Local News

Peterson Autopsy Reveals Signs Of A Struggle

Posted February 19, 2002 6:47 a.m. EST

— Mike Peterson, 58, was in court briefly Tuesday on an administrative matter related to charges he killed his wife Kathleen last December. Accompanied by his son Todd, Peterson spoke afterward with reporters and disputed several items in the autopsy report released Monday.

"I have read the medical examiner's report," he said. "I did not see anywhere in there, and it is not true, absolutely, that Kathleen lay at the bottom of the stairs for hours."

Peterson also denied media reports that he called several people the night of his wife's death, before calling 911.

"It is absolutely not true that I placed any call except to 911," he said. "That is a gross fabrication, and phone records could prove that."

However, Peterson refused to comment on the autopsy report's finding that Kathleen Peterson's injuries were consistent with a beating.

The Medical Examiner's report says Peterson had at least seven deep cuts to the back of her head and bruises on her face and arms. The report also says there were signs of a struggle. It says Peterson had hair clenched in her fists and blood under her fingernails, but it did not say whose hair and blood it was.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Tom Sporn pointed out that while the report says Kathleen Peterson was beaten, he says the seven deep cuts on the back of her head may mean she bled to death.

"Scalp lacerations can bleed very, very profusely," he said. "So it is possible she could have had some of her death hastened by blood loss from these scalp wounds."

"In other words, she did not die instantly as a result of having received these injuries," he said.

The report also shows multiple bruises on her arms, hands and face.

"This type of complex lacerations and avulsions, I have not seen with falls," Sporn said.

The medical examiner who prepared the autopsy also concluded that Peterson's injuries were not consistent with a fall down the stairs, which is how Mike Peterson said his wife died.

Peterson said he found his wife at the bottom of some back stairs, and that she must have fallen or an intruder must have broken in and killed her.

In a motion filed in December, Peterson's lawyers say there was a break-in at the house last June during which a computer and some other items were taken. That report also said the Peterson home was rarely kept locked and break-ins were not uncommon.

At Tuesday's hearing, Peterson attorney Tom Maher asked that the State Bureau of Investigation release some lab test results to the defense. District Attorney Jim Hardin said those results would not be available for at least 60 days.

Peterson's next court appearance is scheduled for May 21.