Entertainment

The Staircase: Where are Michael Peterson and his kids now?

HBO’s True Crime Drama, The stairstells the story of Michael Peterson, the American writer who was convicted of murdering his wife Kathleen, although she claimed she died after falling down the stairs.

The series — starring Colin Firth and Toni Collette — is a sequel to the acclaimed documentary of the same name, in which French documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade covered the case and filmed it at Michael’s home. The first documentary was released in 2004, with new episodes added to cover more recent developments in 2013 and 2018.

Both projects tell the story of how Michael was convicted in 2003 for the 2001 murder of Kathleen and sentenced to life in prison.

Some 14 years later, in 2017, Michael was released after his charges were reduced to manslaughter and he was sentenced to time already served. The charges were reduced after it was revealed that Duane Deaver, an analyst with the State Bureau of Investigation, misled the jury about the strength of the bloodstain evidence in the original 2003 trial.

According to a 2018 report by Associated PressMichael moved into a 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment in the same city where he lived with his wife: Durham, North Carolina.

Defense attorney David Rudolf previously told the press: “He lives in Durham – I’m not sure why he lives in Durham but he lives. He lives in a ground floor apartment with no stairs – that was really important accommodation.”

Since his release from prison, Michael, now 78, has written two books about the trial, his experiences behind bars and life as a free man. Proceeds from his 2019 memoir Behind the stairs and Beyond the stairs were donated to charity.

The case divided Michael’s family. His late wife’s sisters and their daughter from a previous relationship, Caitlin Atwater, believe he killed Kathleen, while his own children – Todd and Clayton Peterson and his adopted daughters Martha and Margaret Ratliff – have supported him and argued that he was innocent is.

The Petersons portrayed in the HBO and Sky Atlantic drama The Staircase

(© Warner Brothers)

In 2008, Michael’s stepdaughter Atwater received a $25 million settlement after she filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the writer. However, it is believed that Michael could not afford to pay for this and that the reason for Atwater’s lawsuit was not to make money, but to discourage Michael from any effort to profit from the case – such as a book – than he would be obliged to give up the profits to Atwater.

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In a 2017 interview with IndyWeek, Atwater – who now uses her husband Christopher’s surname, Clark – revealed how she’s trying to keep her mother’s spirit alive. She said she recreated Kathleen’s pasta salad recipe from memory.

She said she also makes her kids’ Halloween costumes herself. “When I make these things, it’s like I’m channeling them,” she said. “It keeps them close.”

Todd and Clayton are both said to be on good terms with their father. The Ratliff sisters have stayed out of the limelight, but in one of the episodes of the documentary, Martha revealed she suffered from anxiety.

“I used to have really bad nightmares; I used to have really bad panic attacks in public because I was in the process,” she said.

“My body and my whole nervous system will think that something like the process is happening. For me it’s like my heart is beating faster, I can’t breathe and I’m afraid I’ll pass out.”

The stairs is available in its entirety on NOW.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/staircase-michael-peterson-children-now-b2097815.html The Staircase: Where are Michael Peterson and his kids now?

JOE HERNANDEZ

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