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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  July 6, 2019 12:00am-2:00am PDT

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government is doing. red cross is already been engaged. we're providing additional support with several thousand gallons cots and comfort kits. sheltering supplies and also bedding for individuals who may need that. fema is supported several thousand commodities as well that they are staging in edwards air force base. we will continue to meet the needs moving forward in the next 24 to 48 hours. >> we've been listening in to a news conference with state officials in california. military officials, fire and transportation officials all bringing us up-to-date on the damage following tonight's 7.1 magnitude earthquake and after shocks. kern county is the epicenter
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they're speaking now. frlds . >> we've had abundance of calls in to 911 so we will start to search and cessation for damage -- and cessation for damage assess for damage. we are in connection with county staff and as far as other operations we do have people come to work back from the stations and at the current moment we have adequate staffing and personnel addressing ridgecrest city. we've been experiencing new after shocks, nothing new reported, currently waiting to transition to the structural group search. that's what we have at this point. thank you. >> thank you very much chief mitchell now we'd like to give our attention to a subject matter expert. kin hidna from usgs to speak
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with us. >> just want to say first of all, i owe thanks to the navy base for allowing us access and to the city for their support, mayor, chief of police, we just had briefings as we came out of the field today, myself and january hernandez from geo lockical california surgery and able to do aerial reconnaissance of the surface structure. when earthquake happens we automatically locate and get that information to everybody immediately. we also then follow that up and in larger earthquakes like the 6.4 and now 7.1 we also look for fault surface rupture to confirm which fault the earthquake occurred on and will see pattern
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of after shocks and have a hunch where it is coming from. until we get eyes on it that's when we can confirm. today we were out looking on a previously mapped fault. we did find fault surface rupture out at the base on highway 178 where you had seen images from last night and also that rupture continues from that point on highway 178 it also continues to the northeast and southwe southwest. this is a somewhat a typical type of earthquake in southern california. we've seen this before though these are on what we call cross faults, faults against the grain of the main san andreas fault system which is reason from northwest to southeast through the state like a big diagonal cut. and then against it perpendicular to it are this other set of faults in some places, we call those cross
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faults. so what's typical is to have your bigger earthquakes on the faults that are oriented like the san andreas fault moving right laterally. what's left typical a cross fault structure that's lateral. so 6.4 occurred that rupture was on cross fault as well as portion of the main fault and now the 7.1 is on the main fault. we seen that main shock as just northwest of that intersection so know represent your went towards the northwest and also to the southeast. we have confirmed fault surface rupture farther to the east on 178. so we know that fault broke where we are seeing after shocks on it. tomorrow we will get in the air and look for new associations with the new main shock 7.1. that's about it. thank you. >> thank you very much. now we'd like to turn our
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attention to the city of ridgecrest mayor s for a briefing. >> thank you all for coming. i would like to say a few words to our own citizens, many of them have experienced something that is very traumatic, somewhat unknown to most of them, and many of them are sleeping outside tonight. i know that it is a difficult situation but they're fearful to be in their homes and we're offering surfaces as noted earlier. we have places for people to shelter here. many are choosing to just be with their neighbors, both in their sidewalks, in their driveways and some of them are in the streets. we're asking everyone to drive safely. be careful. watch for these people and understand that we are doing the very best we can. it is not an impossible task to
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take care of all of this. but it is going to be a longer task than we thought the other day. so i thank you all for coming. i appreciate the consideration that you're going to give to the citizens of our community. thank you. >> thank you, mayor breeden. we also have with us today kern county first district supervisor who will be speaking with us as well. >> thanks. thank you all for being here. special thanks to the first responders, all of them, that have performed so brilliantly in the past day or two. it's been a phenomenal experience to watch these guys and gals get together and work together and with such dedication and such devotion to helping this community out. i had a lot of conversations past cup. days. i talked with the white house. talked with scrumptiously feinstein. senator harris. i talked to the governor.
