Michael Peterson Trial




In order to convict Michael Peterson of first-degree murder, prosecutors must prove five legal "elements" beyond a reasonable doubt:

Proof of motive is not essential, but
prosecutors found Peterson had...

A Million Reasons to Murder.

"They had to begin living on credit. They were forced to liquidate Kathleen’s assets. Out of all of this, the evidence is also going to show that by the end of 1999, Michael Peterson was making no income as a writer."
-- Jim Hardin

"Poor Kathleen is undergoing the tortures of the damned at Nortel."
-- Peterson e-mail, Dec 3, 2001

"There was no conflict about Nortel. There was no conflict about her job. There was no conflict about money. There was no conflict about anything."
-- David Rudolf

"It is simply not possible for me to discuss this with Kathleen."
-- Peterson e-mail, November 29, 2001

FROM: Michael Peterson
TO: Kathleen Atwater
DATE: Wed 5 December, 2001 -- 10:40

Here's the scoop on the independent. There were no invitations but we can still go. Let me know. If you want me to call in. Or we could just show up at the door Friday night. You looked great last night. If ONLY we hadn't gone to Pao Lim. Let's work on our marriage tonight. Oh, I'll run a check by Michael today for the haircut. $120?

Pao Lim Restaurant

The Independent

The Financial Fireplace

July 10, 2003

A novelist beat his wife to death and tried to pass it off as an accidental fall to cash in on a $1.4 million life insurance policy, prosecutors said...

The Petersons had $143,000 in credit card debt at the time, and cashing in on Kathleen Peterson's life insurance policy would have pulled her husband "out of the financial fire that he had built for himself," Hardin said.

Defense attorney David Rudolf said a financial motive for the death makes no sense because the Petersons had more than $1 million in resources on top of the $600,000 to $700,000 of equity in their house.

"I am going to stick it out until the bitter end, but I feel at the end of the year I will not have a job."
-- Kathleen Peterson according to Candace Zamperini

News & Observer -- 8/8/03
The Petersons had more than $143,000 in credit-card debt in late 2001 and more money going out of their bank accounts than coming in, but they had $2 million in net worth. Some of Peterson's e-mail messages revealed that in the months before his wife's death, he cast about for money to help his grown children.

FROM: Michael Peterson
TO: Patricia Peterson
DATE: Thursday, November 29, 2001 15:41


Let me add a little more to the idea of a home equity loan and the boy's plight.

Right now Clayton is paying about $750 a month in interest on his credit card debt. He will earn about $1300 from NC State with his teaching fellowship. His rent is $700 a month, plus expenses. He cannot afford to live. Todd is paying probably about $300 a month. Thus the boys are paying $1,000 a month in interest and not reducing the principal. If you got a home equity loan of $30,000, you would only have to pay somewhere around $400 a month, even less if you didn't want to reduce the principal.

If you could handle that, they could live nicely. I would help if you need it. Certainly when Todd's car is paid off (at $500 a month) in another two years, I could pick up your payments if they don't do it themselves. I honestly think this is the best way to help the boys out because I think they have learned their lesson.

Please let me know what you think. It would also be a huge relief off my mind because I am worried sick about them. It is simply not possible for me to discuss this with Kathleen.


FROM: Michael Peterson
TO: Thomas Ratliff
SUBJECT: Re: Re: What closet have you been hiding in?
DATE: Monday, December 3, 2001 12:04

I had heard South Beach was straightening out. It's a beautiful place but we just drove through it. By the way, I never pushed around a fairy in elementary school or anywhere else. Even in the Marines, there were only a couple queer bashers and the rest of us thought there had to be something wrong with them -- along the lines of Shakespeare's, "Methinks the lady doth protest too much"

The girls are coming home in a few weeks. Clayton graduates number 1, the valedictorian, from NC State in computer engineering, which awhile back would guarantee a great job, but who knows these days.

Poor Kathleen is undergoing the tortures of the damned at Nortel. They've layed off 45,000 people. She's a survivor and in no trouble, but the stress is monumental there.

Patty comes in for the holidays and that's always stressful too.

I hope you can find some place for your mom; it's only a matter of time before Connie won't be able to handle it.

