Kathleen Peterson was killed in her North Carolina home in 2001. Her husband, author Michael Peterson, found her at the bottom of a staircase. When he called 911, he reported that she had fallen. An autopsy concluded that Kathleen had died from blows from a blunt object. In 2003, Michael Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Michael Peterson has maintained his innocence.
In 2009, a neighbor of the Petersons, attorney T. Lawrence Pollard, suggested the possibility of Kathleen being attacked by an owl outside causing her to rush inside the house and to hit her head causing her to fall down the stairs. Pollard came to the theory based on an owl feather found in a clump of her hair as listed in the SBI crime lab. Kate P. Davis, executive director of Raptors of the Rockies, supported the theory in a written affadavit: “The lacerations on Mrs. Peterson’s scalp look very much like those made by a raptor’s talons, especially if she had forcibly torn the bird from the back of her head. That would explain the feathers found in her hand and the many hairs pulled out by the root ball, broken or cut. The size and configuration of the lacerations could certainly indicate the feet of a Barred Owl.” In 2012, Mike Peterson was granted a new trial, which he is currently awaiting. Dateline NBC will air its investigative report on March 19 at 8pm.
Update — In February 2017, Michael Peterson entered an Alford plea to the reduced charge of manslaughter. He was sentenced to time already served and freed.