Local News

Attorney wants owl theory reconsidered in Peterson murder case

Posted August 4, 2009 3:11 p.m. EDT
Updated August 11, 2009 5:04 p.m. EDT

Mike Peterson was convicted in October 2003 of first-degree murder in the Dec. 9, 2001, death of his wife, Kathleen Peterson.

— An attorney representing convicted killer Mike Peterson wants a judge to reconsider evidence that suggests the former Durham novelist's wife died as a result of an owl attack.

Attorney T. Lawrence Pollard filed a new motion in Superior Court, saying there is compelling evidence to bolster the case that Peterson was not responsible for Kathleen Peterson's staircase death in 2001.

Last year, Durham's district attorney declined to reopen the case after Pollard discovered a single, microscopic feather listed in an SBI crime lab report.

Pollard believes an owl, possibly mistaking Kathleen Peterson as prey, could have attacked the 120-pound, 47-year-old as she walked from her swimming pool to her kitchen.

Emergency workers found her dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the couple’s Forest Hills mansion in the early hours of Dec. 9, 2001. An autopsy found she died from blunt force trauma to the head.

The new motion states there is evidence with the recent discovery of more feathers in hair found clutched in Kathleen Peterson's left hand.

"Thus, it is new and compelling evidence, and probably the single most important piece of evidence found so far in this case, because it connects the attack by a bird with the victim, and it is held in the victim's hand," the motion states.

Had a jury been presented with the evidence, it would have "materially affected their deliberation and therefore would have materially affected their ultimate verdict," it continues.

Other microscopic feathers could have been lost, Pollard said, because Kathleen Peterson's head had been shaved and her hair washed before it was examined.

The theory has been met with mockery and is one of several that have been presented since Mike Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder in October 2003.

Last fall, a Virginia attorney argued for a new trial, saying a tire iron found in the neighborhood was never disclosed to the defense. Prosecutors said the tire iron had nothing to do with the case, and a judge denied the motion.

Mike Peterson has denied any involvement in his wife's death and has said he believes all theories into what happened that night need to be explored.

"The only thing I know for a fact is that I found Kathleen at the bottom of the stairs, and it was my belief at the time that she fell down those stairs. There are other theories, certainly, out there now. I think they have a great deal of credibility," he told WRAL News in an interview last month.

"Certain things were definitely withheld from us, and had we known these things, I know our defense would have been different. But for me to tell you exactly what happened, I don't know," he continued. "I know she was at the bottom of the stairs. There was blood, and she died."