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Candace Zamperini Tells Jurors In Mike Peterson Trial About Sister's Financial Issues

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DURHAM, N.C. — Candace Zamperini, Kathleen Peterson's sister, testified briefly Thursday in front of the jury in the Mike Peterson trial. She described her sister as a vibrant woman who was involved in the community, but she also said her sister was concerned over financial matters.

Zamperini described her older sister's personality for jurors.

"I helped her plan her wedding to Michael. She helped me with mine," Zamperini said. "My sister -- she was the one who taught me to cook, to sew, to clean," she said. "She was definitely the teacher."

Zamperini described her older sister as a can-do type of woman.

"She always loved to power-wash. She was always talking about going outside to power-wash. That was a favorite pastime of hers," she said.

After Zamperini's brief testimony, lawyers argued for hours with the jury out of the courtroom. During that time, Zamperini testified about the Petersons' finances.

"Kathleen verbally gave me the impression that money was very tight," Zamperini said.

Zamperini recalled how years earlier, the couple was on solid ground.

"I mean they were millionaires. Everything was going great. I was like, 'Wow, she's hit the big time now,'" she said.

Zamperini said things then began to change. The couple had three children about to enter college and the job climate was shaky at Nortel, where Kathleen Peterson was an executive.

"That was the difference in April 2001. The stock was worthless. Things were falling apart at the company and she was very specific. She did not know if by the end of the year if she would have a job there," Zamperini said.

Zamperini has always been clear about how she feels about Mike Peterson, the man charged with Kathleen's death. Shortly after her sister's death, Zamperini was the first family member to distance herself from him.

Over the last nine weeks, Zamperini has traveled hundreds of miles each week to stand watch over her sister's trial. She usually sits quietly in the front row nearly every day and said she is at the trial for one reason: to seek justice for her sister.

Defense attorneys have voiced their concerns about Zamperini's testimony because it is considered hearsay, but prosecutors said Zamperini has firsthand knowledge of the state of the Petersons' marriage. Judge Orlando Hudson agreed with the prosecution, and jurors will hear more of Zamperini's testimony next week.

Jurors are getting a long holiday weekend. They do not return to court until Tuesday.

Jim Woodall, an assistant district attorney in Orange County who is not working in the Mike Peterson trial, believes when jurors hear more of Zamperini's testimony next week, it will help tie up loose ends in the state's case.

"She was close to Kathleen and Kathleen Peterson was concerned about finances [and] concerned about her job," he said. "[It's] the financial motive that we heard about at the very beginning of the trial. They're bringing it back around full circle."

Earlier Thursday morning, jurors heard more testimony about Elizabeth Ratliff, Mike Peterson's friend. She was found dead in Germany in 1985. Prosecutors believe circumstances of her death are similar to those of Kathleen Peterson's death.


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