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. Or maybe set him up with you.


Within six months of his wife's death, Peterson collected $347,000 of Kathleen Peterson's assets, including her 401(K) and pension plans, but her $1.8 million life insurance benefit is tied up in civil lawsuits between Peterson, Caitlin Atwater and Kathleen Peterson's ex-husband.

Peterson stood to gain well over $1 million
in life insurance and other benefits.


Prosecutor Hardin found e-mail traffic from Peterson "relating to aspects of infidelity regarding his wife" and to Web site activity "inconsistent with faithfulness to his wife."

What's Missing?

Peterson's computer contained about 2,500 photographs. Testimony revealed that 2,000 of the photos were deleted but still detectable.

Markley said the computer's 13-gigabyte hard drive contained 21,000 separate files, although hundreds were deleted in the week that included Kathleen Peterson's death. For example, 216 files were deleted the day before Kathleen Peterson died and 352 were deleted two days afterward, according to Markley. Also, a disc-purging program called "Quick Clean" erased an unknown number of files on Dec. 8, 2001, the day before Kathleen Peterson's body was found, according to Markley.

"Every single thing is Kathleen. It's hard, but it's also comforting. The only big thing I want is Kathleen. I can't have that."
-- Mike Peterson

News & Observer -- 8/9/03
In arguing that the gay porn and the e-mail messages should not be given to the jury, Maher acknowledged that before the Petersons were married in 1997, Mike Peterson had sex with two men, who might be prosecution witnesses later. Maher said that Peterson did write the e-mail to "Brad" to explore prospects -- but that Peterson emphasized in the e-mail that any arrangement would be "strictly business," because "I've got a dynamite wife who I love."

David Rudolf:  "I don't expect there to be any evidence of that, and, uh -- I will just tell you, without commenting about what is or is not on the computer, that there is no evidence that Michael Peterson was having any kind of relationship, male or female -- uh, or transgendered -- with anyone, at the time of Kathleen's death or at any point years before that. So, I'll let you figure out what the relevance is... I can't."




I am jock-masculine and carry the same attitude


I'm a 25 year old regular athletic guy. I'm 6'1" and 185lbs, with a 32" waist and a 42" chest. I play tennis and have a tennis player build (huge legs/trim upper body). I am NOT a bodybuilder...yet. If you want some muscle worship, I am not your guy. I have short brown hair (lighter in the summer) and blue eyes. I have bright white teeth, and I am clean shaven. My body is smooth and shaved in most places. I am tan, clean-cut, and have great skin. I am hung 8" pretty thick, and it's cut. I am jock-masculine and carry the same attitude.


You're obviously here, so you know I am an ESCORT. If you'd like to see more pictures, send an email requesting pics with the word "ESCORT" in the subject line. Also, tell me a bit about yourself, and what you are looking for. I work in the Raleigh area. My fee is reasonable and all-encompassing (no hidden fees). I have a great CLIENT/ESCORT relationship with almost all the guys I meet. Most guys become friends or at least acquaintances of mine. If I feel like I can't do what you are looking for, I won't accept the job, and I do about 2-3 calls each week, so I have plenty of energy.


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"I'm hoping to become a professional. I want to do great things with my life. For this to be blasted across America does a great deal of harm."
-- Brent "BRAD" Wolgamott

News & Observer -- 8/9/03
Brent Wolgamott
, a 28-year-old N.C. State University chemistry student, to testify in the Mike Peterson murder trial. A phone call to the number listed on a Web posting by "Brad" from Raleigh was answered Friday by a man who identified himself as Brent Wolgamott.

"It's been a bad day," he said, and declined to comment further.

The Price is Right

Brent Wolgamott is a sophomore at North Carolina State University, majoring in chemistry. He enjoys tennis, running, and reality TV. He was also once a contestant on his favorite show, The Price is Right, and won over $8,000 in prizes. After completing his stint in the U.S. Army, he met the love of his life, McCrae Hardy, and he lives with him and their two cats, Shelby and Frank, in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is also a member of the board of the local chapter of the ACLU, working to protect your rights. ...