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everybody's fully engamged and trying to give as much support as possible. i toured the base. mccarthy and senators and everybody is engaged and we're all over this thing. we're looking affordable to its rapid conclusion soon as mother nature stops hounding us i guess, we'll put this to bed. thank you very much. >> thank you very much supervisor gleeson and as he mentioned we have representatives here as well from senator shannon grove's office. we have representatives from bakersfield city fire department. los angeles county fire department. so there are many resources pouring in to help this community. at this time we'd like to open it up to questions briefly before going to the break out ala the one-on-ones. >> what are we calling the epicenter we were on 178 when it
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hit. just felt the fizz your, felt the ground move, we went eight miles east and were about two miles to the town of trona and the ground shook. the hills came alive. were we on the ep seicenter' th ground broke where we were driving. is that a new fault? >> that's a long question. but in essence where was the epicentee epicenter asis that something w can state officially. >> ken with the usgs geo lonlge lonlical survey the information is updated continuously so people are checking the locations april that is updated through time and you notice the
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magnitude bounce around just a little that's just normal so the epicenter of the main shock 6.4 where intersects is about here. i don't know have a base name to give it right now. we're not going to call the name of the fault until we get eyes on that hopefully tomorrow beil confirm which -- we'll confirm which fault ruptures. information source, cal tech is the definitive seismic operator and we work in partnership with them in pasadena. the web side scsn.org southern california seismic network.org. earth earthquakes.usgs.gov. those maps allow to zoom in and
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zoom out and get satellite imagery. you can get all that information there. >> for all people listening in their homes tonight what reasonably can they expect in way of seismic activity in the last 12 to 18 hours what should they be anticipating or concerned about in that time. as technical as possible. >> i will give a quick sketch of the basics but point you in the direction of the official usgs aftershock forecast if you search on that you will find the details. basically for 7.1 people should be expecting at least one 6.1 magnitude or higher. and at least 10 5.1 magnitude or higher. we're getting plenty. i don't know know the detail stats how it matches up with expectation. but we will be also adjusting the official aftershock forecast as we go through this.
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>> chief, if you would, be based on the information you got from usgs what would you advise people to do and prepare in their homes and what they're doing to get through this next period with all of these shocks that probably will be coming in the next 12 to 18 hours. >> okay. so the question that's been posed is what is the safety message for the residents of ridgecrest, what should they be preparing to do? >> well, obviously there are concerns, children, small children, obviously are frightened with these, so making sure that they are safe. i would probably start taking some stuff off of the walls if they're not always down and in high places, make sure you're not sleeping under something that is still hung up. and we captain forget about the pets. the pets are extremely nervous
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during this time frame. and then make sure that you have plenty of supplies. when the stores are open. and things like that. make sure that you are stocking up. just in case that we have something bigger than we had today. and it's, you know, stuff starts crumbling and the stores can't get back open we need to make sure, and if we can't get to you right away, you have to be able to take care of yourself for a period of time. so i know that we all preach that we need to be prepared and i know it's difficult, we always say we will but now's the time. so, prepare yourself. especially for the next, i would say week or two weeks, this isn't going to stop in the near future. as we know. the aftershocks, they haven't
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slowed down since the 7.1. there for a period of time it seemed like there was a constant vi -- vibration. be prepared. >> we were on our way to trona and people told us they had little water their tank was not filling up from the city and they only had a day worth of water for their children and themselves and now that road we were on is buckled, it's shut down, how are they going to get water? what do they need to do or hear from you. some of them don't even have power but if they can hear you. >> okay. actually we just put out on facebook we were currently working that issue trying to help them. it is a different county but they are our neighbors and we care about them. many of our men and women work out there. so we do care. there's a stack of water sitting over there that people have donated that we can't get to them now. so it is an issue.
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we can't get there, obviously. i do know that they have crews in route. i can't speak a lot about what's going on there because i don't know. i do know they have an open route and let's hope they get the help they need and obviously we will provide what we can. right now our concern is here. >> chief don't know if this is best dre addressed to fire chier supervisor do you have a clue on time table what we might expect from additional resources from state of california or supervisors from washington perhaps fema or anything else coming in, have you been apprised of any kind of timeline. >> the question posed is there a timeline what happened is expected to be received by way of resources from neighboring jurisdictions and further jurisdictions, correct. would you like to comment on that. >> so to answer your question, sir, our chief reached out
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almost immediately once that 7.1 happened. o e s was already involved with that request and had fresno, l.a., and orange city sending us task force engines we slrd people from out of county on scene that's taking place. we have more coming in the next several hours and should expect mass followings of those people being here but we've already received outside help almost immediately and they're already here and in the form of getting rtd to complete that grid search i was talking about earlier. as far as the fire side of things, mutual aide and support from the state we have an a bupdanbupd ance -- abundance of people. with a lot of staff. ready and prepared standing by. >> we spoke with county officials earlier today in kern county talking about how you
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assess when resources run out and that's when you tap into that mutual aide program. can you bring our viewers in terms what the resources are looking like for the people in ridgecrest for the next 24 hours. >> as far as the staffing levels, things like that, as i stated, almost immediately following the 7.1 essentially the entire battalion on the desert side was already engaged in that and chief had already made phone calls to oes so get outside sources started mutual aide and fire department already staffing stations and so already immediately we've had stuff already filled and back filled ready for the current mission going on. due to fast actions on part of our command staff, the chief, and also our mutual aide ennt entities behind us.
