Jurors Hear Emotional Testimony From Kathleen Peterson's Sister
Posted September 4, 2003
Updated December 9, 2006
DURHAM, N.C. — Candace Zamperini, Kathleen Peterson's sister, took the witness stand Wednesday in day 39 of the Mike Peterson trial. Plus, jurors got to hold a replica of the weapon prosecutors say the Durham novelist used to kill his wife.
Zamperini broke down as she recalled the events of Dec. 9, 2001 -- the day her sister Kathleen Peterson died.
"My husband came home about a hour after [a] phone call and told me that my sister was dead. She'd fallen down the back staircase," Zamperini said.
Zamperini told jurors the day after her sister's death, she went inside the Cedar Street mansion. She said she was determined to clean up the blood, but she was overwhelmed by it all.
"The cat picture -- I reached up and I sprayed the cat picture. When I reached up to wipe it, blood ran down my arm," Zamperini said.
Prosecutors said Mike Peterson used a fireplace tool -- a blowpoke -- to kill his wife, Kathleen. On Wednesday, a replica was passed through the jury box so jurors could feel it and examine the hooklike end.
Zamperini said she gave her sister a blowpoke in 1984. She testified the the fireplace poker had always been in the house every time she visited.
"It was always in the kitchen. I used it. I observed Kathleen use it. It was always in the kitchen," she said.
Zamperini also showed jurors pictures where the blowpoke could be seen in the background. Prosecutors said the blowpoke mysteriously disappeared about the time of Kathleen Peterson's death.
Prosecutors used Zamperini to support their theory that there was a tremendous financial strain on the Peterson marriage. Zamperini testified that her sister told her she was worried she might lose her job and that money was tight.
"Three children in college, travel expenses, books -- this weighed on her very, very heavily financially and emotionally," she said.
Defense Attorney David Rudolf cross-examined Zamperini, trying to underscore that the couple's marriage was fine.
"She never said she was unhappy with Michael. She was just unhappy with her situation at Nortel, right?" Rudolf asked.
"Yes," Zamperini responded.
District Attorney Jim Hardin asked Zamperini what she now thinks of her sister's husband.
"Sitting here today, I have no idea who Mike Peterson is. None whatsoever, He is who he held himself out to be and who he turned out to be. No, I have no idea who he is," she said.
Zamperini said being on the witness stand Wednesday was tough for her, but she said two things helped her to get through it. Throughout her testimony, she held a picture of Kathleen and had a charm bracelet with a lock of her sister's hair.