Where is Michael Peterson – of HBO Max's latest true crime drama, The Staircase – now?

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Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

If you're thoroughly obsessed with HBO Max's latest true crime drama, The Staircase, then you're not alone. Like us, viewers have been enthralled by the new series, which explores the tragic 2001 death of Kathleen Peterson and the criminal trial that followed – with her husband, Michael Peterson, named the prime suspect in her death.

Despite only being a few episodes in, we're already wondering about what the real life people that the series is based on are up to now, more than two decades on from the death that gripped America.

With that in mind, we took a deep-dive into the true story behind The Staircase to ask: What happened to Michael Peterson, and where is he now?

Who is Michael Peterson?

To answer that question, let's recap what The Staircase is about. "Based on a true story, The Staircase explores the life of Michael Peterson, his sprawling North Carolina family and the suspicious death of his wife, Kathleen Peterson," explains the HBO synopsis.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

As for what that suspicious death was, in 2001 Michael (played by Colin Firth) found his wife Kathleen (played by Toni Collette) in a pool of her own blood at the bottom of their staircase. What ensued was a media circus, as Peterson was accused of murdering his wife, becoming the lead suspect in her death which ultimately divided the family's five children – his two sons from a previous marriage and two adopted daughters, as well as Kathleen's daughter from her previous marriage.

What happened to Michael Peterson?

After being named as the lead suspect in his wife's death, Peterson found himself at the centre of a highly-publicised criminal trial lasting three months – at the end of which, in 2003, he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

But, Peterson maintained his innocence and many theories about what lead to his wife's death began to circulate. Eventually, Peterson was granted a new trial after it came to light that a key witness for the prosecution had lied under oath.

After serving 89 months in prison, Peterson was placed on house arrest in 2011 whilst he awaited his retrial. Six years later, in 2017, he submitted an Alford Plea (meaning he admitted that the prosecution's evidence could prove he was guilty, however he did not admit to this guilt) and was freed.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Where is The Staircase's Michael Peterson now?

Following the ordeal, Peterson sold the house he owned with Kathleen – the site of her death – and moved into a ground floor apartment (with no staircase). In 2019 he self-published two books, Behind the Staircase and Beyond the Staircase, in which he tells his side of the story.

He is now 78 years old and completely free.

As for the family's children, Peterson's eldest son Clayton (who stood by his father throughout the trial) currently lives in Maryland with his two children. According to Newsweek he was reportedly sentenced to four years in prison after attempting to firebomb the Duke University Administration Building.

Peterson's second son, Todd (who was adamant that his step-mother's death was alcohol-related), currently lives in Tennessee.

Peterson's adopted daughters, Margaret and Martha, live in California and Colorado respectively, and are believed to still be in contact with him.

Caitlin (Kathleen's biological daughter) however, is no longer in contact with Peterson after serving as a key witness against him at trial. She is now married with twins and lives in Virginia.

Watch The Staircase on HBO Max and Now now.


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