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Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Mike Peterson

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Caitlin Atwater, Kathleen Peterson's daughter, has filed a civil lawsuit against Durham novelist and former mayoral candidate Mike Peterson for the death of her mother.

The four-page lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the Durham County Courthouse. "The defendant did intentionally, maliciously, willfully and wantonly assault Kathleen Peterson, thereby causing her death," the lawsuit states.

In a statement, Atwater said, "My actions are for the sole purpose of establishing the truth concerning my mother's death. My grandmother and I will never get over our loss, and cannot even begin to grieve until justice has been served."

Atwater lived with the Petersons, but she moved out shortly after Mike Peterson turned himself in. She has taken a leave of absence from her studies at Cornell University.

Todd Peterson, Mike Peterson's son, issued a statement on behalf of his family which reads: "I have spoken with my sisters Margaret and Martha and my brother, Clayton. We are disgusted by Caitlin's actions. Her pursuit of money sickens us."

Atwater is asking for pain and suffering endured by her mother, funeral expenses, her mother's future worth, punitive damages and basically, the loss of her mother, according to court documents. The lawsuit does not state a total dollar amount for damages.

Atwater is also asking for a jury trial. In a civil lawsuit, guilt does not have to be proved, just a preponderance of evidence.

Mike Peterson also responded to the lawsuit. An e-mail he sent to WRAL reads: "I am profoundly saddened that the loving family Kathleen dedicated 13 years creating has been ripped apart. Mostly I am sorry for our daughters, Margaret and Martha, and our sons, Clayton and Todd, who have not only lost their mother, but now feel they have lost their sister as well."

Kathleen was found dead at the bottom of the stairs of the couple's Durham mansion last December. Peterson has been charged in his wife's death. His criminal trial is scheduled to begin in May.

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