The Staircase: What is the owl theory?

The Staircase: What is the owl theory?

05/05/2022

THE DEATH of businesswoman Kathleen Peterson earned several headlines in the media.

With the premiere of HBO Max's The Staircase, theories are circulating among true crime sleuths that claim Kathleen met her demise due to an owl attack.

What is the owl theory in Kathleen Peterson's death?

On October 10, 2003, Michael Peterson was convicted of the first-degree murder of his wife, Kathleen Peterson.

He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In the aftermath of Michael's trial, his neighbor Larry Pollard raised the question of other suspects.

Larry claimed to outlets that it was an owl that attacked Kathleen and caused her death.

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The Peterson neighbor said to WRAL: "These birds have been in and around this neighborhood for years."

"We never thought of them harming anyone until this case came up."

He further shared: "What we've been trying to find out is whether or not one of these birds struck Mrs. Peterson outside of her residence on that fateful night back in 2001."

"The reason I looked into it initially is that being a lawyer here in town, I was interested in the case."

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"The first thing to jump off the page to me was it said the wounds were tri-ponged lacerations."

Larry also detailed how the wounds on Kathleen's neck, ear, body, and eyes were all similar in measurement.

"I felt it was very unusual that she would get that many puncture wounds from an instrument with that precise kind of measurement."

"It made me curious. I thought they looked very similar to turkey tracks. But a turkey couldn't do this."

He added: "How could a bird have done this? But I was fairly interested to see if it was possible."

Michael's lawyer David Rudolf considered the possibility of Kathleen's death being the result of an owl attack.

David told Vulture: "The first time it ever crossed my consciousness was a day or two before I was getting ready to give my closing argument."

"Even if I was willing to come in after six months of saying it was a fall and say, ‘Sorry folks, it wasn’t a fall, it was an owl that first caused these wounds,’ I couldn’t do that because in the closing argument, you’re limited to evidence that’s been presented at trial."

The lawyer further recalled: "The feather that was in her hand, I just didn’t focus on that. I figured it was from a down comforter."

"I take full responsibility for not having thought of that."

"I give Larry Pollard credit for coming up with it. I wish he had realized it six months earlier."

The owl theory was not used as evidence to overturn the original verdict.

Although, a judge granted Michael another trial in 2011 due to a misleading testimony from a prosecution witness.

Where is Michael Peterson now?

On February 24, 2017, Michael Peterson's first-degree murder conviction was reduced to a charge of manslaughter.

Following the reduction of the initial charge, Michael was set free.

In order to avoid another trial and be granted freedom, he accepted an Alford plea based on the time served.

An Alford plea is when a defendant acknowledges that there's enough evidence to convict them at trial, but doesn't plead guilty to the crime, and in fact, asserts innocence.

Michael resides in Durham, North Carolina, and sold the house where Kathleen's death took place.

While in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2019, his former attorney David Rudolf mentioned to the audience at CrimeCon: "He’s in a ground floor apartment with no stairs — that was a really important accommodation."

How can I watch HBO Max's The Staircase?

Michael's trial and Kathleen's death are chronicled in the 2022 crime drama, The Staircase.

Debuting on Thursday, May 5, The Staircase is exclusively available through an HBO Max subscription.

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In the UK, the series will be available to subscribers of Sky or Now TV.

Colin Firth portrays Michael, while Kathleen is played by Toni Collette.

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