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we're adequately prepared. in part because of the major earthquake earlier. we have major resources near by and ready to go with the staff. >> so food and water -- [ inaudible ] >> yes that stuff as chief stated we do already have stuff here but as incident are progressing, our primary focus is ridgecrest, that's our focus right now, right, soon as we start addressing that, we start braf branching out and identify the secondary resources that may need assistance. logical needs like water and ice and food that is happening. but right now the focus is in city of ridgecrest due to mass population here. >> was there mass evacuation -- >> let's hold off on that the chief would like to interject. >> as far as resources go on the law enforcement side, we were already staffed, we had a large
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presence already with the kern county sheriff department and california city pd, they were here, so we were -- we were at a level that we felt comfortable with and -- however, when the quake happened, bakersfield pd immediately sent a team as well as california city sent additional officers and the kern county sheriff's department had a wave come in as well. so law enforcement was, we are sufficient right now and now it's preparing for the future. so what was your other question. >> we heard of an a mmonia leak in trona who have been evacuated and are on the side of the road. >> i have not heard that yet.
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your information is probably more updated than mine. >> [ inaudible ] fire earlier -- [ inaudible ] >> i have not been out there. >> so, we have a question about the actual specifics of damage that may have occurred in one of the residential areas in ridgecrest. to speak on that the chief of kern county. >> yes, ma'am, as far as the structure fire we hunits in roue two when reported heavy smoke column. diverted to that and working fire they got to quickly and diverted two engines to it, knocked it down quickly and we confirmed people inside were okay. there were no injuries. they were able to protect
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exposures right by it as well so as a result they kept it to the building othrigiorigin. we only cut loose couple engines to the next call as well, same thing they were effective and held it to building of origin. no reported injuries civilian or fire side. >> what about the base. were there any concerns -- >> we have a question about the base, we don't have a representative here from the base who could speak on what's occurring on the base. at this time we're going to conclude the press conference all individuals will be available here for one-on-one break outs so feel free to speak on whatever individual questions you have. at this point we don't know have another exact time planned for the next press conference but will notify through social
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media, we'll let out a press release as soon as we identify when the next press conference will be held. thank you for your time. >> we have been following a news conference by kern county officials it's the ep septemb september -- epicenter of tonight's 7.1 earthquake namely in a place called ridgecrest where there's a lot of recorded damage ruptures gas line, gas leaks, fires we've been told have been put out, damage to roads, rock slides and area of highway 178 still closed, others repaired and reopened. we heard from fire officials, military, fire, transportation officials. we heard the white house was called for federal assistance. search and rescue teams
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activated at the highest level, first responders, ambulance, fire crews, state resources have been activated. they're trying to get back water, power and gas in the epicenter those resources have been temporarily lost and trying to get those back soon as possible. that's kern county the epicenter of the event followed by countless after shocks. joe friar in l.a. where this impact was also felt. >> we can tell you some of the headlines from that news conference we heard from officials, first they're saying nothing but minor injuries reported. so far cuts and bruises. no reports of major injuries or fatalities. they talked about the two structure fire thez dealt with and put out right away. one of the biggest concerns is several reports of natural gas leaks and residents and working to put those out even in the dark.
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water system is in tact and operational, authorities say noel contamination of that water system but they're responding to a number of emergency calls. the hospital in ridge crest does deal with traumas and evacuated patients on thursday and treating people both inside and outside of the hospital. that hospital is under a shelter in place as a precautionary measure. here in los angeles the earthquake was also felt. it's a good 120 miles from the epicenter so the intensity was not nearly as strong here. personally i was in a movie theater in hollywood at the time and you could start to see the rolling. right now you're looking at the 4th inning of the dodgers-padres game see the camera shaking, is when the earthquake started but that game finished to the end.
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obviously a lot of people in the stands were concerned. . movie theater i was in people started to discuss what was happening as the earthquake was going on. i looked up at the lights to see what was the condition with the lights. you want to make sure they don't fall. we tried to get to a safer place they wouldn't fall on us. some stayed in the movie, others went outside because they were so shaken and wanted to know the impact. my first question was this another aftershock from ridgecrest. turns out the 6.4 earthquake we experienced on thursday was a foreshock. a precurson and friday night hit was 7.1 earthquake. we should add dr. lucy jones the expert on earthquakes in the region says we estimate there's about 1 in 10 chance this region will experience another
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magnitude 7 or higher. that means 9 in 10 chance, 90% chance that the magnitude 7.1 was the largest earthquake. keep in mind after thursday's earthquake which was a 6.4, at the time, the largest one this region had seen in 20 years, we were told there was only 9% chance we'd see something larger, those odds were low but we did see a larger earthquake after that. one thing guaranteed is we're going to see a lot of after shocks happening in the wake of this 7.5 earthquake, many of those after shocks could go up to magnitude 6, incredibly powerful and felt over long area. >> thank you, joe. we'll check back in with you later. let's go meantime to molly hunter who is in ridgecrest the epicenter of this event and all of the after shocks.
