Local News

Peterson Attorney Hires Top Forensic Specialist To Look At Crime Scene

Posted February 8, 2002

— Mike Peterson, the Durham writer who is accused of murdering his wife, has kept a low profile since getting out of jail last month. Meanwhile, his attorney, David Rudolf, is actively trying to gather more information about the case.

Rudolf said he is eager to see Kathleen Peterson's autopsy report, but he is not so sure it will shed more light on the case.

"It will certainly put us perhaps in one direction or another, but it may not," Rudolf said.

Rudolf said evidence gathered at the scene may play a bigger role. Durham detectives spent days scouring Peterson's 11,000-square-foot home for evidence after the incident.

Rudolf has accused Durham police of compromising the crime scene, and he has hired forensic specialist Henry Lee, known for his work in the O.J. Simpson case, to check out the staircase in the Peterson home.

Peterson has ventured outside his mansion-like home since getting out of jail, even if it was just to talk to neighbors and close friends like Don Clement. Clement said the former mayoral candidate-now-murder suspect made a number of observations.

"He, of course, was amazed at the attention that he was getting -- having helicopters fly over his house, having people stop him at the grocery store and so on," Clement said.

Clement said one thing really stuck out from their talk.

"He just sort of looked away from me and he said, 'Which direction do I go now without Kathleen,'" Clement said.

Clement's wife, Donna, took the stand on Peterson's behalf during last month's bond hearing. She believed being in jail was enough of a distraction for Peterson, that he did not really mourn his wife until he returned home.

"He's really having to face it in a way that he didn't when he was in jail," she said.

Peterson wants to shield photographs from her autopsy until after his trial. David Rudolf, Peterson's defense attorney, has asked State Attorney General Roy Cooper to keep the pictures private.

By now, Rudolf had hoped to get a look at what was found to prepare his client's case. Rudolf said he has requested the evidence, but with the exception of photos, he has not received anything. It is all part of a legal process called discovery.

Rudolf said his team has interviewed all the people they know to interview, and with Kathleen Peterson's autopsy report still being prepared, he feels like he and his client are at a standstill.

"It's obviously a complicated case, but they're supposed to have provided the discovery within four weeks of the indictment and that hasn't happened, obviously," Rudolf said. "It's something we're concerned about and we'll push for it as hard as we can push for it."

Back in December, Peterson told police he found his wife at the bottom of a staircase in the family's home. Peterson has told friends he believes his wife, a Nortel executive, either fell down the stairs, or was attacked by an intruder. Peterson has not granted police an interview.

Rudolf said in the meantime his client has gotten his computer back from police, so he can at least resume one part of the life he used to know.

"His goal is to try to start writing again. Of course that's what he does, but that's hard for him right now," Rudolf said.

The autopsy report on Peterson's death is expected to include photographs. Autopsy reports and the pictures that accompany them are both public documents under state law.

District Attorney Jim Hardin told WRAL that this is a complicated case and he will hand over the evidence as soon as he can. Hardin added that he is operating on the schedule defined by the courts, not by Rudolf.

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