The Staircase (2004) s01e06 Episode Script

The Prosecution's Revenge

[theme music plays] [Jim Hardin] Let me show you what is marked as State's Exhibit 72, and ask whether you can identify that for me, please.
This is my blow poke.
- Blow through it.
- OK.
And did you also purchase others that were similar to it? Yes, I did.
In Christmas of 1984, I so enjoyed having my blow poke.
It was so useful and handy, and I decided to give it to family members, and I gave one to my brother.
I gave one to my sister, Kathleen, and I also gave one to my mother.
With respect to each of those items, was it identical to what's marked here as State's Exhibit 72? [Candace] Yes, they were.
[Jim] With respect to this item, did you have the occasion to see it in her home at various times when you visited there? Yes, I saw it in every home she lived in, whenever I visited.
[Jim] OK.
[David Rudolf] Now, Miss Zamperini, did you ever say to the police that you only saw the relationship between Michael and Kathleen as being "a truly loving, respectful marriage"? I wrote that in a statement dated, I believe, January 10th, and at that time, I felt that.
I no longer do.
But you did state that the only relationship you saw between Michael and Kathleen was as a, quote, "truly loving, respectful marriage," right? Those were your words? They weren't my words.
That's what I wrote.
I didn't verbalize it, if that's what you're getting at.
Well, they're your words in your statement.
At that moment in time, that's what I wrote.
[David] Anything else? - That's all I have.
Thank you, ma'am.
- [Jim] Redirect.
Rudolf asked you whether at some point you had indicated to police that Michael and Kathleen had a "truly loving, respectful relationship.
" At that time, I felt that way.
I was not aware of all the other secrets that came out later.
- Not at all, so - [David] We'll object to that, Your Honor.
[judge] Overruled.
When I wrote that statement barely a month after my sister's death, I was totally unaware of private aspects of his life.
I had no idea.
Do you still feel that way, that there was a truly loving, respectful relationship between them? Sitting here today, I have no idea who Michael Peterson is.
None whatsoever.
He is Who he held himself out to be, and who he has turned out to be, no.
I have no idea who he is.
[automated voice] 10:17 a.
[man] Hello Mr.
Rudolf, this is Brent Wolgamott.
I'm the alleged male escort that was being talked about for the last couple days in the paper and on TV.
If you could give me a call back to talk to me, OK? Believe me, I am on nobody's side here, I'm not on the prosecution's side, I'm not I'm just, I'm trying to stay out of everything.
Call me back, please.
[automated voice] End of message.
- [Michael] Hey, David.
- [David] Hey, how are you? - [Michael] OK, sir.
- So yesterday morning I went to Raleigh, and met with Brad.
Brad Oh, Brad! OK.
- "Soldier Top.
" - Yeah.
- Yes.
- OK.
Um Brad is very freaked out.
I'll bet the hell he is.
What he's hoping is that we can convince You know, he wants us to try to convince the DA not to call him.
I said, that's unlikely, but you know, it may be that the judge will find that it's not relevant and, uh, I think, you know, he's not gonna hurt us in any way.
The other issue is that other email exchange in late November.
You know which one I'm talking about? I would really have to go back and refresh my memory.
- OK, there's - I've never met that guy, never anything.
That's I just wanna make sure Absolutely not.
- Absolutely 100% not.
- OK.
OK, so whatever email exchange there was in November did not lead to any kind of personal meeting.
Absolutely not.
I mean, you understand that if it happened and I know about it, I can deal with it.
I haven't lied to you about one thing, because I know you'd get blindsided, and it would destroy me, and I'm not gonna take that risk, and you know that.
- OK.
I think I know that.
- Not a possibility.
I mean, I'm just asking the question.
I understand that, but I think I've been honest with you from day one.
- I underst - When you met me in the jail.
I didn't meet you in the jail.
I met you before you went to jail.
I mean when we talked about the trial.
That's correct.
And didn't keep me out of jail, by the way.
- That's right.
I'm sorry, Mike.
- [Michael laughing] I'm not even that concerned with the bisexuality as a general proposition.
What I'm concerned about are some of the emails that are just, um They're gonna turn people off to Mike.
Um They're completely irrelevant to the case, but they're not irrelevant to who Mike is, and whether a jury is gonna be willing to believe the worst about him.
[Tom] I would very much like to keep this stuff out.
It seems to me that this is really gonna taint some of the jurors' views of Mike.
