Michael Peterson Credits His Freedom To 'Staircase' Doc Edited By His Lover
Michael Peterson was convicted of the 2001 murder of his wife, Kathleen Peterson, whose body was found at the foot of a staircase. Nevertheless, he is a free man today, having taken an Alford Plea in February 2017.
The Alford Plea means that, while he admits that another jury trial would be likely to find him guilty, he maintains his innocence. He still, officially, is on the record as a convicted felon, guilty of manslaughter — but was released on time served.
The French documentary about the case, The Staircase, was edited by Sophie Brunet. Just last week, director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, who worked on the documentary for 16 years, revealed that during filming, Brunet and Peterson fell in love. In fact, the couple carried on their romance for 15 years, only separating last May, reportedly because Peterson couldn’t commit to living in France full-time.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, Peterson opened up about this relationship with Brunet. While admitting that the Staircase documentary was “a very powerful instrument” in his conviction being overturned, he still defends the integrity of the film project. “I wouldn’t say that my relationship with Sophie, or its end, influenced any decisions as to what was included or excluded in any way positively or negatively,” Peterson claims.
Referring to his romantic relationship with the film’s editor, which “really took off” once he was released from prison, Peterson says, “It was a completely unexpected thing to come out of all of this.”
Although he insists that Brunet was impartial about the case with her work on the film, he does concede that he knew that she believed in his innocence. He remembers, “I was in prison and I got a letter from Sophie saying, ‘I just feel terrible about what happened — we all do because we think it was a terrible trial.'”
Director de Lestrade also defends Brunet, saying, “Life is really full of surprises. They had a real story, which lasted until May 2017. But she never let her own feelings affect the course of editing.”
Despite the defense of Brunet’s integrity, the Daily Mail isn’t so sure. The publication claims that their investigation “has uncovered a litany of damning evidence and history omitted from the final cut. What is left out calls into question the entire set up of an untroubled family and blissful marriage shattered by one tragic and inexplicable event.”
Among facts left out of the film, according to the Daily Mail, is the accurate time of Kathleen’s death and details from the autopsy report that indicate that Kathleen was severely beaten and strangled — not just that she took a spill down the stairs.
The publication also takes issue with the fact that the Staircase documentary, now viewable on Netflix, portrays the Peterson family as perfect and untroubled. But in reality, the eldest Peterson son, Clayton, served four years in prison for planting a bomb at Duke University — and six more bombs were found in the Peterson home.
Additionally, the film presents Peterson as not having anything to gain financially from the death of Kathleen. But the Daily Mail reveals that he submitted a claim on her $1.45 million life-insurance policy and, in fact, claims totaling close to $1.8 million were being considered while Peterson was on trial for murder.
Another scandalous contention is about Peterson’s bisexuality and his sexual affairs with men. While the defense argued that Kathleen was aware of her husband’s fluid sexuality and was cool with him seeing men, police believed that an altercation spurred by the topic might have been what led to her demise.
The Staircase film allegedly left out the fact that Peterson had attempted to run computer software that would scrub his email correspondence with male prostitutes from his computer’s hard drive.
The Daily Mail also reveals the information that Peterson, formerly a novelist, is working on a book about his wife’s death and his time in prison.
For more on Michael Peterson, watch Investigation Discovery’s An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase on ID GO now!