Local News

Attorney wants owl theory reconsidered in Peterson murder case

Posted August 4, 2009
Updated August 11, 2009

Mike Peterson was convicted in October 2003 of first-degree murder in the Dec. 9, 2001, death of his wife, Kathleen Peterson.

— An attorney representing convicted killer Mike Peterson wants a judge to reconsider evidence that suggests the former Durham novelist's wife died as a result of an owl attack.

Attorney T. Lawrence Pollard filed a new motion in Superior Court, saying there is compelling evidence to bolster the case that Peterson was not responsible for Kathleen Peterson's staircase death in 2001.

Last year, Durham's district attorney declined to reopen the case after Pollard discovered a single, microscopic feather listed in an SBI crime lab report.

Pollard believes an owl, possibly mistaking Kathleen Peterson as prey, could have attacked the 120-pound, 47-year-old as she walked from her swimming pool to her kitchen.

Emergency workers found her dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the couple’s Forest Hills mansion in the early hours of Dec. 9, 2001. An autopsy found she died from blunt force trauma to the head.

The new motion states there is evidence with the recent discovery of more feathers in hair found clutched in Kathleen Peterson's left hand.

"Thus, it is new and compelling evidence, and probably the single most important piece of evidence found so far in this case, because it connects the attack by a bird with the victim, and it is held in the victim's hand," the motion states.

Had a jury been presented with the evidence, it would have "materially affected their deliberation and therefore would have materially affected their ultimate verdict," it continues.

Other microscopic feathers could have been lost, Pollard said, because Kathleen Peterson's head had been shaved and her hair washed before it was examined.

The theory has been met with mockery and is one of several that have been presented since Mike Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder in October 2003.

Last fall, a Virginia attorney argued for a new trial, saying a tire iron found in the neighborhood was never disclosed to the defense. Prosecutors said the tire iron had nothing to do with the case, and a judge denied the motion.

Mike Peterson has denied any involvement in his wife's death and has said he believes all theories into what happened that night need to be explored.

"The only thing I know for a fact is that I found Kathleen at the bottom of the stairs, and it was my belief at the time that she fell down those stairs. There are other theories, certainly, out there now. I think they have a great deal of credibility," he told WRAL News in an interview last month.

"Certain things were definitely withheld from us, and had we known these things, I know our defense would have been different. But for me to tell you exactly what happened, I don't know," he continued. "I know she was at the bottom of the stairs. There was blood, and she died."


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  • down by the pond Aug 4, 2009


    thanks for the clarification of who the "other deceased woman was found at bottom of stairs." ..,hard to keep up with his portfolio of work ...the dreaded owl , you know,,, cross continental flight path and all ,,,,

  • itsmyownopinion Aug 4, 2009

    Google is your friend. Owls do attack humans, not just mice and snakes and other small prey.

  • FE Aug 4, 2009

    "And at no point this thing scratched her with its sharp talons?" - bryan

    Well, you see, the wise old owl was wearing gloves so as not to leave any claw prints.

    This is also a very seasoned owl, who has a passport and is known to have visited Germany in the past.

    And the valid scientific evidence (fractured skull, victim blood spatters on inside of Peterson's shorts, et al) are mere diversions. There was, however, no report of catsup spewing at the crime scene.

    The jurors saw the allowable evidence and reached a unanimous verdict. The lawyers are just playing more games. I guess the next appeal will be that Michael Jackson's ghost was making a trial run.


  • itsmyownopinion Aug 4, 2009

    ,,, oh by the way , didn't they find his other wife, dead at the bottom of some stairs, humm ..
    down by the pond

    No, his first wife is still living and supported him during his trial. The woman found at the bottom of stairs was a friend of theirs when they lived in Germany.

  • anti-Hans Aug 4, 2009

    The story states they want the judge to reconsider the owl.

    Judge - "OK, I have reconsidered. Stay in jail Mr. Peterson."

  • pthfan22 Aug 4, 2009

    shouldn't this be listed under 'Strange News' as this is obviously a silly story? Considering owls normally prey on snakes and mice I can see why one would mistake a full grown human woman for a MOUSE!! I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell as well!!

  • down by the pond Aug 4, 2009

    Yes, it is the dreaded owl,,,,please..i grew up in the country and we were around owls, vultures, hawks all the time. We had one owl that would sit in one of our long leaf pine trees,,,,would just watch us walk by,, we have pictures in the photo album. We were never chased by any owls or other large birds, the only thing i have seen them swoop down on were mice around the fields, barns or roadkill on the road,,none of which are a 120 lb human ,,, oh by the way , didn't they find his other wife, dead at the bottom of some stairs, humm ..

  • EverythingTicksMeOff Aug 4, 2009

    Old Peterson is screwed because he needs to get a new trial. Had all this stuff been known at the original trial, they might have been able to establish a reasonable doubt in the mind of one juror (that's all it takes) and gotten him off. They would not have had to show that an owl did it and explain exactly how. All they would have had to do would have been to show that SOMETHING happened before Peterson found her. Oh well...

  • cragan Aug 4, 2009

    Looking at his life in prison would he still have a picture of her up if he had killed her. I have thought from the start that things just didnt add up.

  • itsmyownopinion Aug 4, 2009

    Maybe a Wolf bashed her head in. I thought I saw one in the area. tic