said.

New Years at Nash

January 1, 2004

The new year has taken us right back to court.

On Tuesday, January 16, Judge Hudson will hear a request to forgo a jury trial and declare Michael Peterson financially liable for the death of his wife, a plea which lawyer Jay Trehy is making on behalf of Caitlin Atwater.

The daughter's civil lawsuit seeks compensation for "the pain and suffering of Kathleen Peterson caused by Michael Peterson's fatal assault," plus punitive damages and other monetary relief.

Trehy is demanding a summary judgment saying, "We shouldn't have to retry that. God knows it took enough money and time to get a criminal conviction."

In civil court filings, Peterson's attorneys have denied that Peterson had any involvement with the hideous murder.

Trehy has not given a specific dollar figure but said, "You can't help but come up with a very large number." Presumably, that number would be a great deal larger than half the proceeds from the November tag sale Atwater reportedly received.

"There's a little bit of money there," he said. "It's not a lot."

Peterson is flat broke of course, but there are $340,000 in Kathleen Peterson's Nortel benefits and the $1.4 million life insurance policy.

"It is my firm belief that Caitlin has a very strong claim to the life insurance," said Trehy.

Mr. Trehy said he soon would ask a federal court to brand Peterson a "slayer," something that would lend added weight to Atwater's financial claims.

German Probe Continues

The News & Observer reports that German authorities are interviewing potential witnesses and that, "this stage of the investigation could last another two months, after which authorities will decide whether to press charges, said Manfred Vogel, the state attorney general in charge of the case. Vogel said he is waiting for U.S. officials to advise him of the conviction of Peterson in the death of Kathleen Peterson and to release the details of that case. Once these documents are received, German authorities can compare the two cases."   

As for how Hizzoner is holding up -- according to Bonnie Boyette, the administrator at NASH, prison suits Michael Peterson just fine. "His adjustment has been very good here," Boyette reports.


"I'm really, really saddened that the loving family that Kathleen worked hard on for 13 years has been ripped apart. The police have gotten to her and gave her their side. I'm sorry for Margaret, Martha, Clayton and Todd, because not only have they lost a mother, now they have lost their sister as well. It's a family disaster."

-- Peterson, Nov 2002

Owl Be Home for Christmas

DECEMBER 13, 2003

Exactly two years after Michael Peterson's real 9-1-1 call about his wife's fictional fall down the stairs -- staunch supporter, spokesman and lawyer Nick Galifianakis has finally seen the light. Mr. Galifianakis has declared that he's carefully analyzed the evidence and now understands the truth of what really happened in the Peterson home on December 9, 2001. Galifianakis, along with lawyer Larry Pollard have announced that an angry, killer owl must have flown in.

WHOOO Done it?

This is no flight of fancy. In a December 5 letter to Jim Hardin, Mr. Pollard listed 11 "points of evidence" of an "owl strike" and explains, "Notwithstanding the outstanding conviction you achieved in the prosecution of this case, I think reopening the investigation is morally, legally and ethically the right thing to do in order to be certain that justice was served in this case."

And jolly old St. Nick isn't kidding either. The former congressman has seriously suggested having an exhumation to gain evidence that would support his theory of fowl play. Freda Black has failed to comment, but I can just hear her saying, "Morally, legally and ethically?"

Well -- one flew East, one flew West, and one flew over the cuckoo's nest. I'm not going to let it ruin my holiday. Please don't let it ruin yours.

Owl Be Home for Christmas,
You can count on that;
Share a joke, with lots of smoke
and mirrors under the cat.

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the fountain gleams;
Owl be home for Christmas,
If only in Mike's dreams.

Kathleen Hunt Atwater Peterson

And We Will Remember


Sisters, Lori Campell and Candace Zamperini said Kathleen Hunt Atwater Peterson was a Nortel Networks executive who was also very involved in the Durham Arts Council and delighted in hosting fund-raisers and parties at her home. They remembered her as "a warm, festive person who contributed greatly to the community."

Kathleen Peterson's life is an inspiration to us all. She worked hard and she played hard, and left us the gift of showing how it could be done. As a community, we rejoice in remembering her hard work, her dedication and her shining spirit.

And yet, the memory of Mrs. Peterson's death during the holiday season of 2001 also brings a cold, lonely, despair. For the family, the memories are painfully personal.

Caitlin Atwater, speaking about her mother, said quite simply, "She's never going to be there anymore."

Lori Campell told reporters, "As long as I live, I am going to remember Kathleen, and all those memories will be tied up with her final moments, fighting for her life in that stairwell, fighting to live against the hands of the man who loved her."

Yes, there is despair. But that too is a gift. Despair brings us finally to reality. It demands that we let go of all the pretense, all the false hopes and illusions -- and face the cold, hard, facts. No fictions can survive the icy winter of despair, so it's a chance to start over -- for real.

