Local News

Investigation Continues In Death Of Former Durham Mayoral Candidate's Wife

Posted January 16, 2002

— A web of suspicion surrounds novelist and former Durham mayoral candidate Michael Peterson. He is at the center of the investigation into his wife's death, but his attorneys say the police are treating their client like a criminal.

Authorities said Peterson made a frantic call about his wife, Kathleen, to 911 early Sunday morning. He said she fell down a flight of stairs.

The Durham Police Department has treated the death at the couple's mansion as suspicious.

The investigation continued into Wednesday, when Durham police detectives showed up at Peterson's Forest Hills home around 6 p.m. with another search warrant.

Dozens of officers searched the grounds outside the house for about three hours. Peterson's lawyer told WRAL that a search inside the house was limited to certain rooms. Detectives brought out several items covered in plastic, some of which looked to be computer equipment.

Friends and family were gathered at the home prior to a viewing for Kathleen at 7 p.m. They were asked to leave the premises when police arrived. Peterson was unable to attend the viewing.

Kathleen Peterson was laid to rest Thursday morning at Duke University Chapel.

According to the state medical examiner, Kathleen Peterson died in her home from a blow to the head. The examiner's office has concluded Peterson's injuries are also consistent with a fall down a flight of stairs, but investigators are trying to conclude whether Peterson's fall was accidental.

Lawyers for Michael Peterson are doing the talking for their client. They have advised him to stay tight-lipped to police. Attorney and family friend Kerry Sutton claimed police treated Peterson as a criminal from the beginning.

"I was concerned first thing in the morning when I got to the house and wasn't allowed up the driveway," she said. "Mr. Peterson wasn't allowed down the driveway to speak to me. That raised a red flag to me."

Sutton said she is not worried about whether police or the public view Peterson's silence as guilt.

"There is no proving not guilty. You can only prove guilt," she said.

The Durham Police Department would not answer questions regarding their treatment of Michael Peterson or the medical examiner's report. Department officials said they will release daily e-mail updates instead.


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