Uh, so the question really is, what is What increases the likelihood of winning the motion? Well, I mean, clearly, there's a distinction between the live guys from 11 years ago, and the email.
There are distinctions, and I think we can make that distinction.
The easy argument is that people had sex with him before his marriage - is just totally irrelevant.
- Right.
We don't need to spend a bunch of time on that.
- If those were women, it'd be laughable.
- Right.
Uh, that Uh, the pornography and the fantasy or escort stuff isn't really related to infidelity.
Yeah, and I think your argument about sort of taking out the gay stuff and making it heterosexual, is exactly right.
And I think if they're smart, they'd do a couple things.
One is they say, "Well, in assessing the motive, you assess how much he loves her.
" I mean somebody, you know A motive is more believable if you actually aren't that committed to your wife, than if you are.
OK, but these emails don't show lack of commitment.
I think their position's gonna and, to play devil's advocate, is, anybody who's willing to spend money for sex out you know, during their marriage, a jury could decide that shows a lack of commitment to the marriage.
So you're telling me that if a man contacts a prostitute, never has sex with her, just contemplates it [Tom] Mm-hmm.
that that indicates a lack of commitment to the marriage? [Tom] I think a judge could find that a jury could make that conclusion, yes.
Such a lack of commitment that it's relevant to a murder charge? If one were to think about this, if those were women If Mr.
Peterson's only sexual orientation was heterosexual, and the State had located two prior girlfriends that he'd had some kind of physical relationship before his marriage, I don't think any court would think there's any relevance.
It would be ridiculous to suggest that that somehow reflects upon the state of your marriage, to the extent that it would be relevant to whether you would commit a murder years later.
So the only question then, is whether adding the layer that this was sex with other men somehow increases the relevance to the point that this Court should allow a jury to hear that testimony.
And I think it's clear that adding the layer of sexual orientation decreases its admissibility as opposed to increasing it, because if even only one juror starts looking at Mr.
Peterson differently, not because they think there's a connection to what happened to Kathleen, but they look at him and say, "Oh, my God, this guy's gay!" If he even one juror does that, Mr.
Peterson's been denied a fair trial.
Obviously, there are two main grounds where all these items, or most of these items, are relevant, obviously.
Number one, it goes to motive.
It does go to motive as to why this act may have been committed.
And number two, it goes specifically to rebut some issues that were raised in the defendant's opening statement.
Putting in information about the idyllic relationship that this couple had.
Well, this does not jibe with that kind of statement.
[judge] Why doesn't it jibe? [David] If it's an idyllic relationship, then why is he emailing somebody else to meet for sexual relations outside the marriage? You're talking about a potential love triangle type thing here, and I think, clearly, that's a motive for murder.
If it's not a motive for murder, then the entire soap industry dies, because that's what they base all their stories on.
Um [judge] That'd be OK.
- Yeah.
- [judge chuckles] You're talking about, specifically, emails with the person that has been identified as "Brad," - is that OK.
- Correct.
Yes, sir.
[judge] Now, Mr.
Maher says, there's no evidence that they actually had relations, or that they actually met.
I don't see anywhere in the law, either in the rules or in the case law, that says they actually have to meet for this to be a motive for murder.
Bottom line is he's looking for this outside the marriage.
All this stuff is on that computer.
She could easily have found out that night about what was going on.
Clearly, I think, a motive for murder.
Alright, counsel, um Mr.
Maher, I agree with the State's presentation.
The Court is gonna find that this evidence proffered by the State is relevant.
It goes to the issue of motive.
It also goes to attack the idyllic marriage that the defendant has set forth through his counsel in his opening statement.
Saacks, prepare an order [Freda Black] State your name, please.
- Brent Wolgamott.
- How old are you, sir? I'm 28 years old, ma'am.
Tell us, back in 2001, where were you living? I was living in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
- Doing what? - I was an active-duty soldier in the United States Army.
I did live off post, though.
During this time period back in 2001, um did you have a website? My image and information about me was on a website.
- Yes, ma'am.
- A website.
And what was the purpose of that website? It was a male-for-male escort review site.
[Freda] OK, tell us please, when you say a male-for-male escort site, what types of services did you perform? Basically, it's companionship for other males of legal age.
- And does that involve sexual activities? - Sometimes it does.
OK, what types of sexual activities, sir? Oh, just about anything under the sun.
