Local News

Durham Novelist Convicted Of Murder Subject Of A&E Documentary

Posted July 1, 2005

— A Durham novelist is speaking out for the first time since he was sentenced to life in prison for the beating death of his wife.

Mike Peterson, a man who once used words to make a living, has said relatively little since he was convicted in the slaying of his wife, Kathleen. Peterson has refused local media requests for interviews, but recently, in an interview airing on A&E's "American Justice" in September, Peterson talked about how his life has changed.

Nearly two years after being convicted, Peterson still wears his wedding band. It is one of the first things you notice when you see him.

"Kathleen was an incredibly vibrant, fun person," Peterson says. "She was the sun around which we all revolved. And when she died, it was like an implosion -- the universe collapsed."

Kathleen Peterson was found beaten to death in the stairwell of the couple's Cedar Street mansion.

Jurors found the extent of her injuries and the blood evidence overwhelming and found Peterson guilty.

For his part, Peterson has repeatedly denied murdering his wife.

"Sometimes, I'll dream and think I'll wake up and Kathleen's gonna be there and I'm going to roll over say, 'Jesus, I've just had the most awful nightmare,'" he says.

Reality for the 61-year-old is spending his days behind razor-wired fences under the watchful eyes of prison guards.

The one-time millionaire now makes $1 a day teaching GED classes to other inmates.

"I teach them math, science, reading and writing," Peterson says.

By all outward appearances, Peterson seems to have adjusted to life behind bars at a Nash County correctional facility, but he says he does not want to be there.

"I don't want anyone to think I like being here, but I'm content here," Peterson says. "I honestly believe, and have always believed, we create our own heaven and our own hell."

Content or not, the convicted murderer pins his hopes on getting out. Peterson's attorney, Tom Maher, has prepared the proposed record on appeal, which lists the errors he believes the state made in the original case. He is now hashing out the details with prosecutors. The appeal process is expected to be a lengthy one and could take months, if not years.

A&E's documentary on Peterson, "Blood on the Staircase," is scheduled to air Sept. 10 as part of the cable network's "American Justice" series.

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