In the meantime, all we can cling on to, are the warm memories of what has been, and the festive dreams of what is truly possible.

Kathleen Hunt Atwater Peterson
Kathleen Hunt Atwater Peterson

                       Kathleen Hunt Atwater Peterson

the giving tree
still sings of comfort
and deliverance;
A giggling wind, despite
old sorrows,
forever celebrates
new joys,
and eternal life.


Michael Peterson

Christmas Eve, 2001

To keep my sanity, I write. To keep the horror at bay – thinking of my wife and children – I write.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, but all was not still, or quiet or well, either. Twenty four of us are in Durham County jail Pod 3C – sixteen blacks, six whites and two Hispanics. All were once little boys waiting Christmas morn, though probably for many, sugar plums didn’t dance in their heads. I cannot know what childhood brought these men together here tonight in this concrete and iron confinement, though all seem decent and redeemable.

One man started a carol but it withered on our lips.


Darmstadt, Germany
December, 2003

A spokesman for a German prosecutor's office has confirmed that an investigation into Elizabeth Ratliff's mysterious 1985 death has begun.

"Thursday was truly a day of Thanksgiving as we learned of the active investigation ... into the events surrounding Elizabeth Ratliff's death. After 18 years, it appears the case [has] been opened for the first time."

-- Margaret Blair in a letter to reporter Tom Gasparoli


Elizabeth Ratliff

Elizabeth McKee Ratliff

November 25

"I had a funny feeling. I don't know why."
-- Elizabeth M. McKee, 88, mother of Liz Ratliff


Reared with two sisters on a farm in Rhode Island, Elizabeth McKee was a bright, warm, adventurous and artistic woman. She sang and played an acoustic guitar, and spoke French and German during her 17 years of teaching.

"Liz" Ratliff was found dead at the bottom of a staircase on November 25, 1985. At the time of her death, she was a 43-year-old Department of Defense second-grade schoolteacher raising two young daughters.

"Hearing about the blood, as I did again recently, just helps me remember what Michael said when he called us 18 years ago to tell us there had been an accident. He said there was only a spot of blood behind Liz's ear. ...What? What about the blood on the walls? Why wasn't he suspicious? Why was he so sure it was an accident? Michael should have said: 'You need to come to Germany right away!' "
-- Margaret Blair

"I don't know whether German authorities might act on this, but I don't think you can walk away from this case without feeling some vindication for Elizabeth Ratliff."
-- District Attorney, Jim Hardin

Elizabeth Ratliff

Elizabeth Ratliff

Memory is a Moral Act

Hard Lessons

Former millionaire Mike Peterson now gets paid $1.00 a day for working as a teacher's assistant in the prison's GED classes. "He mostly assists," said James Hardy, assistant superintendent at Nash. "If they can't spell a word, can't pronounce a word, he will tell them how to pronounce it."

Cedar Street TAG SALE
NOV. 21-24, 2003


"It was an accident which left Michael Peterson a wealthy man, but a very poor man in the thing that was most important to him. It left him without his soulmate."
-- David Rudolf

Family Values

Some two thousand people showed up in Forest Hills to gawk at the Cedar Street crime scene and pick through the Peterson's personal belongings. Among the left-over lamps, discarded dishes and assorted antiques for sale were various personal items that once belonged to the late Kathleen Peterson, including her hair brushes and books. Also sold was an old tape recorder with a cassette tape still inside. Reportedly, Kathleen Peterson's voice is heard on the old tape.

Money from the weekend sale is to be divided among the Ratliff sisters and the Peterson brothers. Caitlin Atwater's portion "will be considered an advance on the judgment in her civil suit against her stepfather."

"We are disgusted by Caitlin's actions, and her pursuit of money sickens us."
-- Todd Peterson about Atwater's civil suit

"When the evidence is presented from both sides, he'll be exonerated."
-- defense attorney, Thomas Maher, December 21, 2001


Society is Paying Peterson's Debts

NOV 18

Second string Peterson defender, Thomas Maher, has graciously volunteered and officially been appointed to take up the appeal of Michael's murder conviction.

North Carolina taxpayers will give the assistant attorney $65.00 an hour to swap places with his former partner in crime, David Rudolf, and become the head counselor at Camp Peterson. That means it'll take roughly 1,000 hours to make back the money Peterson loaned from his attorneys for the ketchup art and cartoons that put him permanently behind bars.

Mike should probably make himself at home there at NASH, because Mr. Maher will not be in any big hurry. There are so many appealable issues to review! A few come to mind right away: testimony from the hooker that bashed Peterson's fantasy of "soulmates," and the Elizabeth Ratliff murder that tore into Peterson's fictional plot of an accidental fall.

In the end, Maher is not likely to get very far with those arguments.

