Mike Peterson's Stepdaughter Wins Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Posted January 16, 2004 5:10 a.m. EST
Updated November 14, 2006 1:18 p.m. EST
Durham, N.C. — A Durham judge has ruled that convicted murderer Mike Peterson is financially liable for his wife's death.
Caitlin Atwater, Kathleen Peterson's daughter from a previous marriage, filed a wrongful death lawsuit. Atwater accused Peterson of intentionally, maliciously and willfully assaulting her mother, causing her death.
The decision was made by Durham Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, who was also the judge during the Mike Peterson trial. Hudson decided to waive a jury trial to spare Atwater the details about her mother's death.
"She sat there everyday and had to listen to that horrible evidence about how her mother died a brutal death. Why should she have to do it again," said Jay Trehy, Atwater's attorney.
Peterson was convicted in the murder of his wife, Kathleen, in October. After the trial, Peterson filed court papers stating that he did not have any more money and could not afford an appeal. A judge agreed, declaring Peterson indigent.
"This [decision] makes sure he'll never profit from murdering his wife," Trehy said. "If he ever writes a book, even writes a chapter, an article and tries to make money out of what he's done, Caitlin will be able to come in and collect those assets."
Atwater's attorneys said the civil lawsuit was not about money, but about justice. Monetary damages will be decided later.
Peterson is serving a life sentence at Nash Correctional Institute. His criminal case is on appeal.
Peterson's family sold off all of his belongings in an estate sale last year. Atwater received a portion of the earnings. The Durham mansion, where the couple lived and where Kathleen was killed, is still for sale. The asking price is still $975,000, which is $200,000 less than when it originally went on the market. However, the realtor told WRAL Friday there has been a lot of interest in the house recently.