[chuckles] Um, I mean, I don't know exactly how much the Court wants me to go into detail, but [judge] The Court just wants you to answer the question.
[Brent] That's my answer.
[chuckles] [Freda] Just about anything under the sun? - Yes, ma'am.
- OK.
Safely, I might add.
[Freda] Now, do you remember when you were contacted - by a person with the name "MPWriter"? - [Brent] Yes, ma'am.
[Freda] Approximately when would that have been? [Brent] I believe it was in August of 2001.
Did you all discuss anything other than just trying to get to know each other? Basically the same as many other clients who'd contact me.
They want to be safe, so they want to get to know me to make sure that I'm a straight "straight guy.
" OK, well, what was that mean? Well, I'm not a gangster, somebody who's gonna rob them.
I'm a clean-cut professional they're gonna have a good time with.
Look at 170-A.
- Do you recognize that? - Yes, I'm the man in the middle.
OK, and now, do you know how this photograph might have come into Mr.
Peterson's possession, then? - I would have had to send it to him.
- OK.
During the course of your conversations with Mr.
Peterson, whether it be by phone or by computer, um did he ever mention his wife? I believe he did.
Yes, ma'am.
Now, did you all have any type of communication about how was you all were going to hook up together without his wife knowing it? - [David] I object to that.
- Or whether his wife would know? [judge] Overruled.
I don't remember any discussions about whether his wife would or would not know.
I mean, it may be in the emails, but I do not recall that.
Um, we were to hook up, I believe, on September 5th, 2001.
Tell us, please, um did you all actually discuss what you were gonna do when you were to get together on September 5th of 2001? - Yes, ma'am.
- What were you all planning on doing? Uh, having sex.
What type of sex, sir? - Uh [stammers] - Do you know? Can I say it? I guess, anal sex.
Did you get together with him on September 5th, 2001? - No, ma'am.
- Well, what happened? The only reason I was coming up to Durham was because I was leaving on a flight the next morning to Palm Springs on September 6th.
I had a very long day, and when I got up there that night, I just said, "You know what? I'll talk to him when I come back.
I'm just tired and I wanna go to Palm Springs," so I didn't go.
Was that an unusual occurrence for you to have, or plan to have sexual relations with married men? To the contrary, married men are in the majority of most of the clients I saw - when I was an escort.
- With regard to the kinds of men that you tended to have escort relationships with, can you give us some indication of their professions, for example? Sure.
Usually they are professionals, because my fees were quite high.
Um I saw doctors, attorneys uh one judge.
[laughter] [judge] It was not this judge.
[laughter] [David] I think we can stipulate to that.
Is Is it Is it fair to say that the men who you would see were bisexual, as opposed to being homosexual? In my opinion, I would go so far as to even say that they were predominantly straight - with minor homosexual tendencies.
- Alright.
And did a number of the married men who you had sexual relations with have wives who knew they were bisexual? Most of them did, from my experience.
In your experience, was it unusual for a wife married to a bisexual man - to know that he was bisexual? - Not at all.
Did Michael Peterson ever do or say anything, either on the phone or in an email, that indicated that he was not in love with Kathleen Peterson? To the contrary, in his emails, unlike most of my clients, he indicated that he had a great relationship.
Most clients don't want to say anything about their relationship.
He indicated he had a warm relationship with his wife, and nothing would ever destroy that.
Sir do you know anything about the death of Kathleen Peterson? I know diddly.
Diddly! [man 1] "Brad, we talked on the phone yesterday, and I checked out the website you gave me.
" [man 2] "I would like to get together with you.
Daytime is best for me.
I was in the Marines" [woman] "Love to fuck, never been fucked, and not sure I'm interested.
I've never done escort, but used to pay to fuck a super macho guy who played lacrosse at NC State.
" [man 1] "Mike, I really enjoyed your email.
You sound very cool, and it is rare that I find a client who wants my ass.
" [woman] "Brad, obviously, I'm not looking for a relationship, and neither are you.
" [man 2] "Mike, I am coming up there Wednesday night, because I have to be on a plane at 6:00 a.
You got a big dick, guy? Just wondering.
" [woman] "Brad, evenings are not great for me anyway.
I'm married, very happily married, with a dynamite wife.
Yes, I know, I know.
I'm very bi, and that's all there is to it.
" [reporter] The question about the bisexuality, I don't know.
Is that probative or is that inflammatory? I tend to think that the jury's gonna look at that Yeah, I think that what it does is show the jury this was not a happy marriage.
