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Prosecutors Allege Mike Peterson, Wife May Not Have Had Idyllic Marriage

Posted August 7, 2003

— Sex took center stage in day 23 of the Mike Peterson trial. Judge Orlando Hudson ruled jurors will hear about the Durham novelist's sex life.

Peterson is accused of first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Kathleen. in 2001. Her body was found at the bottom of a staircase in their Durham home. He says she died after an accidental fall. Prosecutors say she was murdered.

Investigators said they found thousands of images depicting gay and pornographic activity on Peterson's computer. They also found e-mails between Peterson and a North Carolina State University student known as Brad. The e-mails discussed possible escort services.

The evidence is important not because it showed Peterson was interested in men, but because "it's relations outside of marriage," prosecutor David Saacks said.

Defense attorneys countered by saying the computer evidence did not prove anything. Maher read in court one of the e-mails Peterson wrote to Brad.

"Evenings are not great for me, anyway," Maher read. "I'm married, very happily married with a dynamic wife. I know. I know. I'm very bi, and that is all there is to it."

Maher also said the suggestion that Peterson was interested in homosexual sex doesn't support the prosecution's claim in opening arguments that Peterson killed his wife for insurance money.

"An interest in sex doesn't correspond to an interest or a motive for killing your wife," Maher said.

At the hearing, Hudson ruled that the evidence goes to a possible motive. As Hudson read his decision, two of Kathleen Peterson's sisters cried, while Mike Peterson shook his head.

"I'm seeing how happy my sister was the day she married him and I'm realizing as she's going off to work, he's at the computer soliciting for prostitution," said Candace Zamperini, Kathleen Peterson's sister. "This is just another awful wound and heartache to find out about my sister's life.

Kathleen Peterson's family members said they does not believe she knew about her husband's secret sex life. In fact, they said she would not have tolerated it. However, defense attorney David Rudolf suggested that Kathleen's family knew little about the marriage.

"They didn't know about their relationship. They didn't know about what was going on and they weren't in the bedroom," he said.

The trial adjourned Thursday after jurors heard from a forensic computer consultant. Consultant Todd Markley described how he retrieved e-mail from Peterson's home computer. He also described e-mails in which Peterson discussed his household's pressed financial situation.

The male escort whom Peterson allegedly wrote e-mails to may take the stand as early as Friday.


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