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we just heard from state, local, military officials, where you are, what's the latest that you're hearing? >> couple things stood out to me from all of the officials but wanted to tell you right now we just saw some lights go on so we were talking about power outages, 1800 customers felt really low to me because driving around it's all really dark. just behind the parking light behind us few lights have gone on. another piece of information that light behind me is a very bright light we're outside the regional hospital, the hospital has evacuated patients and they are treating patients out there. that suggests obviously we heard from an official that there has been some damage or the hospital has been impacted no specific s about that but clearly they decided there was enough damage to move patients out so patients are being treated just behind me outside in the parking lot.
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more power is going on. the other thing stood out from the previous press conference is there's a lot more damage than we thought. all over. whether fires. water mains. gas leaks. of course gas leaks and water mains breaking is how fire starts and more damage. and there's a lot more injuries reported. still don't have the number s. health officials there declined to give numbers but there weren't many injuries after thursday's quakes or after this morning's strong after shock so now all of a sudden that injury count will go up. we'll be watching that, melissa. >> the local and state officials we were just listening to were talking about how they had actually went around around repaired couple roads already. but it's about half past midnight where you are, it's still dark obviously and will remain so for several hours what is their plan as far as to start out at first light perhaps to
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get a better look at that damage. >> melissa, really fast i just want to say the video on skraen is the house fire -- on screen, is one of the house fires we saw few blocks from here. soon as we got out of the hotel soon as that quake hit we saw black plumes of smoke pretty close by and we drove over and it was a house on fire, we know the woman who live in there got out safely because we spoke with her relatives but everything in that house was destroyed. that's the only time i actually seen emergency services on the street. they were keeping media back and had a perimeter around the house. we have report that's they are knocking on doors making sure people are okay and directing people towards safe areas but it's really dark and really late
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and we heard from officials that they are ready to go and have extra personnel to go out at first light to send out the choppers and assess the damage and figure exactly what the needs are. >> speaking of damage you spoke to a gentleman who watched his house slide off its foundation he described it completely destroyed. that's any indication first light we could see lot more of that. >> absolutely. and our other crew is at a mobile home park, and described it as completely unlivable every home tilted off its foundation. certainly not safe to go in tonight. >> considering how scared everyone was, you described a terrifying situation earlier when this first one struck, the 7.1, describe to us please how people are reacting. >> they're scared, melissa. it was scary. it was really powerful. not only was it the 7.1 i was
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just looking through that usgs earthquake list. there were so many strong after shocks almost in the five minutes leadly after and have been dozens since in the last couple hours but for the five minutes immediately after that 7.1 it didn't stop shaking so it felt like we were shaking five minutes, we were. even the 7.1 was going on 30 seconds, a minute. it continualed. -- continued. it was really scary. people in las vegas and los angeles are describing a rolling feeling like sea sickness, it was violent here, it was scary. i grew up in california and third generation californians said thursday's 6.4 was scariest they felt. tonight was a lot stronger. >> all right. molly hupter in ridgecrest the epicenter tonight of 7.1
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magnitude earthquake followed by multiple after shocks. damage is being reported. they'll know more as they look again at first light. we do know there's plenty of damage and we'll continue to follow this breaking news out of southern california on msnbc. my teeth have been really sensitive lately. well 80% of sensitivity starts at the gum line, so treat sensitivity at the source. new crest gum and sensitivity starts treating sensitivity immediately, at the gum line, for relief within days and wraps your teeth in sensitivity protection. ohh your teeth? no, it's brain freeze!
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x x i could understand how it happened. this is her world and she trusted them to the nth degree. >> elizabeth's body was flown to texas and at the funeral, margaret was hoping to hear further detail s about her sister's passing. >> michael was very aloof and strange. >> did he speak? >> no he didn't really say a lot at all. never talked about what what happened to liz. >> results of fall play eliminated when autopsy said she had a brain hemorrhage, natural causes and remained buried for
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decades. >> here i have two women add socioiat socioiated ci . >> coming up.oiat soci for investigators a risky move. >> a lot of people were very antsy about that. >> will it pay off. >> her fingernail polish was still on. her dress perfectly in place. >> i'm thinking my case is getting a whole lot better. >> when dateline continues.