In fact, it was far from a happy marriage when you are attempting to pay for sex with a hooker.
So this idyllic relationship that Mr.
Rudolf portrayed is simply not true.
But the good thing about how disgusting the media is, is that when it's over, it's over.
Nobody cares.
- It's, I mean - [woman] There's a new story.
Yeah, there's a new story, nobody cares anymore.
- [woman] And new lies.
- Yeah, exactly.
I could commit a crime to take the attention off you guys.
- "Martha's best friend turns killer.
" - [women giggling] - Just kidding.
- Oh, my God.
[woman] Did you know? Hi.
[chuckles] - [women laugh] - [Michael muttering] Maybe my puppy shouldn't hear this either.
Come on, baby.
Come over here.
- Come over here.
- [Margaret] Bye, Portia.
[women chuckling] [Michael speaks indistinctly to Portia] [softly] Were you shocked that he was bisexual? - No, we already knew.
- Oh, you did? Well Yeah, after Mom died, when, um Dad was in jail, we were going for the bond hearing, and Caitlin was gonna talk, and so they were You know, they were like, worried, because they had found all the pornography.
And so Rudolf was worried about Caitlin going up onto the stand and being surprised at the whole bisexuality thing, and so they told us, you know, and I remember, Todd was the one He sat me down, he's like, "Margaret, I just need to tell you, Dad's bisexual," and I was like, "OK.
That's fine.
" You know, and it was one of those things, he was like, "No, he's bisexual.
" And I was like, "OK, that makes sense.
Like, is there anything else?" You know, "Is there something more important that you wanted to tell me?" He was like, "No.
Are you OK with that?" I was like, "Yeah, it doesn't matter.
I don't care.
" You know.
It was just one of those things that I mean, we already knew, and so what? [woman] It was not a big deal.
I don't, I He's so strong.
You know, he's I They're bringing everything, like, the deepest darkest secrets of him out and putting them on display in the nation and making a mockery of him and Well, can you imagine? They could take your whole life as of right now, take everything you've ever done out of context, and blow it up on a huge poster.
You know, and bring in people to talk about it, and have experts talk about it, and it's disgusting.
I mean, they could do that to anyone.
You can't judge someone by what the the media points out as their shortcomings, you know? No.
[Candace] You know what Craig Jarvis from the N&O told me today? He said when he was trying to figure out the cost of the trial, he got the impression it was Michael just pays a flat fee.
It's not by the hour, and I didn't quite understand We can ask our host that tonight, if she knows how that works.
I don't know if it's a flat fee for just the trial part, or a flat fee for the whole murder case.
Well, I don't see how they could do that, because they didn't know they were gonna end up going to Germany twice.
- I mean, talk about a - I don't know, I'll have to unusual, unpredictable expense.
'Cause I'm sure Michael didn't say, "By the way, something happened in Germany you might have to defend me about.
" "Oh, and by the way, I'm gay, and there's another dead woman, and" Yeah.
- There's the cemetery.
- Yep.
We're doing this for you, Kathleen.
Doing this for you.
Um This is, obviously, the headstone, and Lori, you said she goes this way, right? - No.
- No.
- Her head is here, feet are there.
- Her head is here, feet down there.
So this is where she is and that's it, but I'd kind of like Depending what you suggest, I don't know.
What do you suggest? What I could do is maybe draw up a sketch and give you an idea what the plannings would be.
You know, we're here now, but once the trial is over, I mean, we'll be coming some, but not all the time, to tend it.
The only thing I can share with you is my my sister loved roses, and But I don't know if you have a breed that can make it without a lot of tending.
There are some.
There's a variety called "Care-free" that may not need as much spraying and maintenance has the normal ones.
Um, I don't know if it'd get enough sun underneath this big oak tree.
- That's kind of tough.
- Yeah.
I don't know, maybe we can do something something there, and then, you know, like this, like a U-shape, some kind of thing.
I don't know if there are any good perennials.
I was thinking of bleeding hearts, but uh [Candace chuckles] If we agree on this, how soon can you do it? Probably within the next week or so.
It's not a huge job, but I've got enough guys that I could do that.
Well, I didn't want "Peterson" on there, but nobody would listen to me, so Well, what's done is done.
[Candace] OK.
She was happy when she married him.
[wind chimes tinkling nearby] Mr.