"Brad" - The Price is Right

FROM: Michael Peterson
TO: MaleVault Admin

I want to cancel immediately. I can't recall my ID subscriber. Please let me know how to get it so I can cancel. I've signed up for Dirk Yates and want to cancel MaleVault.

Thank you.

FROM: MaleVault Admin
TO: Michael Peterson

I have cancelled your membership through IBill for you. There will be no further charges to your credit card, although you will still have access to the site until 3-06-01. Thank you for spending time with us and I hope to see you again in the future.

Best Wishes,

Some of Michael Peterson's Favorite Web Sites...

Jockclub, YoungStuds, EuroMilitary, MarineMeat, Dirtyland, hardnstraight, RealTimeTraders, PerkyVirgins, PimpServer, YoungerBabes, Male4MaleEscorts, interracial-porno, WilliamHiggins, StripLolitas, AdultBuffet, MeetLocalMen, FreePornoSpace, HomoPictures, Sexcropolis, FistingZone, DirkYatesLive, HotMuscleBoys, SteelBlade, interracial-pics, jockstrapfan, ManLover, ActiveDuty

"BRAD" takes the witness stand

BLACK: "What types of sexual activity?"
WOLGAMOTT: "Oh, just about anything under the sun!"

On cross-exam, David Rudolf got the 28-year-old prostitute to describe his clients as being "predominantly straight with minor homosexual tendencies."

"Most of the men who would see me would have their time with me and then go back to their happy-hubby lives," he said, contradicting his earlier testimony that -- "Unlike most of my clients, he [Peterson] indicated he had a great relationship with his wife and nothing would destroy that."

RUDOLF: "Do you know anything about the death of Kathleen Peterson?"
WOLGAMOTT: "I know diddly! ...Diddly!"

Material reviewed by Durham prosecutors included several classified ads destined for various magazines, all very similar. Beneath the ad copy is the name M. Peterson, with a Durham post office box and Peterson's home telephone number.


"I'm proud of what I did; I pulled myself up by my own boot straps to get myself an education."
-- Brent "Dr. Karl" Wolgamott

Michael Peterson's Filthy Dirty E-mails,
and other scholarly observations...

In August 2001, at the same time Mike Peterson was running for Durham's City Council, he was contacting prostitute,
Brent "Brad" Wolgamott.

Wolgamott received at least three phone calls from Michael Peterson regarding a meeting for sex, scheduled for Sept. 5, 2001 at 9:00 PM.


5:01 PM on Wednesday, August 29, 2001
duration -- 2 minutes
5:03 PM on Wednesday, August 29, 2001
duration -- 7 minutes
3:17 PM on Wednesday, September 5, 2001
duration -- 1 minute

In one of his e-mails to Wolgamott, Peterson said he previously had paid a male lacrosse player at N.C. State University to have sex with him.

The following are portions of Peterson's e-mail messages.

Thursday, Aug. 30, 2001, 11:06 p.m.

We talked on the phone yesterday and I checked out the website you gave me. You have great reviews and I would like to get together with you. I'm in Durham, just off 15/501, about 10 minutes from Chapel Hill...

Saturday, Sept. 1, 2001

... You may really owe me for this. I should get a freebie because this could be a career change for you. Dirk Yates is one of the major figures in the male porn industry -- really really big. He has been doing videos of Marines for years ... Dirk has become so successful that he now runs a resort in Palm Springs -- it is where his major stars hang out and where big buck guys pick them up. My personal favorite is Rick Ritter, a sailor who has done about six flicks for Dirk and is absolutely gorgeous.

Sunday, Sept. 2, 2001 1:44 p.m.

I enjoy your emails also. 1410 SAT huh? So what the fuck were you doing in the Army? I'm sure I was the smartest Marine ever, went to Duke and UNC Law, but I didn't get 1410. Of course, this was in the days Duke let dummies in. Still, much better this time around--scores go way up after a few years out of school. Wednesday could be a little iffy. I have to chair a meeting that starts at 7:30 pm. It's going to be a real cluster fuck involving two separate issues--race and the environment, subjects that people go ballistic on here. It may not end until way after 10.