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>> reporter: as time went by, margaret blair had come to accept michael peterson's explanation of her sister's death years before, a tumble down the stairs in a german townhouse. >> i just believed what i was told about the cerebral hemorrhage and, you know, i'm presuming that a doctor had, you know, made this diagnosis. >> reporter: but when she learned that kathleen had also been found dead at the bottom of a staircase, margaret began wondering anew about how her sister died. she started reaching out elizabeth's old friends from germany. >> when i talked to her friends, i found out that blood had been dripping down the walls. well, that doesn't happen when you have a cerebral hemorrhage. >> reporter: authorities in north carolina were thinking the same thing. if foul play had been involved
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in elizabeth ratliff's death, it might bolster their case. but the only way to know for sure, they concluded, was to dig up elizabeth's grave. assistant district attorney freda black. >> we decided that it probably would be worthwhile to try to exhume her body to determine whether the findings in germany were accurate or not. >> reporter: to do that, they'd have to get the okay from elizabeth's daughters, margaret and martha. the girls, who believed in their father's innocence as fiercely as they mistrusted the authorities, struggled with the decision. >> the hardest thing i've ever had to do was to write off on the exhumation of our birth mother. >> reporter: but ultimately, they agreed. >> and i signed off on it because we wanted to be, like, "there is no way this could've happened." like, please look at the evidence. i will do this to -- to free our dad of these accusations. >> reporter: on a beautiful blue
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sky day, the remains of elizabeth ratliff were exhumed from their resting place in texas. >> ratliff's bodies -- >> reporter: julia sims, of nbc's raleigh-durham affiliate, wral-tv, has been covering the story since the beginning. >> and the bells started tolling right as they started pulling that casket out of the -- the ground. >> hmm. >> a lot of people were very antsy about that, about what they were gonna find. >> reporter: her body was driven to north carolina where it would be studied by the same medical examiner who'd ruled kathleen peterson's death a homicide. >> there was a risk here wasn't there? if you opened that coffin and found that the authorities in germany had been correct in ruling it a death by natural causes. >> we just decided that it needed to be done. >> roll the dice, basically. >> exactly. >> reporter: the detective peered through a morgue window as the top was pried off elizabeth ratliff's coffin. >> it was so airtight it was hard to use the crank to get the casket to open. once it was raised you could see part of elizabeth ratliff's face and hair.
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it was remarkable. >> reporter: they were stunned. the body was practically intact. >> her fingernail polish was still on. her dress was still perfectly in place. >> reporter: the m.e. took a closer look at the injuries to elizabeth's head. she was finding lacerations, deep gouges in the scalp. seven of them. >> seven lacerations. you could -- black: it was amazing -- >> count them. >> it was uncanny. the lacerations were very similar to the ones that had been perpetrated upon kathleen peterson. and in her findings, she made a decision that ms. ratliff had been -- had been murdered. >> reporter: investigators thought they'd hit pay dirt. in death, they thought kathleen peterson and elizabeth ratliff could have been twins. >> i'm just thinking that, that my case is getting a whole lot better. >> reporter: kathleen's sister candace thought that peterson had killed both women. >> i have a better chance of being struck by lightning than finding two people who i intimately know at the bottom of
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a staircase. >> reporter: but to martha and margaret, the whole thing seemed absurd. the fact that michael was being accused of killing kathleen, the woman they called mom, was bizarre enough. but now, their birth mom, too? what would their father have gained by killing elizabeth ratliff? >> he would've gotten two screaming little ragamuffin kids out of it and that's it? like, there's nothing -- there's no reason for it. >> reporter: for the investigators in north carolina, though, the death in germany became a strong building block in their circumstantial case for murder. and what's more -- detectives learned that michael peterson had a secret life. secrets -- tawdry ones -- were about to spill out in the durham courthouse. coming up -- enter brad, the male escort. >> what types of services did you perform? >> oh, wow. that's -- that's pretty broad.
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>> reporter: in the summer of 2003, michael peterson would stand trial for the bludgeoning death of his wife, kathleen. he'd pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. >> i am innocent of these charges, and we will prove it in court. >> reporter: with gavel-to-gavel coverage on live tv, the state versus michael peterson was a national spectacle. >> was it surreal, michael, to be in a courtroom charged with murder? >> well, it was surreal from the first moment. i mean, you know, is there
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surreal beyond surreal? i don't know. >> reporter: reporter julia sims covered the proceedings in court. >> every single day of that trial the courtroom was packed, and not packed with just media, and not packed with just lawyers, but people off the street. people took vacation to come in and watch that trial. >> reporter: and michael peterson didn't shy away from all the attention. in fact, he allowed a documentary crew to film him every step of the way. but the only audience that mattered was the 12-person jury. and when the trial began, the prosecution introduced them to the man behind the professorial mask, the person they saw as the real michael peterson. >> this case is about pretense and appearances. it's about things not being as they seem. >> reporter: scratch beneath the glossy veneer, the beautiful house and sparkling dinner parties, and prosecutors would tell the jury they'd find a marriage in shambles. more than the couple's money problems, more than the loss of
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social standing after michael got caught out lying about his military record, there was what investigators found when they searched his home office. >> it was just so -- so different than what everybody that knew michael peterson believed him to be, as far as a family man, a happily married man. it was jaw dropping. >> reporter: while kathleen toiled away at her executive job to pay the couple's mounting bills, michael's writing career was hitting a wall. >> he had some free time on his hands. and we believed that he, somewhere along the way, began to form relationships, let's say, with men that he particularly met on the computer. >> reporter: not women, but men. the prosecution's theory was this -- the night kathleen died, she went into michael's office to retrieve an email about that work conference call the next morning. there in his office, the prosecutors believe, she stumbled upon e-mail exchanges between her husband and an escort.