[Saacks] Your Honor, obviously we believe that this evidence is clearly relevant, and clearly should be admissible.
In a lot of ways even giving the defendant the benefit of the doubt, saying he had nothing to do with this, this evidence would still be admissible simply as relevant circumstantial evidence.
Even if this was an accident over in Germany in 1985, he has seen this scene, and seen what an accident may have looked like, knowing what a model using it as a model, or a blueprint, so to speak, um, when this case is committed now, in 2001.
When you look at the similarities between the two, they are striking.
Obviously, the most striking thing about it, is that we have here, now, this defendant who's involved in a case where two women are found the bottom of a stairway, dead.
There's large amounts of blood present.
There's spatter high up on the wall next to the stairway.
The blood's dry on the wall.
There's small spray patterns of blood that are identified on the wall.
Both of the victims, obviously, are female and had close personal relationships with the defendant.
They're both in their mid-40s when this occurred.
They actually look alike.
The physical similarities between the two are amazing, and they're both later determined to be homicides, after a subsequent autopsy, by blunt-force trauma.
Scalp lacerations, and how coincidental is that, that it's the same number of scalp lacerations on each of them? And both severe, down to the skull.
Um, the presence of defensive wounds on the bodies.
The defendant was the last person to see them alive.
The defendant is on the scene when the authorities arrive each time, and he reports both to authorities and to others, to friends and people who come, that each of these persons died by falling down the stairs.
So what we've got here on the bottom line, is the detectives who came to the house saw nothing suspicious, and this was before any clean up.
Steve Lyons, the Army agent who came to the house, saw nothing suspicious.
The German doctor who came to the house saw nothing suspicious.
There was no evidence that Mrs.
Ratliff had any personal relationship with Michael Peterson or anybody else that would have provided a motive for murder, and there was no financial gain.
In fact, he ended up raising two children to adulthood.
Uh, the initial estate was worth about $35,000, including pine trees in Australia.
Uh, and from all of that, you have a situation where there, in essence, is no substantial evidence from which of jury can reasonably find that Michael Peterson was responsible for the death of Elizabeth Ratliff.
Anything else? No, Your Honor.
Alright, then.
Thank you, counsel.
The Court does agree with the State, Mr.
Saacks, that the evidence of Mrs.
Ratliff's death is admissible under 402 and 404B.
State's motion is allowed.
The defendant's is denied.
And the prosecutors are going to try to tell this jury that Michael Peterson was responsible for that woman's death, and was responsible for Kathleen Peterson's death, and they're gonna say both women died in a similar way at the bottom of a staircase.
Now, another note, ironic on the bottom of all this, is that the two daughters that were adopted by Michael Peterson were the daughters of Elizabeth Ratliff, that woman that died 18 years ago in Germany.
They were raised by Michael Peterson, raised as his own daughters, and they refer to him as "Dad," and as I told you before, those two girls, who are now grown up and in their 20s, are supporting Michael Peterson.
So while prosecutors on the one hand say Michael Peterson is responsible for killing their biological mother, and for killing their stepmother, who was helping to raise them, they are saying no.
[judge] Alright, Mr.
Hardin, is there further evidence? [Freda] On the morning of November 25th, - did you go to Miss Ratliff's house? - Yes, I did.
- And how did you arrive there? - I arrived by taxi.
So after you actually put the key in the door and opened the door, what happened next? Oh, I see all the lights are on, and I see this body lying there.
[Freda] Did you see blood? - [Barbara] Oh, yes.
- Where did you see blood? All the stairway, up the stairway, there was blood.
Liz was lying in a pool of blood.
Can you recall where, if anywhere, you saw blood on her? I don't remember.
I'm sure I did really look at her, but I don't remember if she was where blood was on her.
It was just everywhere.
[Freda] What next did you do? - [Barbara] I ran to the Peterson house.
- What happened? I told Patty that something terrible had happened.
They have to come.
Did you see Michael Peterson at that time? As I was talking to Patty, he came to the top of the stairs.
Was he dressed or not? He was No, he wasn't dressed.
He was in his t-shirt and boxer shorts.
[Freda] What next did you do? - [Barbara] Michael came running over.
- [Freda] And what did you do? [Barbara] I ran up the stairs to see if the babies were OK.
[Freda] And when you went up there, what did you find concerning the children? - [Barbara] The babies were still asleep.
- [Freda] So what did you do? [Barbara] I wanted to go in the toilet and vomit.
