Local News

Michael Peterson May Be Without Attorney For Civil Trial

Posted November 23, 2005

— A Durham novelist and former mayoral candidate who was convicted of killing his wife may be on his own when he returns to court next June for a civil lawsuit filed against him by his stepdaughter.

  • In-Depth Coverage:

    Peterson On Trial

  • Related Video:

  • Michael Peterson is named in a

    wrongful death civil lawsuit

    filed by Caitlin Atwater, who contends that Peterson maliciously assaulted her mother and caused her death. Paramedics found Kathleen Peterson's body at the bottom of a staircase at the couple's Cedar Street mansion in Durham almost four years ago.

    Peterson's defense attorney in the 2003 criminal trial, David Ruldolf, told WRAL last week that he had no plans to represent his former client in the trial. Tom Maher, who also represented Peterson in the original trial, is handling Peterson's appeal to get a new criminal trial. WRAL was unable to reach Maher to find out whether he has any plans to represent Peterson in the civil trial.

    Peteron's family sold all of his belongings in an estate sale and divided the earnings among five children in the family, including Atwater. That money was considered to be an advance on a judgment in her civil suit.

    Last year, a settlement with Prudential Insurance allowed Atwater to divide nearly $1.5 million in life insurance proceeds with Fred Atwater, who is her father and was Kathleen Peterson's husband before she married Michael Peterson.

    In September, attorneys settled a lawsuit alleging that Michael Peterson improperly obtained some $384,000 in employment benefits for his late wife from Nortel Networks.

    After he was convicted in 2003, Peterson filed court papers stating that he did not have any more money and could not afford an appeal. Maher has appealed his conviction to state courts. A decision is expected late next year.

    Last week, the trial was set for June 19.

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