HBO Max is about to release a gripping new eight-part series called The Staircase based on the true story of Michael Peterson and the suspicious death of his second wife, Kathleen, who was found dead in the couple’s home in 2001. Find out what happened to the novelist after he was convicted of murdering his spouse in 2003. 

What Happened on the Evening of Kathleen’s Death?

Michael frantically called 911 on December 9, 2001, to report that he had found Kathleen lying lifelessly at the bottom of a staircase in their Durham, North Carolina, home. He told the phone operator she had fallen down. 

The Marine Corps veteran quickly became a prime suspect, and he was soon charged with killing Kathleen. During the trial in July 2003, prosecutors argued he bludgeoned her to death because she was discovered in a pool of blood and had blunt-force trauma, but he repeatedly claimed she fell. After being found guilty of first-degree murder, Michael was sentenced to life in prison without parole that year. 

Michael Peterson Trial
Bill Willcox/AP/Shutterstock

How Did He Get Released From Prison?

After eight years, Michael was granted a new trial in 2011 because the judge ruled a critical prosecution witness gave misleading testimony. In 2017, he entered an Alford plea to a charge of voluntary manslaughter. An Alford plea allows a defendant to maintain his or her innocence while acknowledging prosecutors have enough evidence for a conviction. He ultimately walked free with time served. 

Where Is Michael Peterson Now?

After getting released from prison, Peterson detailed his trial, time behind bars and new lease on life in two books, Behind the Staircase and Beyond the Staircase. The Peterson case was also examined in a French documentary titled The Staircase in 2004, many years before HBO’s limited series was announced.

The one-time Durham mayoral candidate has maintained his innocence since his release and currently lives in Durham, North Carolina, The Sun reports.

Michael Peterson
Bill Willcox/AP/Shutterstock

Who Is Starring in HBO’s The Staircase?

Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner will be playing Margaret Ratliff, one of his adopted daughters in the HBO Max series. The cast also includes Colin Firth (as Michael), Toni Collette (as Kathleen), Juliette Binoche, Rosemarie DeWitt and Parker Posey.

When Can You Watch The Staircase?

The series debuts on HBO Max on Thursday, May 5. The first three episodes will be released on that date, followed by the remaining five episodes airing weekly on the platform.

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