What happened next? I was in the toilet, and Michael came upstairs, and he's telling me to get a sheet, to get a blanket, and I says, "Why?" and he says he wanted to cover Liz up, and he said she was dead, and I says, "No I felt her.
She's warm," and he says, "She's not warm, Barbara," and he took me by the arms, and he said, "She's not warm.
She's dead.
The warmth comes from the floor heating.
" [Freda] What then did you do? [woman] I walked in the door, I saw Michael in the corner, and he was standing like this.
And then I turned and I looked at Patty, and Patty was really slumped over, staring into space.
She was really in bad shape.
[Freda] What then did you do? I asked what had happened, and I looked around, there was a lot of blood on the floor.
And I looked up the walls, and there was a lot of blood on the walls.
Now, Liz was covered.
I couldn't see her.
There was a coat.
I think it was a coat, over her.
And I couldn't see even her head, but her hair was like, down over her face, like this.
Alright, now you say you inquired as to what had happened, and did anyone give you any information at that time? [Amybeth] Michael said that she had a brain aneurysm.
She had had this, um, and that she must have fallen down the stairs.
What is the next thing that you remember happening? I saw a bloody footprint down the bottom of the stairs, and I said, "This is a crime scene, and somebody needs to investigate it, so please don't walk up the stairs.
" Did anybody make any comment to what you had said? Barbara said, "That's my footprint.
That's when I went to get Martha.
Martha, baby, and Gigi, and I carried them out.
" So what happened then? [woman] Well, there was a lot of commotion.
Barbara was hysterical, the nanny was hysterical.
She was shaking, visibly shaking, she was very loud, crying, sobbing.
I think I was crying and sobbing, I think I think a lot of people were crying and sobbing.
While you were there in her home, did you notice any blood? There was blood all the way down the wall that is adjacent to the staircase.
There was blood over on the wall on the other side of the foyer, and there was blood, on a little, this size, of the wall over on the foyer, too.
While the investigators were there, was the blood still on the wall? The blood was there until we moved Liz into the side bedroom.
[Freda] And who was cleaning the blood? In my memory, I am sure that Tom and I cleaned the blood off the walls.
[Freda] And over what period of time did you clean it? [Cheryl] It seems like we cleaned blood most of the day.
You know, Rosemary, I've said many, many times, there is no coincidence in criminal law.
And I'm just wondering how Todd and the other two Ratliff girls don't see these similarities.
Maybe they don't want to see the similarities, Rosemary.
I believe they don't want to see the similarities.
They can't believe that the person they've known since they were babies, and has raised them it just is not possible.
It happened to my sister in 1985, and the same thing happened to Kathleen in 2001.
It was - Oh boy, is she fucking - unheard of.
They were murdered.
- Rosemary - And I have seen, personally, Michael Peterson's fury, which is scary.
It really scared me into not wanting to go down there again.
Two times in my whole life I've seen that stupid woman, and she says I have a terrible temper.
It's just awful.
Yeah, here it is.
And Caitlin, yes, vicious temper.
[growls] Temper - [growling] - [laughs] Stop! - [phone rings] - Oh, shit.
[Michael clearing throat] Hey, Bill? Yeah.
Well, no, they're gonna lose the case for a lot of reasons.
Like, duh, I didn't do anything.
Number two, there's no murder weapon.
Number three, there's no motive.
Jesus! Oh, OK.
Oh, you know what? That's another one.
Rosemary You know how many times I've seen Rosemary in my whole life? Twice.
Once 15 years ago, and then one time she came down for Margaret's graduation.
That was it.
Oh, yeah.
Well, as I always caution you, never underestimate anybody.
It's a good way to lose football games and wars.
I don't know.
I just, I found myself a couple times like, sitting up straighter in court when people were talking about my dad, and I'll just, I'll be really, like, indignant, I'll just I'll be like, "This is my father you're talking about," you know? Like, I have a lot of pride in him.
This is our family you're talking about, and the fact that I know he's innocent and the fact that like, hopefully, people can see it through me, you know? People can see it in me that he is innocent, and I don't know, I think I think that helps, sometimes, to get through it.
[Margaret] You know, the DA is trying to say, basically, that our dad killed our birth mother and our mother.
But where are we sitting? We're sitting behind our dad.
[Tom] Now, shortly before she died, I think it was a Thursday of the week before Thanksgiving, you talked with Liz and she talked about suffering severe headaches? She came to my room about three o'clock on that Thursday, and she was pale, she looked bad.