Evenings are not great for me anyway; I'm married. Very happily married with a dynamite wife. Yes, I know, I know; I'm very bi and that's all there is to it... ...How about this? I'll give you my cell phone number and we can try to hook up Wednesday night. Perhaps we could meet in Durham--I assume you'll be staying here or at the airport (don't stay in Raleigh; traffic's a motherfucker in the morning, even at 6). My house is fifteen minutes from the airport...

Sunday, Sept. 2, 2001 11:24 p.m.

...Neither one of us is stupid. Of course I understand the reality and the finances. You're not looking for a relationship and neither am I. We each have lives. I know you deal with professional types who obviously can afford a couple hundred bucks to get off, and maybe degraded a little. Hey, I know a lot of guys like that myself. I understand we're in a client relationship and I'm paying for the services. No problem...

Monday, Sept. 3, 2001 4:06 p.m.

...Are you coming up here Tuesday night to catch the a.m. flight? If you are, and don't plan to get here until late, and I might be in meetings until 10, that really wont leave you much time to rest for the trip. I can sleep in, but you can't. So I'll leave it to you. You may want to try a later time; I'd hate to interfere with your travel plans. If I fuck you until after midnight, and you have to get up at 5, you may not be at your best for California. However, you're young and maybe can sleep on the plane...

Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2001 10:09 p.m.

Just in case you come up before your flight and want to get together, here's my cell phone number...

Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2001 9:18 a.m.

Now I'm confused. Are you coming up here tonight, or Thursday night? Your email is dated Wednesday and you say "tomorrow". My meeting is tonight. Email me or give me a call when you head up this way and we'll take it from there...

"I always wondered what my life would have been as a porn star. My Cecil B. DeMille moment was poster boy for the Marines, posters in every recruit office in America-- but that was long ago."
-- Michael Peterson

"According to your reviews, you're a fuck machine, but I have a hard time visioning a tennis player as a fuck machine. I played baseball. I see tennis players as bottoms."
-- Michael Peterson

What's Missing?

P A L M  S P R I N G S


"I knew lots of guys who got paid--why wack off in the latrine for nothing when Dirk will give you a $100. My favorite line was a buddy who said, 'I used to fuck sailors over the shitter on shipboard for zip. Dirk gave me $300 to fuck one on his velvet sofa.'"

"If I fuck you until after midnight, and you have to get up at 5, you may not be at your best for California."

"Dirk has become so successful that he now runs a resort in Palm Springs..."


"I had a very long day and when I got up there that night, I just said I’ll talk to him when I come back -- I'm tired and I just want to go to Palm Springs... so I didn't go."

Red, White and Blue

When paramedics arrived at the Cedar Street mansion, they found Michael Peterson barefoot and covered with blood. Near his wife's dead body were Peterson's tennis shoes and four socks. Also collected from the scene:

a bottle of white wine, two wineglasses with small amounts of red liquid, a bottle of champagne, a diet COKE can with blood and hair on it, copies of e-mail traffic, pornographic photographs of men taken from Peterson's den... and a condom.

David Rudolf hired a neuropathologist to study Kathleen Peterson's brain. Michael Peterson has said his wife had blacked out several times and once suffered temporary blindness.

The neuropathologist was never called to testify.

one "Trojan" condom wrapper and one condom

"This investigation revealed what appears to be a used condom in the victim's bedroom and towels that appeared to have semen stains on them. We believed that with this finding, a sexual act took place."
-- C. Bullock (Durham PD)

What's Missing?

RUDOLF: "That condom was sent off to a laboratory, was it not?"

BULLOCK: "I believe it was."

RUDOLF: "And there was no semen found on that condom. Was there?"

BULLOCK: "I don't know the results of the lab report."

SBI agent Suzi Barker, testified that no semen was found in a condom police collected from the Petersons home. No identifiable fingerprints were located on the TROJAN wrapper.

Barker said: "If there was no ejaculation, then it would be very common for there to be no semen."

"This defendant was attempting to stage certain aspects of the scene so it would appear how he wanted it to appear."

-- Jim Hardin

Indictment and Search Warrants

"I didn't do anything wrong."

Peterson said his wife must have fallen but that he doesn't know for sure. He said he had been outside by the pool and came in at 2:40 a.m. to find her dying on the stairs. They had been drinking, he said, to celebrate a movie deal for one of his books.

