Local News

Durham Judge Sets Bond; Peterson Released From Jail

Posted January 15, 2002

— A judge has agreed to set bond for Durham novelist Michael Peterson.

After a two-hour hearing Monday, a judge agreed to set bond at $850,000 for Peterson, who was charged last month with killing his wife, Kathleen. In addition, Peterson will have to surrender his car and passport and stay in North Carolina.

"It feels wonderful. All I want to say is that I really want to go home," he told reporters after the hearing. "I want to see my kids. This is the first opportunity that I have had to grieve for my wife and I would really like to have that time."

"I knew this day would come. I'm just glad it's sooner rather than later," Peterson said.

Peterson also learned that the prosecution will not seek the death penalty if he is found guilty.

"I think the judge made the right decision. We're just pleased he's out now, and we can turn our attention to the merits of this case," said Peterson's brother, Bill.

During the afternoon, Peterson's attorneys presented five witnesses who testified that Peterson had a loving relationship with his wife, Kathleen. They also said that he should not be considered a flight risk.

Former congressman Nick Galifianakis testified that Peterson told him that on the night of the incident, Peterson and his wife were partying and drinking when something happened.

Galifianakis testified that when he asked Peterson why he had blood on his clothes, Peterson told him that he was trying to help Kathleen.

Peterson's supporters, including his son, were emotional on and off the stand.

"My father said he just found her and she was still alive. He held her in his arms, she died," Todd Peterson said.

Kathleen, a Nortel executive, was found dead in the couple's Durham home on Dec. 9. Her husband told 911 dispatchers that his wife fell down the stairs.

Later that week, after a few days of investigating, search warrants classified the case as a murder investigation instead of a death inquiry.

Late last week, Durham police got a warrant to collect hair and body fluid samples from Peterson.

Meanwhile, Peterson's attorneys field a motion that included several dozen signatures and letters from friends in support of Peterson.

Many in the Durham community find it hard to believe that Peterson, a former mayoral candidate, has been charged and could be convicted in the murder of his wife.

The couple had been married for four-and-a half years in a relationship described by many as a loving one.

Peterson has spent almost a month in jail since being indicted by a grand jury of first-degree murder.

Peterson's attorney, David Rudolf, has been vocal in his belief that the police investigation was botched from the start -- something that would compromise a lot of the evidence that allegedly links Peterson to his wife's murder.

District Attorney Jim Hardin has dismissed Rudolf's claims.

Rudolf has a strong track record of getting his client's charges reduced, and in some cases, dropped.

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