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>> the e-mails were very specific about what they had planned on doing and what they wanted to do with each other. >> reporter: very graphic, steamy stuff? >> they were. >> reporter: the escort's user name? "soldiertop brad." his website pic was a come-hither beefcake pose complete with dog tags. "you have great reviews and i would like to get together" peterson wrote in one e-mail. "i've never done escort but used to pay to blank a super macho guy who played lacrosse." "i'm very bi, and that's all there is to it." >> what type of services did you perform? >> oh wow, that's pretty broad. >> reporter: in a sensational revelation, the prosecution called brad the escort to the stand. >> what type of sexual activities, sir? >> oh, just about anything under the sun. >> reporter: on the witness stand, the escort told the jury that just three-months before kathleen's death, he and michael peterson had arranged to meet. >> we were to hook up. >> and what were you all planning on doing? >> having sex. >> reporter: the hookup never happened, but combine that with the other combustibles in the couple's life, the prosecution
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said, and you have all the ingredients for a fatal confrontation. >> it got out of control, and michael peterson snapped. and he was the only one who could have done it, according to the prosecution. >> reporter: further evidence that michael attacked kathleen ferociously, the prosecution stated, was as clear as the spray of blood up the staircase walls. >> the amount of blood, the positioning of the blood, the location of the blood, it was overwhelming. >> in general terms, the greater the force, the smaller the drop. >> reporter: to take the jury vividly up the back stairs, the prosecution called the state's blood pattern expert, duane deaver. he told the jury with certainty that kathleen peterson had been beaten to death. he testified the droplet pattern high up the walls was just what you'd expect to see with a weapon rising, striking, and casting off blood with each new blow. >> and i believe there is a minimum of four blows that have occurred in this, uh -- in this scene.
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>> reporter: what's more, deaver testified, this blood stain was found on the inside of peterson's shorts. he'd done tests that he says proved that the only way it could have gotten there was if peterson had been standing over his wife, beating her. >> and the individual wearing these pants at time of that impact was in close proximity to the source of blood when it was impacted. >> i remember the jurors were captivated by his testimony. um, and it all seemed to make perfect sense. >> reporter: then there was all that dried blood the emts noticed around kathleen's body, suggesting she may have been attacked well before peterson called 9-1-1. according to prosecutors, lab tests backed that up. kathleen's head injuries had produced something called red neurons, which they say form after oxygen is withheld from the brain for at least two hours. >> that gives mr. peterson at least two hours to do things before the 9-1-1 call is placed. >> reporter: what was he doing
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during all that time? the state argued he was staging the scene. detectives saw what they thought were wipe marks on the stairs. to them, it was an attempt at a clean up. and there were those two wine glasses on the kitchen counter suggesting an evening of maybe too much drink, followed by a tumble down the stairs. thing was, kathleen's fingerprints weren't on either glass. in fact, the prosecution said, kathleen's blood-alcohol content was low enough that she could have passed a roadside breathalyzer test. >> she wasn't drunk. she wasn't intoxicated. um, she did have a little in her system. but not enough, arguably, to have caused her to not be able to walk up stairs. >> reporter: was the writer of fiction, making up yet another story, covering up murder as an accident? >> coming up. michael peterson speaks out about his interest in sex with men he says others knew all about it. >> this is not a family secret.
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>> no it's not. >> and then why he thinks kathleen most likely fell after a recent injury he says she was on major meds. when dateline continues. get it! get that butterfly! you know those butterflies aren't actually in the room? hey, that baker lady's on tv again. she's not a baker. she wears that apron to sell insurance. nobody knows why. she's the progressive insurance lady. they cover pets if your owner gets into a car accident. covers us with what? you got me. [ scoffs ] she's an insurance lady. and i suppose this baker sells insurance, too? progressive protects your pets like you do. you can see "the secret life of pets 2" only in theaters. "the secret life of pets 2" by finding the best deals on paint and stain. lowe's knows you do it right
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we are continuing to follow breaking news out of southern california where a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck last night. it was felt from los angeles to las vegas, but the epicenter is
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in a community called ridgecrest where molly hunter is right now. molly, you were asleep when this happened. it startled everyone out of bed. it was more than startling, it was the most violent shaking i've felt. when we talk to people who felt this quake, they talked about a gentle rolling that increases. this was anything but, this was a violent shaking. it felt like my entire hotel room was on hinges, and it felt like it lasted for five minutes. it went on for about a minute, then a 5.5, a 4.5, a ton of strong aftershocks. i have some new information to share with you. we've seen a few more lights going on. i'll have court pan over. we've been talking all night, and it was completely dark over there. but those lights just went on.