"I didn't do anything wrong. I suspect some people would want me to act guilty or hide, but I'm trying to live as normal a life as I possibly can. I go to stores and people point at me. What can I do?"
-- Michael Peterson

Kathleen Peterson's autopsy showed

  • lacerations on the back of her head were consistent with a beating.

  • her blood-alcohol level was just below 0.08, the level at which a person in North Carolina is considered too drunk to drive.

Evidence collected from 1810 Cedar Street included Peterson's computers, pieces of wood from the stairwell, swabs of blood, condoms and an item labeled "O.J. Simpson Notebook."

"O.J. Simpson Notebook"

The week after his wife's death, police took evidence from Michael Peterson's house including an item labeled "O.J. Simpson Notebook."

Apparently we will not be hearing any more about the "O.J. Simpson Notebook" found in Mike Peterson's office. It's barely been mentioned by police, prosecutors or the press, except to say that such an item was collected.

Well, since the nature and content of the book remains a complete mystery -- I'm forced to speculate!

The label is "O.J. Simpson Notebook" not "O.J. Simpson's Notebook" and to my knowledge, Simpson has never published such a book. I believe the item to have been titled, and either authored or compiled by Michael Peterson -- not O.J. Simpson. Others have surmised it is some sort of novelty paperback.

I'd hate to be accused of a rush to judgment. Perhaps Mr. Peterson himself will explain.

Of course, if he takes the witness stand and is confronted with it, Peterson may well say he was simply doing "research."

Mike's Size 8 1/2, Converse All-Star Athletic Shoeprint

S.B.I. agent Joyce Petzka said she found a shoe print on Kathleen Peterson's clothes which matched Peterson's white leather Converse All-Star athletic shoes. According to Petzka, the design, size and wear pattern of the left athletic shoe was "consistent" with the print on the back of Kathleen Peterson's sweat pants.

Duane Deaver, a N.C. State Bureau of Investigation analyst, virtually places Michael Peterson at the center of the bloody beating of his wife in a stairwell.

AREA A -- (Facing the stairs) North hallway "Header" above and to the left, and "West wall" above and behind. 5 total drops. On the header were 2 falling drops, 9 ½ feet up. 3 blood drops on the West wall. AREA B -- Floor area at the bottom of the stairwell opening. Stains along the bottom landing.
AREA C -- Transfer stains at door opening. AREA D -- South molding at door. 2 stains, 26" to 36" and 36" to 39" high. Low, finger and hair transfer stains at the base.
AREA E -- North wall (with photo) inside the stairwell. Drips, transfer stains, smears and impact spatters. Blood up to 70" high. Heaviest blood pattern near 36". A "clean area" of the lower northwest corner of the inside wall. AREA F -- Upper inside North-east corner. Drips, transfer stains, smears and impact spatters.
AREA G -- Step #16. Smear on the step's east corner. Smears along the wall and the riser of step #16. No other blood on step #17. Step #17 is almost completely clean. AREA H -- Area above step #17. Transfer stains.
AREA I -- (Inside of stairwell) South door molding near steps #17 through #14. Transfer stains larger drops and drips. Transfer stain from something with sharp edges on top of step #15. "Cast-off" stains on the West wall floor molding near #13 and #14. AREA J -- Dripped blood near step #7.
AREA K -- (Top landing) Step #1 and #2. Transfer stain and some impact spatter below the tread on #1. AREA L -- Kitchen counter area. Bloodstains on the shelf of a wineglass cabinet, on a cabinet doorknob and on a countertop in the Petersons' kitchen.

Deaver's conclusions about the stairwell:

  • Kathleen Peterson's death was "not consistent with a fall."

  • The assailant stood just outside the doorway when the attack began. Kathleen Peterson was beaten with something like a fireplace blow poke as she stood on the sixth or seventh step from the bottom.

  • Some bloodstains resulted from Kathleen Peterson's head being struck as she was standing. One stain indicated her head was battered 27 inches above the stairway.

  • Someone attempted to clean blood from the stairway and wall.

  • The fourth step from the bottom of the stairs, near where Kathleen Peterson's body was found, "has been cleaned in almost its entirety. It took some effort to clean that step as clean as it is," Deaver said.

