Where Are Michael Peterson's Kids Now? They Are Certain Of Their Father's Innocence
Michael and Kathleen Peterson had five children between them: Michael's two sons with his first wife, his two adopted daughters, and Kathleen's daughter from her first marriage. The family was torn apart by Kathleen's sudden death and Michael's subsequent conviction for her murder, but where are Michael Peterson's kids now? (Romper reached out to Michael Peterson's representatives and Netflix for additional statements.)
Understandably, nearly all of Michael's children seem to avoid the spotlight, though they have spoken from time to time about the crime that rocked their family in 2001. With Netflix's continuation of The Staircase premiering on June 8, all of the details of Kathleen's death will be brought up yet again, years after the fact. Michael's children appear in the docuseries, and it's hard not to wonder what direction their lives have taken since the event that impacted their family so profoundly.
Clayton and Todd Peterson are Michael's two sons from his first marriage to Patricia Sue Peterson, while Margaret and Martha Ratliff are the daughters he adopted after their mother, his good friend Elizabeth Ratliff, died under suspicious circumstances. Caitlin Atwater is Kathleen's daughter with her first husband, Fred Atwater. With the exception of Atwater, all of the children support Michael and believe that Kathleen's death was accidental.
According to ABC News, after seeing autopsy photographs of Kathleen during Michael's trial, Atwater became convinced that her mother was beaten to death, an opinion that severed her relationship with her siblings. She went on to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Michael, for which she was awarded $25 million. After college, she moved away from Durham, North Carolina (where the Petersons lived) to an undisclosed location, where she lives with her husband and children. In 2017, she told IndyWeek that her mom was still on her mind and still inspiring her. According to Atwater:
I've tried to be the person I think I would have been if she were here. And hopefully that's a part of her legacy I can pass on to my own kids.
Atwater's siblings have also moved to different places around the country. The News & Observer reported that Clayton lives in Maryland with his children, while his brother Todd resides in Tennessee. Martha relocated to Colorado while Margaret moved to California. Those details were provided by Michael's defense attorney, David Rudolf, who declined to say more. It's understandable that the family would prefer to maintain as much privacy as possible considering how much scrutiny they've been under for decades.
But they have discussed the case before. In 2016, Clay talked to the News & Observer while attending court proceedings to support his dad, remarking that the case had "gone on forever." He said that he would like a just outcome but had no expectations or belief that that was possible, despite insisting on his father's innocence. Not long after, Michael was released on a plea deal that confirmed his guilt, but on a lesser charge: instead of first degree murder he pled guilty to manslaughter and was released on time served.
Margaret and Martha were also certain that Michael was not guilty, even though he was a person of interest in the death of their biological mother. Elizabeth Ratliff's death bore a striking similarity to Kathleen's, which was something that emerged during the first trial in 2003. Both women were struck in the head and found at the bottom of the stairs in a seemingly-accidental death. However, Margaret told ABC News that regardless of that, she was on her father's side. "The bottom line is I just don't care," she said. "It happened 18 years ago, and our dad had nothing to do with it."
It seems like Michael Peterson's children have tried to move on as best they could, though it is surely difficult in a situation like this one.