There is another obvious appealable issue, but one he will not be able to raise -- ineffective assistance of counsel. It's too bad prisoner Peterson doesn't have a brand new advocate. Considering the devastating last-minute blowpoke stunt and the coffin-sealing refusal to seek inclusion of a lesser charge, Peterson could confidently plead insanity -- on the part of David Rudolf and Thomas Maher.



To Maher and to Maher and to Maher


To Maher and to Maher and to Maher;
creeps in this petty case from day to day,
domineered to the last syllable
of court reported time.

And all Rudolf's yesterdays have lighted
this fool the way to dusty runner-up.
Out, out briefs and affidavits.
Life's but a walking shadow,
a junior partner that struts and frets his
half-hour upon the stage,
and then is heard no more.

It was a defense strategy told by an idiot,
full of surround sound and animated gore,
signifying nothing.


"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle. Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

-- Act V, Scene V, Tragedy of MacBeth


NOV 14

WRAL'S Julia Lewis is reporting that "more than 1,000 items" will be sold at the Michael Mansion, "including patio furniture, plants, Oriental art and wall screens" and that prices will range from $1 to $3,000.

A $20 "sneak preview" will be held on Thursday, followed by a three-day shopping spree and a Monday morning clearance sale.

The end of Lewis' article says proceeds are to be divided among the five children, specifying that Caitlin Atwater's portion
"will be considered an advance on the judgment in her civil suit against her stepfather."

Wait a minute.

There's an estimated $20,000 worth of items. One fifth of that would be $4,000. Get real.

And is the money also an advance to Todd, Clayton, Martha and Margaret? For what?

It is not clear who's claiming this garage sale is an "advance" to the victim's daughter, but as Freda Black once put it: "somethin' ain't right... again."

A Time of War



The story Michael Peterson first told reporters about how he had received two Purple Heart Medals was simple, direct and devastating: on one occasion he was hit by flying shrapnel when a soldier stepped on a land mine, and on another, he was shot.

Those of course were lies, but no one except Peterson knew that until September 1999 when the News & Observer checked into the official records of the then mayoral candidate.

Why would a veteran of the Vietnam War who was legitimately awarded several medals -- including the Silver Star -- make up fictional stories about getting two Purple Hearts?


"I think you'd have to ask a psychologist," Peterson tearfully told reporters. "I honestly cannot tell you." He vowed to start telling the truth, saying, "I'm going to be as honest as I can and answer any questions I can from the people who have supported me, and hope they will continue to support me."

Peterson said he had, in fact, been injured twice -- but not as he had first claimed. He said that, during the war he hurt his right arm diving to the ground to avoid incoming mortar and rifle fire. The other incident, according to Peterson, occurred during an assault into North Vietnam when he was hit on his side by shrapnel.

When asked to substantiate his new stories -- Peterson displayed two Purple Hearts but failed to produce any documents to back up his claims. No proof of those events was ever found, nor have any records of the two medals ever been located.

Why would a highly decorated Marine continue to lie about his injuries and a couple of Purple Hearts? Peterson offered his supporters the excuse of not wanting to share painful war stories. That's patently false. Peterson, by his own admission, joined the Marines and went to war for the specific purpose of writing about his experiences.

Certainly there are veterans who'd rather not dredge up painful memories, but the author of "A Time of War" isn't one of them. People choose to remain silent for many reasons. People lie and make up stories when the truth will hurt them.

Later, Peterson would tell yet another harrowing tale. He stated that his injuries were actually the result of an accident -- hmmm -- a car accident that happened, not in Vietnam, but in Japan, where he was stationed after the war as a military policeman. (MP)

While driving with a man he would only refer to as "Sergeant Beverly," Peterson said, "This gigantic Japanese truck on the other side tried to beat the train. It smashed into us head-on." At one point he gave this account: "So we were pinned in there and I was in the truck listening to Sergeant Beverly die, which took about 30 minutes, and he kept saying, 'Help me lieutenant, help me lieutenant,' but I couldn't help him."

Fact? Fiction? Or Michael's unique blend?

No one will ever know what really happened to "Sergeant Beverly" in that car -- but the truth behind that "accident" is most likely the explanation for Peterson's lies.

Doubting Thomas

November 6

After 19 years under David Rudolf's wing, Thomas Maher, is flying the coop.

"Yes, I am going off on my own," Maher told a Durham reporter. "I just have a feeling I'd like to do something different. This seems like a good time to do it."

Having made yourself a laughing stock by playing dangerous games with blowpokes in front of a national television audience, and having left your client penniless and in prison for life, this probably is as good a time as any to make like a fireplace tool and disappear.

Asked about Mayor Mike's appeal, Mr. Maher, who tittered and giggled his way through Kathleen Peterson's murder trial, joked that he'd be "happy to do it."