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about 1,800 customers were without power. we felt that was a lowest mate because it was so dark. you can see that light behind me, the hospital evacuated patients. they have been treating patients outside in the parking lot. we've actually just seen them wheel a patient back in. we did hear from officials earlier at a press conference who said there were more injuries, more damage than the nurse 6.4 quake. really it's so late here, so dark here when the light comes up this morning we'll really get a much better sense of what kind of damage we're looking at. >> what sort of damage have you heard about so far? >> so, we talked about earlier that house fire. there's ban ceen a couple of ho fires, structure fires they're calling them. my producer and i after we ran out of the hotel and got into the car. because everything was so dark it was easy to spot these huge plumes of smoke and huge bright
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flames a few blocks away. we went over to that house fire. emergency services were already on the scene. firefighters were putting that house out. within minutes that house was down, the fire was out. we spoke with the family. thankfully the woman inside got out safely but her sister and her niece said everything in that house was ruined. we spoke with another young guy, warren cooper, who was out here volunteering. he described his entire mobile home slid off its foundation, it was tipped into the dirt. unliv unlivable. our crew is at a mobile home park and they describeed every home there as unlivable. the scale of the damage from that 7.1 won't be clear to any of us until the sun comes up. >> molly hunter, thank you. as molly was mentioning, authority also head out at first light to get another check by land and by air of the kind of damage that they will be looking
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at tomorrow morning or this morning. keep it here for more coverage on this tragedy in southern california. you're watching msnbc. >> michael peterson was the last person known to have seen his friend elizabeth alive, just like his wife kathleen. it was the bow that wrapped up the state's case. >> do you really believe that lightning strikes twice in the same place? do you? >> reporter: so there was the prosecution's case for conviction, blood evidence, a staged scene, and the trigger, the violent confrontation between husband and wife that resulted when a secret appetite for men was exposed. and not a bit of that made any sense, the defense was about to tell the jury. the state's case lasted two months. and each day, michael peterson's girls, margaret and martha, sat in court, suffering as prosecutors labeled their dad a
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killer. >> they would accuse my father of double murders, or the wife murder, or the staircase murders? >> and we couldn't stand up and say, "wait a second. this isn't true." >> reporter: michael peterson did not testify at his trial but he did sit down with us to answer questions about all the evidence against him, nothing was off limits. >> i know i did not kill kathleen. so at a certain point, you think, well, this is just -- crazy. >> reporter: to understand the case, he says, you have to go back to the very beginning, to the moment police arrived at the scene and recognized him as the same michael peterson who liked to publicly criticize them in the local paper. >> you think the cops had it in for you, that's what set this in the motion? >> oh absolutely, no question about that. >> that framed the narrative. >> they were delighted that something really bad had happened and would've been even more delighted if i had anything to do with it. >> reporter: michael says the prosecution theory of what happened that night is total
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fiction. starting with the trigger, that explosive fight he and kathleen supposedly had after she saw those emails in his home office. >> so the prosecution version of this evening you were described as that she goes to your office, logs in. and then lo and behold, there's the traffic from brad, the escort. >> that's it exactly. oh, i don't -- >> he's not only cheating on me. he's cheating on me with a guy. >> right. that was one of their theories. >> reporter: but just a theory. michael points out that the prosecution never offered proof that kathleen saw anything compromising that night. >> so this whole story about she stumbled on this information. >> oh yeah. no. absolutely not. of course not. >> reporter: michael insists the supposed fight never happened, though he doesn't deny he did try to set up that sexual encounter. in fact, he readily admits a sexual interest in both women and men. >> so you are bisexual? >> yeah. >> i first knew this when i was maybe 11. i was madly in love with this girl, oh -- melanie grant.
