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State Medical Examiner Believes Kathleen Peterson, Elizabeth Ratliff Were Murdered

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DURHAM, N.C. — Prosecutors continue to try and link Mike Peterson to the death of two women. On Thursday, a medical examiner told jurors Peterson's wife and a family friend were both murdered.

Kathleen Peterson was found dead at the bottom of a stairwell at her house on Dec. 9, 2001. Her husband, Mike Peterson, is charged with her death.

State Medical Examiner Dr. Deborah Radisch pointed out to jurors that Kathleen Peterson had several scrapes and bruises covering her face. She also described injuries found on both arms and hands.

Radisch said there were defensive wounds that suggest Kathleen Peterson was trying to fend off her attacker. Radisch also explained she found seven gashes on the back of Kathleen Peterson's head.

"In many of these lacerations, they were actually full thickness or all the way through the scalp to the underlying skull," she said.

Radisch also told jurors Kathleen Peterson had crushed thyroid cartilage that suggest someone tried to manually strangle her. She told jurors that she believes there is no doubt as to how Kathleen Peterson died.

"In my opinion, the manner of death in this case was a homicide," Radisch said.

Radisch testified that Kathleen Peterson's injuries were similar to those found on Elizabeth Ratliff. Ratliff was Mike Peterson's friend who was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in Germany in 1985.

This spring, prosecutors had Ratliff's body exhumed and a new autopsy was performed. Radisch found cuts and bruises on Ratliff's face and hands. She also pointed out that like Kathleen Peterson, Ratliff had seven deep cuts on the back of her head.

Radisch will be back on the stand Friday for cross-examination.


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