The Three Little Addicted Pigs

November 4

Intoxicated by profits from Mike Peterson's million dollar accidental murder mystery, the greedy little pigs at the law offices of Rudolf and Maher continue to feed at the tragic trough -- despite a jury's final verdict of GUILT. Nothing can stop them, it seems, because nothing's more important than feeding their habit.

Dave and Tom have gotten so high living off their homicidal hog -- they've lost any sense of embarrassment or shame. Immediately following the rejection of their ridiculous lies in court that Kathleen Peterson died from a self-inflicted, drug and alcohol related suicidal episode -- the fiction loving lawyers filed an "affidavit of indigency" for Millionaire Mike.

Judge Hudson denied the request, commenting, "If you have $1.2 million in assets, you can find a way to hire a lawyer."

Well, Peterson had hired a lawyer, a few of them in fact, and those lawyers quickly found a way to spend his $1.2 million and much, much more. That's how we got here Judge, remember? And now they can't stop. Rudolf and Maher are completely hooked on the cash cow.

Hopelessly addicted -- they're hungry for more, and they gotta have it!

the Other White Meat

Never satisfied, the avaricious authors of the first failed affidavit -- which contained mathematical errors of constitutional magnitude -- produced a surprise, second affidavit which provided a clearer accounting of Peterson's ambiguous, property-rich poverty.

It defiantly states: "A defendant who is indigent has a constitutional and statutory right to the appointment of counsel and the payment of expenses involved in pursuing an appeal."

As for Michael's million dollar mansion -- Rudolf and Maher's filing explains there's a monster mortgage and $1.185 million in liens. "Payments have not been made for accruing interest on some of these liens, and it is estimated that there is over $20,000 in interest owed as well as the principal amount. Defendant simply cannot borrow any further money using the real estate as collateral, and the proceeds of any sale of the real estate will go to the secured creditors."

Two of those creditors may well be David Rudolf and Thomas Maher, who refuse to disclose their bill for the five-month fiasco, but who do admit Michael Peterson's murderous lies were "extraordinarily expensive to defend."

So the pigs huffed and puffed and on November 4, Judge Orlando Hudson "let it in". Hudson granted the second indigency claim, meaning Peterson's appeal will be paid for by state tax-payers.

While most people would be completely humiliated at this point, Porky Peterson and his over-fed attorneys are in Hog Heaven as they proudly stick their greedy faces down into the public trough to continue feeding their homicide-inspired habit.

The 11,000-square-foot, 14-room Colonial revival mansion at
1810 Cedar Street is known as the John Buchanan House. In 1940,
Buchanan commissioned Durham architect George Watts Carr
to design a house "to suitably express his station in life."

Now, Alas...


On November 21, 22 and 23, everything in the Michael Mansion will be tagged, set out and sold at a pre-determined price. The unfortunately scheduled financial festival is sure to add a circus atmosphere to the grim week of remembrance in the Peterson saga.

Reportedly, proceeds from the sale will be evenly divided among Clayton and Todd Peterson, Martha and Margaret Ratliff and Caitlin Atwater. Hmmm. Evenly? You do the math.

Trick or Treat?

Michael Peterson's Haunted,
Bargain Basement/Garage Sale

Court-watchers were treated to several tricks this Halloween week, thanks to money-grubbing murderer, Michael Peterson and his ghoulishly greedy defense team. Not surprisingly, their bag of strategic goodies mostly concern money.

The Michael Mansion went on the market October 30th, at $1,175,000. However, since the Cedar Street house was used for the set in a French documentary film of Peterson's brutal murder, it's not clear if any sane person would actually want to purchase the property.

Also foggy in the financial nightmare, is the question of the true home-owner. The infamous fiction-writer's real estate was used as collateral against loans that Peterson now obviously will not re-pay.

In fact, even after Judge Hudson denied Peterson's "affidavit of indigency," lawyers Rudolf and Maher insist the stairway killer has fallen on very hard times.

In a motion filed before the Halloween weekend, Hizz advocates declared that Hudson had made an error of "constitutional magnitude" when he laughed off the millionaire's claim to be penniless.

More Scary Surprises

Several previously sealed, confidential court documents were handed out to the public this week. The bag is full of bitter, bite-sized bombshells, including:

A used condom theory from son, Todd, who explained to authorities that the Trojan found in Kathleen Peterson's bedroom was put there by Todd's "unidentified friend" who was supposedly in the room having sex with "an unidentified nurse."

Trick or Treat?

Kathleen Peterson's sister Lori Campell reveals that, while on a vacation in Paris, Michael grabbed his wife very hard and hurt her arm.

Truth or Travesty?

Caitlin Atwater quotes Michael's brother Bill Peterson, as saying Kathleen Peterson knew all about her husband's secret-life with male hookers, and was "OK with it."

Cheap Shot or Cheap Trick?