And she held her head like this, and she said I said I asked her what was wrong, and she said she just had the most severe headache, and that she did make an appointment to go to the medical facility, and that she had an appointment on Tuesday.
- [Tom] The following week.
- Yes.
[Tom] So she never got to see a doctor about the severe headaches.
[Tom] Now, your husband, what was his rank in the military at the time? Uh, I believe he was a major at that point.
I'm not sure if he was promoted.
He never went up to any of the authorities and said, "We're concerned that this is a crime scene," did he? No, because he was very concerned about it, and he was waiting to see what they would say.
His example to me was, if I was flying a plane, and someone reported a fire on it, would you trust me to put out the fire? Would you trust my expertise to put out the fire? And he trusted their expertise that day.
Ma'am, if you were on a plane and there was fire, and it continued to burn and nobody did anything, at some point, you would say something, wouldn't you? I would be waiting for a day that I could put the fire out, and I guess that's why I'm here today, to help put the fire out.
- And this is 18 years later? - Yes.
They have telephones in Germany, don't they? Yes, they do.
Uh, and you could have called somebody the next day.
It's a scary thing to go to the police and say, "I think that there's foul play here.
" In fact, during all of 1985, - you didn't call anybody.
- No.
Uh No, we've had to live with this all these years.
The first time you actually ever gave a statement about these events to anybody in authority was in the year 2002.
That's correct.
And you actually wrote out a statement to Detective Holland? - Uh, yes.
- OK.
And this statement contained all the significant memories you had about how Elizabeth Ratliff died, and Michael Peterson's involvement in that, correct? It contained every significant thing that I could remember at that time, until I began to remember more things.
Well, let's go through what you could remember when you wrote to Detective Holland.
Nowhere in this statement did you say that Michael Peterson said anything about there being a cerebral hemorrhage before the German police arrived.
- Did you? - No.
In fact, although you knew the statement was about Michael Peterson, an investigation on Michael Peterson, you didn't say anything about him at all, did you? - No.
- Didn't even mention his name.
I didn't.
Didn't mention this bloody footprint that you now recall.
You talk about the fact that Miss O'Hara, and that's Miss Malagnino, summoned you.
Uh, she was frantic at that point? [Amybeth] She was upset.
"Come quick.
" [Tom] By the way, the girls It says the two girls were still in bed.
- [Amybeth] Yes.
- That's Margaret and Martha? They didn't stay there the whole time.
No, Barbara had removed them.
I didn't remember that until later when I saw the footprint.
When I remembered seeing the bloody footprint on the stairs, then I remembered that she had gone upstairs and taken them away.
That was one of my flashbacks.
So, flashbacks? Have you been having flashbacks? Uh, flashbacks of the scenes in short pictures.
Flashbacks come as short memories, very short memories.
You arrived in Durham a week or so ago? - Uh almost two weeks ago.
- OK.
And you've been in contact with other witnesses? Uh, I've seen other witnesses, that's correct.
And just seeing people has caused you to have flashbacks of new memories that you didn't have in March of 2002.
Hearing their voices has brought back some memories.
The messages, the images are very, very vivid.
Some of them are in color.
The things you've been testifying today, that you didn't write in March of 2002, are the result of these flashbacks, correct? A lot of memories came before I even arrived here.
And those were also flashbacks? Yes.
I don't know if this is I don't know if this is ours or your mother's.
Uh Porcelaine de Paris.
I don't know.
I mean, it's been I have no idea.
[Margaret] Can I take one of the pie plates to school? Yeah.
We have, like, ten of them.
I like the blue one better.
Yeah, I don't think this was your mother's.
That's too ugly to be your mother's.
I don't think that one I believe Yeah, this was your mother's, because there used to be a Rosenthal outlet hmm, not far from where we lived.
And your mother would go and buy an odd piece You know, seconds, or every now and then, a piece of a Rosenthal.
This was one.
There are a couple of them, but over the years, half of them have been broken or lost or something.
But literally anything that Oh, this would be hers, yeah.
This is a Rosen I'm sure Yeah.
Anything that says "Rosenthal" - [Margaret] Was our birth mom's.
- Is your mother's.
I was with her when she bought it, sometimes we'd go buy it, but she bought 'em all.
So if you go through, if it says "Rosenthal," it's, uh [Margaret] So we know what not to break.
