Local News

Peterson Murder Case Ties Into Proposed Autopsy Legislation

Posted March 6, 2003 5:23 a.m. EST
Updated December 9, 2006 9:52 p.m. EST

— State lawmakers are considering legislation that would make autopsy photos private, but the debate took a surprise turn when the Mike Peterson murder case took center stage.

Mike Peterson is charged with the murder of his wife, Kathleen, in December 2001. Candace Zamperini, Kathleen's sister, said autopsy photos of the back of her sister's skull helped convice her that her sister was murdered. It was the advice from medical experts that helped -- evidence she says that would not have been conclusive with autopsy drawings.

Zamperini showed a legislative committee an autopsy photograph of her sister's skull and other autopsy drawings to try to relay her point.

"As much as I don't want to see her head on the Internet, my dearest prayer is for justice and if [it takes] one person, who is holding something back, to take the picture of her head to come forward to tell us something that we don't know, I will suffer that a million times versus not getting the truth," she said.

In a statement to WRAL, Mike Peterson said, "Candace Zamperini apparently thinks she knows more about forensic science than the world's greatest experts."

While Zamperini opposed restrictions on autopsy photos, there are others who support them like Kathleen Prescott, whose son was killed in an automobile accident.

"It has to do with my strong objection to further traumatizing innocent victims and their surviving family members by the media having autopsy photos, audio and videotapes," she said.

Another case that is drawing attention about autopsy photos is the Jesica Santillan case. Santillan died recently after a second heart-lung transplant. According to a letter written by family spokesman Mack Mahoney, the Santillan family does not wish for autopsy photos of their daughter to be made public or publicized in any way to the general public.

Autopsy photographs of Dale Earnhardt's body following his crash at Daytona International Speedway two years ago became a legal battle in Florida. Some media wanted the photographs to get independent studies on the injuries that killed Earnhardt.

This is the second time the autopsy photo issue has hit the state Legislature. The measure failed two years ago.