Larry L. Wade
Larry Wade     

Meanwhile, back at the ranch -- Larry L. Wade, the NASH inmate who gave Michael Peterson some facial wounds and a cut-lip as a welcoming gift, has been duly disciplined. So poor Michael is now safe to sit in his own room again, free from his housemate's shocking, unprovoked, surprise attacks. Wade has lost the privilege to socialize with others.

Of course, when bobbing with the bunch at NASH, you're sure to find more than one bad apple, and considering Halloween -- who knows what other monsters are freely roaming about from door to door looking to scare up some fun?

"Bill said very straightforward that Mike was bisexual.
Bill told me that my mother knew and was okay with it.
I accepted it because I assumed that my mother had --
but I will say that my mother divorced my father for
cheating on her with other women, so I cannot imagine
that she would possibly be okay with her current
husband having sex with other men."

-- Caitlin Atwater

Greineder / Peterson verdicts
Greineder/ Peterson verdicts

Stop me if you've heard this one

The good news is that, although stuck in prison for the rest of his "natural" life, Nashville's new novelist-in-residence is allowed to have up to three visitors at a time on either Saturday or Sunday.

The bad news is -- just about every one of the Peterson Bunch has bailed.

Misery may love company, but in Mayor Mike's case, it's gonna have to be a long-distance romance. Martha Ratliff is headed for San Francisco, her sister Margaret is in New Orleans, Clayton Peterson has gone back to Baltimore and Todd's moved to Reno with Uncle Bill. As soon as the garage/basement is cleared of bats/ants -- and the back stairway finally cleaned up -- the celebrated Cedar Street centerpiece will be sold. The lovely property is sure to draw a fountain of buyers.

It's all like watching a very bad re-make of a very bad film.

Dr. Dirk Greineder's kids cried and stormed around after his GUILTY verdict too. Defiantly leaving the courthouse, they vowed to fight and prove Greineder's innocence, and the next day -- they promptly fell off the face of the earth.

Post verdict, Colin Greineder -- the young man who took the stand and lied that it was he and not his father who had purchased a box of nails in the very hardware store that, moments later, sold an Estwing two-pound drilling hammer -- has never said another word about the diabolical killer he daily defended in court. There's been not a peep from Britt, or big sister Kirsten, who held her wedding shortly after the murder trial.

Folks have said I'm too harsh. "You're so judgmental ... Where's your sympathy?" they cry. "They were brain-washed." Sorry, but the fictions played out before the jury must be viewed for what they really, really were -- lies -- terrible lies told in the service of a monster.

A reasonable juror, looking over the shoulder of the accused and seeing so many supporters, is forced to think -- "They know him best. Could they all be lying?"

There is no item of evidence as compelling, no witness as powerful, no argument as convincing as the resolute support of family and friends. The truly innocent defendant has little else at such a time. Without ever taking the stand, family members and supporters can and do gain acquittals and hang juries.

If all that giggling indignation and euphoric support for Peterson was genuine, why isn't Hizzoner's entourage out there looking for the real killer -- or killerzzz? For that matter, why have they all scurried out of town like rats off the Titanic?

So harsh. So mean.

Guy Seaberg demos his
digital defense mechanism

Guy Seaberg seated


Although the State relied on little more than an easel and some posterboard, there was seemingly no end to the techno-blitz of electronic toys the defense team had for the jury. Hizz advocates buzzed about the tiny, 80-seat courtroom, wired to the teeth with laptops, scanners, the latest software and a really, really big screen TV. (Thanks Guy!)

If the medium is the message -- Durham jurors used a simple piece of paper to deliver a powerful point to Rudolf and Maher: Guilty In -- Guilty Out.

Millions of Lies
Chapter 11

One week after being sentenced to life in prison without parole, millionaire Michael Peterson filed an Affidavit of Indigency, listing assets of $1,297,000. "I now request the Court to assign a lawyer to represent me in this case," reads the form signed by the globe-trotting gadfly on Oct. 17, 2003.

"In examining his finances, it appears that he is unable to afford the cost of hiring appellate counsel or the expense of obtaining transcripts," Thomas Maher said in an accompanying letter. Strange. When examining Peterson's finances during the trial, Maher and lead attorney Rudolf asserted Mike had nearly $2 million in assets.

In front of the jury, the advocates devilishly argued that their client was ridiculously rich and had no financial motive to kill, despite the State's contention that the fictional writer wanted the $1.4 million he stood to gain if his wife were to "accidentally" fall down the stairs and bleed to death.

Rudolf and Maher's fantasy of a client too rich to care about money is now revealed to be the nightmare of a murdering old fool, too poor to pay attention.


Hizzoner swore to his Honor Judge Hudson that, although he's got
a $10,000 sports car, a bank account containing $2,000, personal property worth $20,000 and real estate with a fair market value of $1,275,000 -- he's $111,000 in the red and owes $78,000 in back taxes, giving him a total debt of ... $1.408 million.

