Michael Peterson case timeline

Michael Peterson in court on Aug. 15, 2016 (Justin Quesinberry/CBS North Carolina)


  • Dec. 9
    Kathleen Peterson, 48, found dead in a back staircase at the Petersons’ home in the Forest Hills section of Durham.
  • Dec. 20
    Michael Peterson indicted for first-degree murder. He says he found her body after she fell.


  • Jan. 14
    Michael Peterson is bailed out of Durham County jail for $850,000.
  • Feb. 18
    Kathleen Peterson’s autopsy released. The state medical examiners’ office says she died as the result of blunt force trauma and her injuries were not consistent with a fall down the stairs. She had a blood-alcohol level of 0.07.


  • April 29
    The N.C. State Medical Examiner’s Office reports that Elizabeth Ratliff died of blunt force trauma to the head. Ratlfiff’s body had been exhumed and brought from Texas. She had been in a relationship with Michael Peterson and died in 1985. She died at the bottom of a staircase.
  • May 5
    Jury selection in Michael Peterson’s trial begins.
  • June 23
    12 juror and four alternates are seated after eight weeks.
  • July 1
    Durham District Attorney Jim Hardin says a a fireplace tool is the likely murder weapon.
  • July 14
    A retired Durham police sergeant testifies that the amount of blood at the scene of Kathleen Peterson’s death immediately made him suspicious.
  • Aug. 18
    SBI agent Duane Deaver testifies that blood spatters on the walls and on Michael Peterson’s clothing are evidence of a beating.
  • Aug. 22
    Judge Orlando Hudson rules that evidence about the 1985 death of Elizabeth Ratliff is admissible.
  • Sept. 4
    The assistant medical examiner testifies that the lacerations on Kathleen Peterson’s head were not consistent with a fall.
  • Oct. 10
    Jury finds Peterson guilty of first-degree murder after four days of deliberations. He is sentenced to life in prison.


  • Nov. 12
    Attorneys argue prosecutors withheld evidence about a tire iron found by a neighbor, suggesting an intruder may have killed Kathleen Peterson.


  • March 10
    Judge Orlando Hudson rejects Peterson’s appeal for a new hearing, discrediting the tire iron claim.


  • Aug. 18
    A government-ordered inquest found that agents of the SBI, including Duane Deaver, repeatedly aided prosecutors in obtaining convictions over a 16-year period, mostly by misrepresenting blood evidence and keeping critical notes from defense attorneys.


  • Jan. 7
    The SBI fires Duane Deaver, after an audit found he falsely represented evidence in 34 cases.
  • Dec. 14
    Judge Orlando Hudson grants David Rudolf’s motion for new trial. Hudson ruled Duane Deaver misled jurors when he testified that his analysis of blood spatter showed beyond any doubt that Kathleen Peterson died after being struck by her husband three times with a blunt object.
  • Dec. 16
    Michael Peterson is released from the Durham County jail on $300,000 bail and placed under house arrest.


  • July 16
    The North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a ruling claiming Durham author Michael Peterson should get a new trial.

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