Rudolf Tells Jurors Mike Peterson Had No Reason To Kill Wife
Posted October 2, 2003 6:04 a.m. EDT
Updated December 9, 2006 10:27 p.m. EST
DURHAM, N.C. — The prosecution says Mike Peterson killed his wife, Kathleen Peterson, on Dec. 9, 2001. The defense says she died after falling down the stairs. On Thursday, defense attorney David Rudolf tried to convince the jury that the state's case is off base.
For four hours, Rudolf tried to convince jurors that the state's case is full of holes. As Rudolf has done over the last three months, he waved a blow poke in front of the jurors. The prosecution claims Mike Peterson may have used something like it to kill his wife.
Prosecutors also claim the one the Petersons owned was missing the night Kathleen Peterson died. He then told them that even Caitlin Atwater, Kathleen Peterson's daughter, told police the fireplace tool had not been in the house in years.
"We know that the blowpoke is not mysteriously missing," Rudolf told jurors.
Rudolf briefly talked about what he called the couple's loving relationship and that he had no motive to kill his wife. He turned to Kathleen Peterson's sister, Candace Zamperini, and reminded jurors of her words.
"She used the term soulmates," Rudolf said.
Rudolf scoffed at the prosecution's claim that Peterson killed two women. District Attorney Jim Hardin believes the Durham novelist murdered family friend Elizabeth Ratliff nearly 20 years ago in Germany. Rudolf told jurors the women's deaths are simply a coincidence.
After methodically telling jurors all the reasons they should find Mike Peterson not guilty, Rudolf tried to strike an emotional cord with jurors by playing the 911 call Peterson made the night of his wife's death. Peterson was seen crying as the 911 was played in court.
After closing arguments, Zamperini said she still believes Mike Peterson killed her sister.
"I think it is very interesting that he chooses to shed tears in front of the jury. He never marked my sister's grave. He didn't attend her viewing," she said. "He was supposed to meet me at the funeral home at 4:30. He never came to the viewing. He never marked her grave. He's gone on book tours. He's done nothing in my opinion, nothing, to continue her memory."
Spectators started lining up nearly an hour outside the courtroom before proceedings began Thursday. Deputies said they had to turn some people away.