So D.A. Hardin was right on the money.

"The overwhelming number of them are not denied," Judge Hudson said of indigency affidavits, "At least, I don't deny them. I would even say 90-plus percent of them are granted." Hudson told reporters he would personally be reviewing the millionaire's application, saying, "I'm going to think about it."

The judge's first thought may have been to check the devious defense team's math. It turns out, the properties and other claimed assets total
$1,307.000. That's $10,000 higher than the $1,297,000 listed.

He might also have thought, as Freda Black did, that the tax figures on the affidavit didn't add up. The Assistant D.A. said Peterson has received thousands of dollars in tax refunds, also commenting, "With all the beautiful artwork and furniture, it's hard to believe his property is worth only $20,000."

Barely a week later on October 24, Judge Orlando Hudson promptly
denied Hizzoner's request for a hand-out:

"If you have $1.2 million in assets, you can find a way to hire a lawyer."

Whatever money Mayor Mike truthfully did have before the trial is now in the pockets of Rudolf and Maher who were paid a hefty lump sum for their lousy lawyering. The dynamic duo have declined to reveal their total fee, with Thomas Maher cooing, "If Michael wants to disclose that, he can. We're not going to." Don't bother.

Rudolf shaved his beard after the GUILTY verdict                                                

The cashless, Nash affidavit discloses all we need to know. Rudolf and Maher spent a million dollars on smoke and mirrors and put Peterson into bankruptcy at the same time they put him into prison for life.

"His money was spent on his defense and living expenses," the counselor confessed. Uh-huh. The ruthlessly rude Mr. Rudolf, who, during the trial said he thought he didn't need to rebut the financial testimony against his client, now claims, "I would volunteer my time because I think Mike should have a new trial."

Perhaps Mr. Rudolf should volunteer to find Mike a new lawyer -- one with a reputation for telling the truth.

"I believe in reasonable doubt."
-- David Rudolf

Happy Birthday shouts go out this month to
Dr. Dirk Greineder, born October 19, 1940,
Scott Peterson, born October 24, 1972,
and of course, a very special wish for
Michael Peterson who celebrated 60 years on

October 23, 2003

Birthday Bash at NASH

"Michael is a very, very, very strong individual and he's innocent and when you're innocent, it's pretty easy to hold up in the face of this kind of adversity... obviously, he's very surprised and disappointed in this verdict, but he's a fighter and he'll continue to fight."
-- David Rudolf (10/10)


Convicted killer Michael Peterson was in Nash General Hospital Tuesday night (10/21) after a prison fight at Nash Correctional Institute.

Bonnie Boyette, correctional administrator for the prison said Peterson, 60-years-old on October 23, "was involved in an altercation at the facility. At this point, we believe only one other person was involved." The fight occurred between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday, which is after the mandated dinner hour.

"He also was confined to his locked prison cell Wednesday, even for meals," Boyette said.

Boyette told reporters she did not have more details on the fight, like whether a sneaky inmate was hiding near a stairwell to ambush the novelist, or exactly how many blows Mike sustained in the pokey.

Defender David Rudolf claimed the fight started while Peterson was sitting quietly in his cell reading a book.

"Another inmate came into his cell, words were exchanged and the other inmate then struck Mike several times with his fist," the defensive attorney said. "It was over very quickly. It was definitely not about his case."

Thomas Maher commented that Peterson's prison fight was "disturbing."

"All I have been told -- and this is triple or quadruple hearsay -- is that he had a few stitches, and I don't know anything more about him," Maher said, adding, "It certainly keeps one motivated, because it reminds you what it is like to be in jail."

Nash neighbor, Rae Carruth, could not be reached for comment.

Happy Dearth Day


Kathleen Peterson was murdered on December 9, 2001,
shortly before Clayton's 27th birthday -- December 13,
and Margaret Ratliff's 20th birthday -- December 10.

Hooker Habit

NOVEMBER 21, 2003

Brent "BRAD" Wolgamott, the happy hubby-hooker known as "SoldierTop" was arrested on Monday night (10/20) and charged with trying to pass himself off as a dentist to get prescription drugs from a Raleigh "CVS" discount store. Dr. BRAD apparently used forged prescriptions to obtain hydrocodone and clindamycin.

Then, around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Raleigh police detective, J.T. Anderson reported arresting Wolgamott again. Anderson said an employee at a K-Mart pharmacy, (yes, K-Mart!) called and said the prostitute "was trying to pick up a prescription by similar means."

The male escort was charged once more with attempting to obtain a controlled substance by fraud or forgery, and was escorted back to jail.