  • As for the wall, "There are some runs in that pattern, which indicate to me that a liquid was applied to that place, cleaning it completely clear of blood," he testified. "There was some effort to remove blood completely. It created smears all the way around there."

  • Based on spots of blood, Deaver said he had "no doubt" that someone moved Kathleen Peterson's body before attempting to clean up and struck her again afterward.

Deaver's conclusions about the clothing:

  • The wearer of the khaki shorts and white Converse All-Star sneakers was in "close proximity" to Kathleen Peterson, even "standing over her."

  • "The wearer of those shoes and those shorts was involved in impacting the source of blood, in this case the victim, at some time."

  • Deaver said he believed Kathleen Peterson "was actually standing at some point in blood, to get blood on the bottom of her feet." The blood was deep enough that "even the arches of her feet were coated with it."

  • Kathleen Peterson was in "various positions" when the attack occurred. "She is at some time standing after bloodshed occurred," Deaver said.

  • "She at some time is face up in the scene when bloodshed is occurring, and some time she is face down when these impacts occurred."

  • Kathleen Peterson was lying face down when a shoe imprint -- presumably matching the defendant's shoe -- was made on the back of her sweat pants. "I have an opinion that these shoes were in motion, the source of blood [Kathleen Peterson] was in motion or they both were in motion."

One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.

"I know it as the principle of parsimony -- basically, what it is -- in scientific testing, you keep things as simple as possible."
-- Peter Duane Deaver

Principle of Parsimony
A criterion for deciding among scientific theories or explanations. One should always choose the simplest explanation of a phenomenon, the one that requires the fewest leaps of logic.

RUDOLF: "Do you realize that the actual theory is, the solution requiring the least number of assumptions is most likely the correct one. Right? That's what Occam's Razor is. It's not keep it simple, is it?"

DEAVER: "I think that is keeping it simple."

"What our experts tell us happened, is that at some point Kathleen fell backward and hit her head. She lay bleeding, gets up, steps into the pool of blood, slips and hits her head again ... She bled out."

-- David Rudolf

"If you want to explain something -- ask the judge."
-- David Rudolf to Duane Deaver, S.B.I.

Aug. 30, 2003
Charlotte Observer

The elegant 14-room mansion was another burden, Zamperini says. The roof and plumbing needed repair. There were, she says, bats in the attic and termites in the living room. Kathleen, she says, couldn't afford a housekeeper and wanted to move to a smaller place. But Zamperini says Kathleen told her Mike wasn't interested in moving and was "perfectly fine" with the disrepair.

How Many Stairs?

"Michael said 'I came up the stairs, I think to get towels.' And then he looks back down and said she fell down the whole staircase."
-- Candace Zamperini

"We walked down the hall. At the end of the hall, I saw the staircase where she died. I saw the blood."
-- Candace Zamperini

"I sprayed that cat picture, and her blood ran down my arm."

-- Candace Zamperini

Elizabeth ratliff exhumed

When the body of Elizabeth Ratliff was exhumed, several items were found in her casket: a children's book ("The Little Rabbit"), a white stuffed lamb, a charm with ballet slippers and a card with a photo of the Ratliff girls.

By Judy & Phoebe Dunn

"First, let me be absolutely clear about one thing. From the standpoint of the merits of my defense, I am not opposed to the exhumation and autopsy of Elizabeth Ratliff, nor have I ever been. Indeed, from a selfish perspective, and as it relates solely to my defense, I welcome it to clear up this ... distraction once and for all ... Nowhere, at any time, was there a suspicion of foul play, nor any intimation that I had anything to do with her death."
-- Michael Peterson

"No. Good God, no."

Saturday, May 11, 2002

Peterson's defense attorney, David Rudolf, filed a motion detailing a Durham Police Department investigation into the death of Elizabeth Ratliff in Germany.

A sister of the woman who died in 1985 said she found the similarities between the two deaths "very scary" and contacted Durham police.

Peterson told a Durham TV station that he had nothing to do with Ratliff's death.

"No," he said. "Good God, no."

