Local News

Testimony Centers On Possible Murder Weapon In Mike Peterson Trial

Posted July 16, 2003

— In Day 10 of the Mike Peterson trial, most of the day's testimony centered around police protocol and a fireplace poker.

Mike Peterson's lawyers have said the scene the night Kathleen Peterson died was chaotic and police struggled to maintain control.

Sgt. Emmanuel Paschall, a 28-year veteran of the Durham Police Department who was in charge of the homicide division at the time, testified Tuesday that by the time he got there, the wheels were already in motion. He said officers had started to process the scene.

Mike Peterson is being charged with the death of his wife, Kathleen. Paschall also told jurors police did nothing out of the ordinary and their actions the night of Kathleen's death are what you would see at any crime scene.

"When you talk about officers being in the area containing others at that location separate from the victim, what did that mean to you," asked District Attorney Jim Hardin.

"That they were being kept apart from a possible crime scene," Paschall replied.

"Is that typical? Is that something you would do in any other crime scene as well?" Hardin asked.

"It is a typical thing that can be done, depending on the particular crime scene and the circumstances surrounding it," Paschall said.

Paschall also testified about an impression left in the blood on the stairwell. Hardin suggested that it may have been left by something similar to a fireplace poker called a blowpoke. The prosecution believes Kathleen Peterson may have been killed with a fireplace tool.

Although a murder weapon was never found, the prosecution said in opening statements that a fireplace poker mysteriously disappeared from the home about the time Kathleen died.

Defense attorneys countered by saying the impression could have been left by anything.

"So you have no way of knowing, for example, if the marks on the stairs could've been caused by a key," defense attorney David Rudolf said.

"That's correct," Paschall said.

Defense attorneys said a fireplace poker like the blowpoke had not been in the home for sometime. Defense attorneys said Kathleen died after accidentally falling down a staircase. They read a written statement from Kathleen's daughter, Caitlin.

"What she said was she couldn't honestly remember when the last time she saw any fireplace tool was," Rudolf said.

Rudolf went on to attack the police department's attention to detail. He pointed out they neglected to pick up several pieces of evidence, including a pair of glasses found in the bloody stairwell.

Paschall testified dozens of officers searched the Petersons' home, but they never found a murder weapon. Paschall said that was not unusual.

"Usually because the suspect removes it from the scene or has it removed from the scene," Paschall told jurors.

The prosecution then shifted gears, asking another officer about Mike Peterson's demeanor the night Kathleen died. Officer A.D. McCallup told the jury, that at one point, Mike Peterson was in the study on his computer.

"Could you see what he was doing at the computer?" Black asked.

"He was surfing the Internet and checking his e-mail," McCallup said.

The defense asked McCallup if he could see what Peterson was doing at all times on the computer. McCallup admitted he could not and he did not put that information in his notes because, at the time, he did not think it was important. Peterson's lawyers did not push the issue any further than that.

More police officers who went to the Petersons' house the night of Kathleen's death are expected to testify Wednesday.

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