Brent/ BRAD/ SoldierTop is accused of misrepresenting himself as dentist Karl Smith to have prescriptions filled on several days. A jail official said Wolgamott still was being held Tuesday night under a $10,000 secured bond.

"Naturally, he's not thrilled about it," said Tom Loflin, BRAD'S lawyer during the Peterson trial, adding ironically, "he does want to deal with the situation, and get it behind him."

Despite his ear-to-ear grin while testifying in the Peterson murder trial, and the high-priced hooker's merry media tour -- Wolgamott told police he had been under a lot of "stress" since the trial.

Stress? Wolgamott, who famously commented, "Couldn't they afford a real judge?" never seemed very stressed, as he pranced from interview to interview and delighted in being recognized as a prostitute everywhere he went.

When asked about his gay attitude toward Kathleen Peterson's murder trial, Wolgamott offered, "To act all serious and to act a bit shy about it would give an indication to people that I was somehow embarrassed about my life and my work and everything that I had done. I was not embarrassed in the least about it, and I was not going to let anyone think that I was going to be made to feel like I had done something that would shame myself."

Hydrocodone is a narcotic commonly used to treat pain, and clindamycin is used to treat bacterial infections.


"I'm proud of what I did; I pulled myself up by my own boot straps to get myself an education. That said, it is not exactly something I wanted to broadcast."

"People just kept saying, you know, he's looking for his 15 minutes of fame. I never asked for any of this. It just sort of happened, you know."

-- Brent Wolgamott

"My wife had an accident."
-- Peterson's 9-1-1 call


Kathleen Peterson

"The End"

October 10, 2003

At 11:06 Durham - North Carolina time, after listening to 65 witnesses and viewing 500 pieces of evidence in a trial that lasted nearly 14 weeks -- a jury found Kathleen Peterson innocent of all charges lodged against her.

Contrary to assertions by her husband, Michael, that she was a sick, pathetic, drunken "accident waiting to happen" -- the jury determined, after 15 hours of deliberation, that Michael Peterson was an evil liar.

The panel of 12 concluded that Kathleen Peterson did not get drunk and clumsily fall down the stairs, but rather, that her husband mercilessly attacked her in the middle of the night and then left her to bleed to death.

In what can only be seen as a sign of total and complete rejection of the defendant and his defender's self-serving lies and evil fictions, the jury rendered the following verdict just before Michael Iver Peterson was handcuffed and carted off to jail for the rest of his life: "We the twelve members of the jury, find the defendant to be guilty of First Degree Murder."

Kathleen Hunt Atwater Peterson's family, friends, co-workers, colleagues and supporters are finally free to celebrate her home.

Celebrate Me Home

Lyrics by Kenny Loggins

Home for the holidays
I believe I've missed each and every face
Come on and play my music
Let's turn on every love-light in the place

It's time I found myself
Totally surrounded in your circle
Come on my friends

Please, celebrate me home
Give me a number
Please, celebrate me home

Play me one more song
That I'll always remember
That I can recall whenever I
Find myself too all alone
I can sing me home

Jim Hardin
Jim Hardin

"Justice has been done, not just for Kathleen Peterson, but maybe for Elizabeth Ratliff as well."

"Kathleen Peterson died an horrific death. ... We are exceptionally pleased that at least this chapter in this book is closed for this family. We're relieved for them."

"I don't have any idea what the German authorities will do. We will fully cooperate with them to any extent that they think is appropriate. But I don't think you can walk away from this case without feeling some vindication for her and some justice for her. Certainly we had to present quite a bit of information and evidence about the circumstances of her death as part of this case. And whether Mr. Peterson is charged for that is outside of our control. But I'm sure her sisters and her family feel like this process was going to give Elizabeth some justice."

Freda Black
Freda Black

"Well, I was speaking for women, I believe I was, when I gave my closing. I felt strongly about having two female victims who were, in my opinion, the victims of domestic violence. I feel strongly about that subject matter. We had a female medical examiner, we had a lot of sisters involved. It was also a bittersweet moment for me because I've always felt sorry for the Ratliff children. As the mother of two children -- two girls -- myself, I always felt sorry for them and I continued to feel that way today when the verdict went down because they were obviously so visibly upset -- so that was very sad for them."

David Rudolf
"I believe there's a lot more than just reasonable doubt in this case. I, frankly, don't understand the verdict, and you'll have to talk to the jurors about what their thought process was."

"My reaction is surprise. I been doing this a long time, and you think you know when there's reasonable doubt in a case. This was a case where I thought it was absolutely clear there was reasonable doubt. Obviously the jurors disagreed and I respect their decision -- but in my mind this was a clear case of reasonable doubt."

Candace Zamperini
"This was never about winning or losing. This was about the fact that a woman fought for her life and was beaten to death in a stairwell. I am thankful to God. I am thankful to the Durham Police Department, Jim Hardin and Freda Black for standing up for my sister. Thank goodness we live in a country where a woman is beaten to death and people actually do care."