"We don't convict people based on mysterious."
-- David Rudolf's opening statement

Steinlen's Black Cat
Tournee du Chat Noir avec Rodolphe (not "Rodolptte") Salis
A Round at the Black Cat

The Chat Noir was a cabaret in Paris, established in 1881 by Rodolphe Salis.
Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen and several other artists who frequented the
cabaret -- including Adolphe Willette, Caran d'Ache, Henri Rivière and George
Auriol -- created a journal which was also named "Le Chat noir."

The attitude pervading much of the work was known as fumisme, which
mocked official values and societal norms through biting satire, puerile humor,
and practical joking, is reflected in the journal.

The French word fumisme literally means chimney sweep, but it can also be
used to refer to a joker, crackpot, or fraud.

"This cat picture was hanging in my room when I was living in Graefenhausen."
-- Barbara Malagnino

the Doctrine of Chance

"The more often a defendant performs a certain act,
the less likely it is that the defendant acted innocently."


"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

"Because I want answers now. I want the truth to come to light. There's too much darkness that has been clouding over this whole situation and its time -- it's time for the truth. As painful as it is, it's time for the truth to come forward."

-- Margaret Blair, 9-21-2003

"One male witness, name of whom I do not recall, but believe to be a neighbor, related to me that a few days prior to her, death Ratliff complained or otherwise made mention that she had been having severe headaches."

-- Steve Lyon's notes

Steve Lyons

"The male witness voiced his belief that Ratliff may have walked up the stairs, blacked out at the top of the stairs and fallen down them as a result. The male witness seemingly wanted to dominate the interviews and interject the 'correct' information. I asked about Ratliff's consumption of alcohol during the evening prior to which a witness related she may have had a glass of champagne or wine."

-- Steve Lyon's notes

The Nanny

News & Observer

Barbara Malagnino told jurors that when she went to the Ratliff home on Nov. 25, 1985, all the lights were on, something that was unusual. When she entered, she saw Ratliff at the bottom of the stairs with a pair of yellow boots on. She said she touched the body and it felt warm.

"I shouted her name a few times and ran upstairs," Malagnino said. "The bedroom door was closed. I took the telephone and tried to phone the Petersons, but the phone was dead."

                          Nanny, Barbara Malagnino

Malagnino testified that she then ran to the Peterson's home and Patty Peterson, Mike Peterson's first wife, answered the door.

"Where was Michael Peterson?" Black asked.

"He was at the top of the stairs in a
T-shirt and boxer shorts," Malagnino replied.

They all went back to the Ratliff home where her two toddler girls were asleep. Malagnino said Mike Peterson told her to get something to cover up Ratliff's body. Malagnino said she thought Ratliff was still alive because her body was warm; Mike Peterson grabbed her arms.

"She's dead," Malagnino said Peterson told her. "The warmth comes from the floor heating."

Ratliff friend, Cheryl Appel-Schumacher spoke of the enormous amounts of smeared and spattered blood she helped clean the day after.

Karin Hamm, a neighbor, claims she saw Peterson hurrying away from Elizabeth Ratliff's house the night she died. Her testimony was never entered. Nor was this bit of testimony from...

Amybeth Berner

"Michael had told me that he'd been in the CIA at some point and had point-blank murdered someone while he was in Vietnam. That concerned me. Then later on, I believe it was the summer of '84, my husband and I had lost custody... um -- we won custody of his two children and they weren't returned, and Michael came to me at that point and he said that he had connections, and if I wanted to have her knocked off he would do that. And I told Michael that, that wasn't a way that I would operate. I went to my husband at that point and told him what he had offered to do."

"Well let's get to that instead of recollection of other murders committed by the defendant."
-- Judge Hudson to Tom Maher during a hearing

Rule 404 (b)

The rule says that when a suspect is on trial for one alleged crime, evidence of "other crimes, wrongs or acts" may be admitted "as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake, entrapment or accident" in the crime at issue. State appeals courts have said that judges must determine whether two or more incidents are "sufficiently similar" and close enough in time to one another, although rule 404(b) specifies no time.

How do we go from soul mate
to cold-blooded killer?


