Jurors Hear About Elizabeth Ratliff's Death In Mike Peterson Trial
Posted August 22, 2003 5:27 a.m. EDT
Updated December 9, 2006 10:13 p.m. EST
DURHAM, N.C. — The prosecution in the Mike Peterson trial scored a major victory Friday when Judge Orlando Hudson ruled that evidence about a death 18 years ago is admissible. Prosecutors believe Mike Peterson may have killed his wife and his friend.
Elizabeth Ratliff, a friend of Mike Peterson, was found dead at the bottom of a stairwell in Germany in 1985. Kathleen Peterson was found dead at the bottom of a stairwell at the couple's home on Dec. 9, 2001.
Prosecutors believe details of her death are similiar to those of Kathleen Peterson's death.
Prosecutor David Saacks said Ratliff's death clearly proves a lack of an accident in Kathleen Peterson's death. He said he found as many as 30 similarities between the deaths of the two women.
"You have here now this defendant that is involved in a case where two women are found dead at the bottom of a stairway dead," he said. "They are both found at the bottom of the stairway [with] large amounts of blood present. There is spatter high up on the wall next to the stairway. The blood is dry on the wall."
Defense attorneys did not want the Ratliff evidence to be heard by the jury. Defense attorney Tom Maher said the information would unfairly prejudice jurors against Mike Peterson. Mike Peterson has said that Ratliff died from natural causes.
After hearing both sides, Hudson ruled that the information about Ratliff's death is admissible in the trial. After Hudson's decision, Rosemary Kelloway, Ratliff's sister, said a silent prayer. Meanwhile, Ratliff's daughters, Margaret and Martha, who have stood by Mike Peterson throughout the trial, showed little emotion.
Jurors then heard testimony of Cheryl Appel-Schumacher, Ratliff's friend. Appel-Schumacher told jurors about how she cleaned the area after Ratliff's death and how much blood was present.
"There was a lot of blood in the whole foyer area," she said.