Local News

Prosecution: Money May Have Been Factor In Kathleen Peterson's Death

Posted June 26, 2003 5:36 a.m. EDT

— Prosecutors in the Mike Peterson trial have never publicly talking about a motive for Kathleen Peterson's death, but on Thursday, they made it clear they think money may have been a factor.

Kathleen Peterson was an executive at Nortel Networks. The year she died, the company was having problems and let hundreds of workers go. WRAL has learned that Peterson's name was on a list of possible employees to be laid off.

The prosecution thinks Mike Peterson may have thought he had more to gain from Kathleen's death than from any severance package. They say the mere possiblity of Kathleen losing her job and benefits could have sent him over the edge.

"We can show what Mike Peterson stood to gain and what he did gain financially upon her death," attorney David Saacks said.

Peterson's lawyers are trying to keep out any mention of the couple's finances in the trial. They say the prosecution cannot prove money was a motive in Kathleen's murder.

"How do you have money problems when you have $2 million in free assets beyond liabilities," defense attorney Rudolf said.

The prosecution disagreed with Rudolf's belief.

"We're not talking just about life insurance, not just about her salary, but a whole bunch of financial information out there," Saacks said. "When you put it all together, it shows some tightening, some problem and an easy way to fix it was the death of Mrs. Peterson."

Judge Orlando Hudson denied the defense motion to ban information about the couple's finances.

Also on Thursday, lawyers argued last-minute details in the case. The defense team said that it does not want anyone from the medical examiner's office to testify about what may have caused the wounds that killed Kathleen Peterson.

Rudolf claims Dr. Deborah Radisch went beyond the scope of her scientific analysis. In her autopsy report, Radisch concluded that the deep cuts on the back of Kathleen Peterson's head were not consistent with a fall, but rather the result of a beating.

Peterson's lawyers argue that conclusion is based on assumption instead of fact, and they want the judge to keep the jury from hearing it.

Peterson's lawyers also question the validity of the prosecution's blood spatter expert. They claim testimony about the blood stains in the stairwell are also be based on opinion and not science.

Hudson said he would allow a hearing about both matters once testimony gets under way.

The trial was scheduled to begin Monday at 9:30 a.m., but defense attorneys asked Hudson for the delay, because their lead investigator had a heart attack. Opening statements in the trial will now begin Tuesday morning.