The time is 1988. The place is a lovely home in a lush and leafy suburb of Durham, North Carolina where a distraught BARBARA STAGER nervously dials 9-1-1 and reports that her dear husband of four years, RUSS STAGER has suffered a terrible accident -- he was shot to death in his bed. MRS. STAGER -- a writer -- had a very difficult time finding the right words to explain to authorities exactly how RUSS'S death had occurred.

BARBARA later told police that, fearing her husband might be woken up by noise and might get confused and reach for the loaded gun that he "always" kept under his pillow, she tried to quietly remove the gun, and then -- BLAM! -- the pistol suddenly went off and fired a bullet into her husband's brain.

BARBARA appeared as distressed and devastated as everyone else in the family. After all, she seemed as happy then as she was nine years ago when she had re- married and moved herself and her children into a home with RUSS STAGER.

Everyone mourned RUSS STAGER'S shocking, sudden death -- including friends from his up-scale neighborhood, members of MR. STAGER'S church, and the staff and students at Durham High School where RUSS was a much-loved teacher and baseball coach.

Other than a million dollar insurance pay-out, no one had any reason to suspect that BARBARA was lying about what happened. Everything looked like an accident, and as far as anyone knew, she was a loving wife and mother.


Everyone pitied her -- that was -- until it came to light that eleven years prior to her second husband's death -- BARBARA'S first husband had also died in a accident where, according to BARBARA, her spouse was quietly cleaning his gun and then -- BLAM! -- the pistol suddenly went off.

So the writer was placed on trial for the murder of RUSS STAGER. A major part of the evidence against her was the earlier suspicious death of her first husband, JAMES LARRY FORD.

Then District Attorney, Ron Stephens said: "We pretty much proved that she killed her first husband. We basically tried that first case in front of the jury to discount her theory of an accident."

In May of 1989, after only forty-five minutes of deliberation, a jury declared that BARBARA STAGER was as guilty as sin, and the deceitful, greedy, evil Black Widow was whisked off to a, decidedly, down-scale prison cell.

Sadly, to this day, her children stand by her and still publicly claim that BARBARA STAGER is completely innocent -- of both murders.

How do we go from appearance to reality?



It was déjà vu all over again when Timothy Boczkowski of Pittsburgh, PA was suspected in 1994, of murdering of his second wife, Maryann. Many had doubts, even though Timothy sounded grief-stricken and shocked when he called 9-1-1 to say he had found Maryann dead in his backyard hot tub.

People were suspicious because the bizarre tub death happened four years after Boczkowski's first wife, Mary Elaine, was found dead in the couple's Greensboro, North Carolina home. Timothy told police he had entered the bathroom only to find his wife had mysteriously drowned... (where else?) in the tub.

Fact is, plenty of folks suspected Timothy back in November of 1990, but since Mr. Boczkowski had no motive and no criminal background, charges were never filed in that first case.

Once burnt however, friends, family and legal authorities were twice shy and in 1994, they set about the legal task of using one murder to prove the other -- thereby showing that neither was an accident.

Testimony was, the two women looked enough alike to be twin sisters. Mary Elaine (34) and second wife, Maryann (35), were both heavily insured, and both alone with husband Timothy when they "accidentally drowned" in tubs. That, and other not so obvious similarities, went a long way toward conviction.

Pittsburgh police officer Gary Waters noted that Timothy Boczkowski's "got to be the unluckiest man in the world to lose two wives in a hot tub and bathtub -- or this is a homicide."

Boczkowski was convicted in 1996 of the first degree murder of Mary Elaine and was given life in prison. In May of 1999 -- the serial tub killer's luck ran out completely when, after returning a verdict of guilt for the murder of Maryann, a Pennsylvania jury gave Timothy Boczkowski the death sentence.

Asked why he killed both women in the same manner, Boczkowski reportedly replied, "I don't know. That was stupid, wasn't it?"

More Tub Murderer

"We have a very clear picture of what happened that night. There is no question in my mind that Michael Peterson killed Kathleen, and the evidence will support that."
-- Jim Hardin, pre-trial

"A picture is worth a thousand words. But what if those walls could talk? What would they say? Kathleen Peterson is talking to us through the blood on that wall. She is screaming at us for truth. And for justice."
-- Jim Hardin's closing