DURHAM, N.C. — Can blood drops tell if Kathleen Peterson died from an accidental fall or if she was murdered? In a special hearing outside the presence of the jury, a blood spatter expert suggests Kathleen Peterson was murdered.
In day 27 of the Mike Peterson trial, SBI blood spatter expert Peter Duane Deaver left little doubt as to what he thinks happened to Kathleen Peterson. Deaver said the size, shape, and placement of the blood in the stairwell point to a beating.
Deaver also said smears on some of the steps showed someone tried to clean up the blood.
"There was an effort to remove blood in a normal method when you take a rag and start wiping it," he said.
Candace Zamperini, Kathleen Peterson's sister, said she has never had any doubt about how her sister died.
"This was no fall. This was no intruder. The sad truth is that he stood over her and beat her and over two hours, she slowly and painfully died," she said.
The jurors did not hear Deaver's explanations because the defense contends he is not an expert. In a special hearing Friday, defense attorney David Rudolf is expected to cross-examine Deaver as to how he came up with his conclusions.
The defense contends that Durham police contaminated the scene, but earlier in the day, Deaver told jurors that he was impressed with how well the stairwell had been preserved. Kathleen Peterson's body was found sprawled at the bottom of the stairwell.
Deaver said he focused his attention on one particular area.
"I would give the greatest relevance to the stairwell itself and especially to the walls because no one was walking on the walls. There was no indication that anything had occurred to the walls themselves, especially at the corner of the stairwell," Deaver said.
Deaver said a perfect-round blood drop was found on the kitchen counter underneath a glass cabinet. Deaver said that shows that someone who had blood on them opened up the cabinet. Deaver told jurors that the cabinet contained wine glasses. Authorities had found two wine glasses and a wine bottle near the kitchen sink.
The defense claims the couple had been drinking that night and celebrating before Kathleen Peterson died. The prosecution claims Mike Peterson staged an elaborate cover up after she died and Deaver's testimony certainly points to that theory.
Deaver also used a model of the stairwell to show the jury where blood drops were found. He said five drops were found on a wall outside the stairwell -- some as high as 9.5 feet up the wall.