[Michael] How about not breaking anything? I'm just joking.
Yeah, one of your favorite things to do, after dinner, would be walk us around the house and show us everything that was gonna be ours.
I mean, you always did that.
We always knew.
People are just ignorant, that's all.
Oh, Martha.
Is Portia gonna Porsh? Where Portia! Portia! Look at you, baby.
You're so sweet.
You know how everyone in Germany is saying that they cleaned up so much blood? And didn't your dad say there was no blood? - Well, there's a The CID agent - What? who went, who came after the scene, he wrote a report, and it said that - The only blood was under her head.
- Yeah.
[woman] Just where she was had hit her head.
- And so - And so, are they making that up? I don't know.
It's hard to tell.
- I mean, maybe they did have to - That's just so If she had seven lacerations, - they had to clean up blood, right? - And she had a bleeding disorder.
- Right, the hemorrhage.
- Yeah.
Maybe there was more blood than people want to remember, but the bottom line is, I just don't care, like it happened 18 years ago, and our dad had nothing to do with it, and there's nothing that they've said that ties Dad to anything negative, so it doesn't make any sense.
- [woman] Right.
- So, yeah.
- It just pisses me off.
- But it still feels like a big deal, because I mean, saying that there's that much blood it makes it similar to our step-mom, and so Not really our step-mom.
Well, I mean To Mom.
To Mom, yeah, and I don't know.
Oh, my God.
Did you have the occasion to become involved with the autopsy of Elizabeth Ratliff? - Yes, I did.
- Do you have an opinion as to her cause of death? - Yes, I do.
- What is that opinion? In my opinion, the cause of death of Mrs.
Ratliff was blunt trauma of the head.
Do you also have an opinion as to the manner of Miss Ratliff's death? - In my opinion - [David] Objection.
- [judge] Overruled.
- In my opinion, the manner of death, in Mrs.
Ratliff's case, was homicide.
[Jim] Alright.
When I think about Elizabeth Ratliff's death, the question that strikes me as the most important one is, when did she die? And no one has really addressed that.
Uh, Deborah Radisch, apparently, hasn't even thought about that issue.
Uh, but if she died at 11:00 p.
at night, which is what the State would have you believe, we know as a matter of science, that by eight o'clock the next morning, when her body was found, uh, it would have substantial signs of rigor mortis.
It would be stiff.
And people don't forget that, when you move a body that's stiff.
You remember that.
You can't do a spinal tap very easily on a body that's in full rigor mortis, or even substantial rigor mortis.
So we know that she wasn't in rigor mortis.
We know that she couldn't have died at 11 o'clock at night.
Barbara Malagnino told us that her body was still warm to the touch.
And so the physical evidence is much more consistent with her having died sometime that morning, uh, than when the State said she died, uh, late in the evening the night before.
[David] One of the things that forensic pathologists sometimes do is to determine a time of death.
- Yes.
- Rigor mortis, or rigor mortis, is something that medical examiners use to at least get an estimate of time of death, right? Yes, generally, a rough estimate.
That would be correct.
And rule of thumb is, it develops pretty much over about a 12-hour period, - give or take some time.
- Yes.
And it remain And when we're talking about rigor, we're talking about stiffness - to the touch, right? - Yes.
You know, if somebody's found on a step in a particular position, and rigor has started, you take them off the step, they're still gonna be in that position.
That's correct.
And so, for example, if someone died at 11:00 p.
, one would expect by 8:00 or 9:00 or 10:00 the next morning, certainly by 11 o'clock the next morning, to see some significant rigor.
Right? Yes.
And do you know whether or not anyone who was with Elizabeth Ratliff's body that morning from 8:00 a.
till say, 12 noon, when her body was moved into the next room, do you know whether anyone reported any kind of rigor? No, I don't know if anyone made that observation.
And you know, do you not, that Michael Peterson was at home with his then-wife Patty when Elizabeth Ratliff's body was found? Are you aware of that? No, I don't know.
That's all I have.
Thank you, Doctor.
Your Honor, the State of North Carolina does not intend to call additional witnesses, and with that, the State of North Carolina would rest its case in chief at this time.
Rudolf, will there be evidence for the defendant? [David] I'm not sure, Your Honor.
We'll make a decision about that tonight, and if there is evidence, we'll certainly be prepared to go forward on Monday morning.
[judge] We will see you Monday morning at 9:30.
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