Stranger Than Fiction

  Time Line  --  Michael Peterson Murder Trial  


An Hour to Kill

Based on official testimony and available outside information, a time line of the events surrounding the Peterson's tragedy may be constructed that reveals about one hour that cannot be accounted for. Missing from the time line is the hour of activity between 12:30 and 1:30 AM.

Certain documents and bits of testimony suggest Elizabeth Ratliff died near 12:30 A.M. on November 25, 1985. Considering the novelist's love of book-ends, it's reasonable to speculate that Michael Peterson killed his wife, Kathleen, on December 9th, 2001 around 12:30 AM.

time of death

1810 Cedar Street    Friday -- December 7, 2001
afternoon Kathleen takes the day off
from work. The Petersons go
Christmas shopping.
evening Petersons attend N.C.
Independent party
Michael Peterson      Saturday -- December 8, 2001
3:30 P.M.? Hundreds of files are deleted
from Peterson's PC with
a disc-purging program
called "Quick Clean."
4:41 P.M. Michael arrives at gym Y.M.C.A.
6:00 P.M.? Michael speaks to Kathleen
about renting a movie
6:59 P.M. Michael rents
"America's Sweethearts"
Blockbuster Video


Kathleen eats dinner autopsy
9:45 P.M. Christine Tomassetti arrives
to take Todd to a party. She
sees Kathleen and Michael
sharing a bottle of wine.
10:20 P.M. Christine and Todd leave for
the party.
10:40 P.M. Password "Atwater" logs
onto Peterson PC

11:08 P.M.

Co-worker Helen Prislinger
speaks with Kathleen by
phone. Agrees to mail file.

11:53 P.M.

Prislinger's e-mail arrives.
(The blank e-mail's
attachment is never opened.
e-mail records/

Kathleen Hunt Atwater Peterson        Sunday -- December 9, 2001

Midnight ? Petersons drink and talk
outside near pool (50°)
Michael Peterson

12:30 to
1:30 A.M.




1:45 or
2:00 A.M

Kathleen leaves pool area, 
headed inside for bed
Michael Peterson


Kathleen suffers multiple
deep, complex lacerations
and avulsions to the scalp,
multiple small abrasions and
contusions on the face,
early acute ischemic
neuronal necrosis, and a
fracture with associated
hemorrhage of the thyroid
cartilage in the neck

Debra Radisch

2:30 A.M.? Peterson leaves pool area Michael Peterson
2:41 A.M. Peterson calls 9-1-1 Pierce and Allen

Todd Peterson

2:48 A.M. Paramedics James Rose 
and Ron Paige arrive, followed
by Todd Peterson and friends
Kathleen Peterson is found
dead in a hallway

EMT Rose   EMT Paige
Rose and Paige

 1810 Cedar St

3:00 A.M. Police and detectives begin
to arrive.

Search at 1810 Cedar

3:24 A.M.  Investigators secure the
Art Holland
4:15 and
5:00 A.M. 
Peterson logs on to his office
computer and mumbles to
himself about e-mail.
A.D. McCallop
5:00 A.M. Peterson phones attorney Kerry Sutton
5:20 A.M. Sutton arrives at Cedar St. Sutton/ Barry Winston

What's missing?   Footprints...

LUMINOL TESTING revealed bloody footprints leading from Kathleen Peterson's body -- into the laundry room -- then going to the kitchen refrigerator and sink -- then moving to a wineglass cabinet (which also had blood on it).

The footprints mysteriously stop there at the cabinet. They just stop -- as though the person with bloody feet somehow flew up and out of the kitchen like a bat.

What's missing?   E-Mail...

Nortel Networks co-worker Helen Prislinger testified that she talked to Kathleen Peterson at 11:08 p.m. and that Kathleen did not sound intoxicated and did not seem abnormal in any way. She did not sense that Kathleen and Michael Peterson were fighting and heard Kathleen ask her husband for the home e-mail address.

Ms. Prislinger said Kathleen needed a document for a tele-conference scheduled for 10 a.m. the next day, and was expecting an e-mail with that document attached. The e-mail was, in fact, sent to Michael Peterson's e-mail address but there is no evidence the e-mail was ever read, and the "PowerPoint" attachment to Helen Prislinger's letter was never opened.

The attachment was named "Readiness."

Prislinger unopened e-mail

What was found?  Red Neurons...

"The earliest I've ever seen them is two hours after a documented period of loss of bloodflow or decreased bloodflow to the brain -- so in my experience, I would anticipate that the decreased blood flow to the brain was at least a couple of hours prior to death."

-- Dr. Thomas Bouldin

Thomas Bouldin

Party People
-- Christine Tomassetti

News & Observer

In a surprising moment, the prosecutor asked Sgt. Fran Borden a question that seemed to jolt the courtroom. Was he aware, Freda Black asked, that Todd Peterson was having an affair with a woman described in police reports as his girlfriend?

The judge struck the question from the record after the defense objected that no evidence had been presented that indicated Todd Peterson and the married woman, Christine Tomassetti, were anything more than friends who went to a party with a large group of people.

Christine Tomassetti

Black said outside the presence of the jury that Todd Peterson told members of Kathleen Peterson's family that he intended to have sex with Tomassetti at his father's home that night. Todd Peterson sat forward in his chair in the front row of the gallery but did not otherwise react to the salacious exchange.

"It shows the dire straits the prosecution's case is in," Todd Peterson later remarked.

Ben Maynor and Heather Wittsome

Soon after Todd and Christine Tomasetti returned from their party, other friends arrived at 1810 Cedar. Todd called his friend Ben Maynor, who was apparently drunk, and Ben's girlfiend, Heather Wittsome.

"That's been one of the tragic losses, not only for the family, but for the community," Ben Maynor would later comment, "Mike and Kathleen were involved with the Arts Council, the American Dance Festival and, as far as I know, Mike is not involved in those causes anymore; and I would think their advocacy is greatly missed."


America's Sweethearts -- Billy Crystal stars as Lee, a studio publicist desperately trying to keep several facts secret from reporters during a high-profile motion picture's press junket. Among the developments that Lee is trying to obscure from view . . . the film's high-profile, real-life married co-stars Gwen Harrison (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Eddie Thomas (John Cusack) who have acrimoniously split since filming.

12:50 A.M.


Karin Hamm

Elizabeth Ratliff's neighbor Karin Hamm claims she saw Peterson hurrying away from Ratliff's house the night she died.

Hamm said in an interview that the sound of a slamming door drew her to her bedroom window at 12:50 A.M. November 25, 1985. She looked out the window and saw Mike Peterson hurriedly leaving Liz Ratliff's home.

Hamm said: "I can still see him in front of me. I see his face."

Peterson and Mahar react to Hudson's ruling on Hamm's affidavit.

Link to . . .

And Murder Makes 60:
A Killer Chronology