"I'm innocent of these charges
and we will prove it in court."

-- Mike Peterson

HARDIN:  "The state prays judgment of the court."

RUDOLF:  "That's appropriate, Your Honor."

HUDSON:   "All right. Mr. Peterson, if you'll stand. You certainly do not have to be heard. Anything you want to say before the court imposes judgment?"

PETERSON (turning to his family): "It's all right. It's okay. It's okay."

HUDSON: "The defendant is imprisoned in the North Carolina Department of Correction for the remainder of his natural life."

Ratliff sisters

"Is he the serial stairway killer? The late night killer? . . . Something about thanksgiving that sets him off? . . . Does he kill people who are getting ready to go on trips?"
-- David Rudolf's closing argument

"Women are most likely to be murdered by the abuser when attempting to report abuse or leave the abusive relationship."
-- Protective Order Project

"Absolutely. I think before, we weren't sure whether it was domestic violence. But now we know that it was."

-- Adam Hartzell, executive director of INTERACT

"I would not rule out domestic violence as part of this relationship solely because there haven't been previous reports of abuse. . . It's not uncommon for there to be a perception from some of the folks close to the family that things are okay in the family. That's often a façade in domestic violence homes. . . Typically, you see an escalation of physical assaults. But it's very possible that there were other types of abuse going on inside the home."
-- Joy Cunningham, co-executive director for the Durham Crisis Response Center

"I hope that someday other people can read truly what life was like with Michael Peterson in that house and the ways he did verbally abuse people and control things and how insensitive he was to my sister Kathleen."
-- Candace Zamperini

Ratliff sisters

Life Without
the Possibility

Life Without the Possibility

The Stairway Killer
Finally Goes Down

Just before being handcuffed and taken to live in a cage for the rest of his life, Michael Iver Peterson -- columnist, politician, critic, captain, soulmate, gym-rat and fictional writer -- turned to his family, friends and supporters to speak, but words failed him. Prodigious penman Peterson could only muster up one last lie:

"I love you. It'll be alright... It's okay. It's okay."


As the verdict was read, Mike Peterson, weeks away from 60, went pale but managed to maintain a bit of a smirk. Defender David Rudolf however, looked completely shocked and crest-fallen. The attorney was more than dumbfounded, he seemed tragically lost -- just as his client must have appeared on the night of December 9, 2001.

For the first time in the five-month saga, David Rudolf looked truly guilty, as the final sentence in the final chapter of the novelist's murder trial was read in Judge Hudson's Courtroom #1, Friday October 10, 2003.

Book him.

"The chance of a criminal getting caught,
is only slightly better than getting hit by lightning."
-- Michael Peterson, July,1999

Police escort Hizzoner to prison

As the Peterson family walked quickly out of the
courthouse, several people laughed and pointed at them.

Todd, Martha, Margaret, Ron Guerette

"Michael's major concern is with his kids."
-- David Rudolf's post verdict comment

Clayton and friend

"I would certainly say -- and I have no idea what David was paid -- that the cost was at least $1 million."
-- Raleigh attorney, Joe Cheshire

"Martha has a great gay friend in SF -- very very wealthy; the family lives across from Britanny Spears. I told her to marry him anyway."
-- Peterson's Dec. 3, 2001 email to Thomas Ratliff

"She died, he did not participate in that act."
-- Patricia Sue Peterson,
who loaned her ex-husband $168,000 in April 2003

Todd Peterson

"Todd did it."
-- Michael Peterson joking with his family
during a break in his murder trial

The first day of
the rest of his life sentence.

inmate No. 0816932

Instead of his 11,000-square-foot mansion in Durham,
murderer Mike Peterson will spend the rest of his life
in an 8-foot by 9-foot cage.

"It is complete and utter devastation for the family, my brother is completely demoralized, we're demoralized as well."
-- Bill Peterson, who had loaned his brother $300,000

Bill Peterson

"I do, I believe the press played a large part in it."
-- Bill Peterson in a TV interview

The BlowPokey
Be it Ever So Humbling


Located 70 miles from Durham in Nash County, North Carolina's only campus-style prison houses approximately 640 adult male inmates in both close and medium-security environments. Peterson lives in housing unit No. 2 -- one of four 128-cell housing units.

Nash Correctional Institution is also home to former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth, who is serving a total of 24 years and 3 months for conspiring to kill his girlfriend, Cherica Adams, and for discharging a firearm. Carruth's lead defense attorney was David Rudolf.

Rea Carruth and Rudolf


Michael Peterson, born in October, 1943 in Nashville, TN -- was sent in October 2003, to die in Nashville, NC, at the Nash Correctional Institution.


Murder Time Line

Filthy, Dirty E-mails

A Killer Chronology