Local News

Jurors Hear About Deaths Of Kathleen Peterson, Elizabeth Ratliff

Posted August 27, 2003
Updated December 9, 2006

— Jurors in the Mike Peterson trial heard testimony Wednesday about the deaths of Elizabeth Ratliff and Kathleen Peterson.

Ratliff was Peterson's friend, who was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in Germany in 1985. Prosecutors said circumstances of Ratliff's death are similar to the death of Kathleen Peterson, Mike Peterson's wife. Kathleen Peterson was found at the bottom of a staircase on Dec. 9, 2001.

Amybeth Berner, Ratliff's friend, described the scene at Ratliff's house in 1985 for jurors.

"I looked around and there was a lot of blood on the floor. There was a lot of blood on the walls," she said.

Barbara Malagnino, the former nanny for the Ratliff household, said she remembered large amounts of blood near Ratliff's body and on the stairs. She also said she was still coming across blood weeks after Ratliff's death.

Defense attorneys did not cross-examine Malagnino.

Peter Duane Deaver, an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation, returned to the courtroom to talk more about his bloodstain analysis. Deaver had already spent seven days on the stand before prosecutors interrupted his testimony to present the Ratliff evidence.

District Attorney Jim Hardin worked to re-establish Deaver's credibility with the jury, pointing out he had investigated more than a dozen deaths involving stairs.

However, defense attorney David Rudolf countered Deaver's testimony by reading from a textbook.

"Husbands cradling dead wives can change evidence and cause misinterpretations, and sometimes it will result in a husband being charged. Would you agree with that," Rudolf asked Deaver.

"Yes, I would," Deaver said.

Berner will be back on the stand Thursday morning. Kathleen Peterson's sister is also expected to testify.

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