Is Michael Peterson Married Now? Kathleen Was His Second Wife
Not long after Kathleen Peterson was found dead at the foot of the stairs in her home, her husband Michael was indicted and convicted for the crime. He was in prison for years, though he was granted a new trial and released in 2011. If you haven't finished (or started!) Netflix's The Staircase yet, then you may be wondering what his life is like these days. Is Michael Peterson married now? Has he remarried since the death of his wife? In short, the answer is no. (Romper reached out to Michael Peterson's representatives and Netflix for additional statements.)
Michael Peterson has been married twice, but hasn't married again since Kathleen's passing. His first wife was Patricia Sue Peterson. They were married in 1966 and welcomed four children: their two biological sons, Clayton and Todd, as well as two adopted daughters, Martha and Margaret Ratliff. Patricia and Michael separated in 1987, and Michael became introduced to Kathleen around the same time thanks to their children. NBC News reported that they were brought together when Michael's daughters became friends with Kathleen's daughter, Caitlin Atwater, who lived down the street in Durham, North Carolina. The couple was living together by 1989 and married nearly a decade later in 1997. According to Atwater, Kathleen told her, "This is going to be our family now."
Though their relationship was not without its disagreements, many people (including their children and neighbors) commented on how happy Michael and Kathleen seemed together, which is why what happened to Kathleen was all the more perplexing.
Throughout the investigation, Michael maintained his innocence and his affection for his late wife. The News & Observer reported that in Diane Fanning's book, Written in Blood, Peterson said, "Kathleen was my life. She is there, but I can't stop crying," though he was not crying at the time. That made it difficult for some people to comprehend how a seemingly-happy marriage could end in murder. As lawyer Nick Galifianakis told People shortly after Michael's arrest, "Everything you hear about them loving each other and belonging together is true. Where in the world is the motive for this?"
The prosecution speculated that there were several possible reasons. One was that the Petersons were having financial difficulties and Kathleen had a $1.5 million life insurance policy. Another potential motive was that Michael had affairs during their marriage that Kathleen may or may not have been privy to. In The Staircase, Michael said that Kathleen "took up his whole life" and fulfilled him emotionally -- but that he did have sexual relationships with men outside of the marriage. The defense claimed that Kathleen knew and was accepting of his extra-marital affairs even though they did not openly discuss it.
Kathleen's daughter did not believe that could be the case based on what she knew of her mother, telling Dateline, "from the way that I was raised, that's not something that she would have been willing to accept." The prosecution felt that if Michael's affairs had been kept secret and Kathleen discovered them, it could have led to disagreements between them. According to ABC News, the the assistant district attorney Freda Black said, "We believe that once she learned this information, that an argument ensued and a homicide occurred." But it's impossible to say whether Kathleen knew or not, because she's not here to confirm or deny it. Unfortunately for the family, that is one answer they will never get.
It doesn't seem as though Michael has had any known romantic relationships since his conviction. He is currently 74 years old, recently released after entering an Alford plea in 2017 that allowed him to plead guilty to manslaughter in the case of Kathleen's death while simultaneously continuing to proclaim his innocence. While he may be adjusting to life outside of prison again, he doesn't seem to be in a relationship with anyone. It also doesn't look as though Michael has plans to remarry, but if he does, those plans have not been made public.