If you’ve just watched The Staircase on Netflix you may be wondering where everyone is now – from Michael Peterson’s children to the legal team.
Peterson’s children stuck by him through his trial that saw accused of beating his wife Kathleen to death after she was found at the bottom of their staircase covered in blood in 2001.
The documentary showed how his sons, Todd and Clayton, and his two adopted daughters, Martha and Margaret Ratliff, stood by him and were convinced of his innocence.
Kathleen’s biological daughter Caitlin was less convinced. While at first she protested his innocence she changed her mind and ended up giving evidence for the prosecution.
The documentary covers 16 years of de Lestrade following the case – taking us to the present day where Peterson is free, but as a convicted felon and trying to pen another book.
But where are the others?
Peterson was convicted in 2003, but while you know him from The Staircase there’s more to him.
Michael Peterson is an American author who wrote several novels about his experience of the Vietnam War. He controversially claimed once that he had won two Purple Heart medals. One for being shot, the other for being hit by shrapnel from a land mine but this wasn’t true. The wound was actually in a car crash from after the war – which he admitted later. Peterson married his first wife, Patricia Sue Peterson in 1965 and lived with her in Germany. They went on to have children together (see below). He later adopted two girls after their mother, his neighbour died. They went by the name Ratliff. Michael and Patricia parted ways.
Peterson got remarried later – to Kathleen, the wife who was found at the bottom of the staircase.
Sophie Brunet, editor of The Staircase, became romantically involved with Peterson during the course of production.
Peterson – after his trials – was released and now lives with his family. It’s thought he is now writing another book.
Caitlin has taken on the name Clark now. She lived in London for a few years with her husband Christopher Clark in March 2012.
They then settled in Durham where she grew up in the US. She has also gone on to have twins.
Caitlin switched sides in the documentary, after initially standing by Michael. She changed her opinion after hearing the evidence. She acted as a spokesperson for the family at first, saying they had a "loving relationship". When the trial started she slowly changed her mind. When she heard the closing statement she said she "knew what happened" to her mum.
When Michael Peterson was found guilty in October 2003 Caitlin filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against him. In January 2008 she was awarded $25million in damages.
Michael said he didn’t have enough to pay Caitlin, but in October 17 – after his Alford Plea and release – Caitlin’s lawyer filed another complaint against him to keep the wrongful-death lawsuit going.
The idea wasn’t to get money out of Michael but to "disincentivise any effort [Michael may have] to profit off [the case]". So if he was to write a book or sell the story he’d have to pay Caitlin.
When it comes to her family Caitlin remains private though she has said she is trying to give her kids what she had growing up. "It’s crazy sometimes, but there is so much of me channeling her," she said.
Netflix’s The Staircase
Martha – and sister Margaret kept their private life, well, private after the initial interest in the case.
Martha is now 35, and lives in Colorado after attending university in San Francisco.
Martha has spoken about the anxiety she’s experienced due to the case and how she used to have panic attacks.
The eldest of Michael’s adopted daughters, Margaret, 36, got married in her twenties and is now known as Margaret Blakemore.
Her and her husband attended college in 2006 to 2010 and are thought to live in California now.
Todd is Michael’s younger biological child. He appears in The Staircase and thinks his father is innocent. Little is known about him now. Though it’s reported he lives in Tennessee.
Michael Peterson’s eldest son from his marriage with Patricia Sue Peterson. He appears quite a bit in the documentary. In the later part of the docuseries we see his growing family. He has a son Dorian who he takes to visit Michael in prison as a baby. Clay’s wife Becky is seen pregnant with his second child – who was named Lucien.
We see Michael playing with both his grandsons when he’s released. Clayton is now 43 and lives with his family in Maryland, USA.
One of the key figures in the case was Duane Deaver, who testified against Peterson. He worked for the State Bureau of Investigation and examined the blood patterns, which he concluded showed Kathleen had been beaten to death. This was called into question as he was fired from the Bureau for allegedly falsely reporting blood evidence in major trials.
Another case started the ball rolling. Greg Taylor was convicted of murdering a sex worker in 1993. His case was looked at again after another man confessed.
At the innocence hearing in 2010, Deaver was questioned about his role. The prosecution at the time said blood on Taylor’s truck connected him to the victim, but later the lab suggested there was no blood at all in the sample.
Deaver said the SBI and North Carolina State withheld evidence – he added he was just following policy. This happened in 200 cases raising question about Peterson’s case.
Deaver has argued against his firing ever since it happened in 2011. There was a hearing to determine if the firing could be overturned, but it was upheld.
He was later awarded back pay when the State Human Resources Commission determined he had been wrongly terminated. Deaver has stayed out of the public eye since, but his name has come back up now in The Staircase.
Attorney David Rudolf represented Peterson in his trial. He is still practicing law today.
Rudolf was on the defence team in the first trial and returned to help with the second trial where Peterson entered the Alford Plea. That meant Peterson acknowledged the prosecution had enough evidence to convict him, but he maintained his innocence.
Rudolf remains an attorney and he has a law firm, Rudolf Widenhouse Law Firm in North Carolina. He specialises in criminal defence, complex civil litigation, appeals, college disciplinary proceedings, post-conviction challenges and civil rights matters.
In 2016 he said he suspected he may return to Peterson’s case even after years spent away from it.
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