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and it was during some masturbatory fantasy that certainly there was melanie. but then there was this -- the shortstop on my ball team. and it's like, whoa, wait a minute. >> how did -- how did he get a part in this fantasy, huh? >> where did this one come from? i'd never had a male -- man-on-man, male thought in my life. >> throughout his marriage to kathleen, michael admits he did seek male companionship from time to time. but says it by no means affected his feelings for his wife. >> did i want a boyfriend? no. um did i want to spend the night with one? did i wanna cuddle? did i wanna have a candlelit diner? no. never. never. never. for me, it was strictly sex. had nothing to do with love or a relationship. >> reporter: moreover, michael says his interest in men wasn't exactly hush-hush in the family. perhaps kathleen had a hunch. this is not a family secret? >> no. no. my sons -- no. it's not. it's not. >> was it known to kathleen,
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michael? >> i think it was one of these things that was not discussed but known. it was -- >> don't ask, don't tell? >> yeah. exactly. and of course, when i was growing up, there wasn't any don't ask, don't tell. it was don't, period. >> had she known that there were assignations, that there were hookups, what did -- how do you think she would've taken it? >> i wish i had told her. i mean, that's one my regrets -- regrets. i wish i -- we had discussed it. we didn't. i was afraid not that she would leave me, she wouldn't -- that she just wasn't -- she was the most open-minded, liberal, intelligent woman. >> reporter: as for the other piece of the prosecution's motive, that the petersons were on the edge of financial ruin -- >> oh, that was bull. >> a lot of money out on cards. >> total -- >> expensive schools that were bleeding them. the wonderful house was something of a money pit. what's your reaction to all of that stuff? >> well, my reaction is exactly what the prosecution proved. >> reporter: in court, the financial expert who testified about their debts also noted
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that in the end the petersons were still worth $1.5 million. >> i had money. and it's not a matter -- it was not a financial problem. >> reporter: but what about that dramatic trial-within-a-trial the jury had seen? michael, implicated in not one murder, but two -- that friend, elizabeth ratliff's, death long ago in germany. so there you are in the court of public opinion this guy with two important women in your life and they're both dead in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. >> exactly. absolutely. has to be guilty. >> you're a writer of fiction. your editor would probably take that kind of coincidence out of the book. >> well, he would say, "well, you know, come up with another one." she died in the bathtub or something. but-- no. >> but you're not immune to the irony of this, huh? >> no. of course not. but at the time -- >> because in -- in the course of this investigation -- >> didn't even occur to me. honest to god, it never even occurred to me. >> did you kill her? >> liz? no. of course not. >> reporter: and those witnesses who said elizabeth ratliff's blood was all over the staircase walls, michael insists their memories are wrong.
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>> they said, "my god, there was blood everywhere." and, well, no. there wasn't. the german police didn't see any blood. the german doctor didn't see any blood. the american military didn't see any blood. why didn't they see any blood? and if you saw all this blood, why didn't you say something at the time to someone? >> reporter: he is certain elizabeth ratliff died of a stroke. as for how his wife, kathleen, died years later, michael can't say for sure. but he thinks his first instinct was the right one. >> i guess maybe i'm the last person to believe it. i think she fell down the stairs. i don't know. >> reporter: michael believes alcohol must have played a role in her fall, and even though her blood alcohol levels weren't off the charts, he says, there may have been another contributing factor. a few months before her death, she'd suffered an injury diving into their swimming pool. and her doctor put her on several prescription meds. >> do you remember her being wobbly in the weeks that followed?
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>> oh, my god, yeah. she had to wear a neck brace. she -- they put her on percocet to begin with. then they brought valium. she was on flexeril which is, apparently, a muscle relaxant -- oh yeah. she was in a great deal of pain all the time. >> reporter: for michael peterson, the trial was hard enough to bear, but the family spilt made it even worse. there was kathleen's daughter, caitlin, across the room in the prosecution's camp. and behind him the whole time, his girls, margaret and martha. >> they were sisters. they loved one another. they helped one another. and that's been the biggest, to me, the sadness that everything that kathleen wanted to make happen and did happen as far as the family was torn asunder. >> reporter: michael's story is one he says those closest to him have known for years. >> that information -- >> reporter: a story his lawyers were about to present to the jury. and they had an ace up their sleeve, a moment straight out of "perry mason." one that would leave mouths agape in the courtroom.
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>> that's a blow poke isn't it? >> coming up -- >> immediately runs up to margaret and said i found a employee poke. the alleged murder weapon found. what will it reveal? and then -- >> they said we have a verdict, your heart stops. advil pm
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>> reporter: what had happened on that back staircase? from almost the moment he was
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retained, defense attorney david rudolf thought michael peterson was innocent. >> no one thought michael could've ever harmed kathleen. and indeed, there was never a shred of evidence that they had ever had so much as a loud argument. >> reporter: in court, he laid out a straightforward scenario for the jury. >> the truth is that kathleen peterson, after drinking some wine and some champagne and taking some valium tried to walk up a narrow, poorly lit stairway in flip-flops and she fell and she bled to death. >> reporter: just as the prosecution had, the defense put the couple's marriage front and center. telling the jury it was more or less perfect. >> everywhere they went, people noticed. michael looking at kathleen with the kind of pride that you just don't fake. >> reporter: under
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cross-examination, even brad the escort said peterson had told him how much he loved his wife. >> in his e-mails unlike most of my clients he indicated that he had a great relationship. most clients don't want to say anything about the relationship. he indicated he had a warm relationship with his wife and nothing would ever destroy that. >> reporter: michael hadn't killed kathleen, the defense argued, and he certainly didn't kill family friend, elizabeth ratliff. they called their own medical expert who reviewed her autopsy reports and said it wasn't a murder. >> is blood in all of the ventricles of the brain consistent with a stroke from natural causes? >> it is consistent. >> reporter: then, there was the mount everest of the case -- the forensics, explaining to the jury all that blood in the peterson stairwell. >> the defense would call dr. henry lee to the stand. >> reporter: the defense called celebrity forensic expert dr. henry lee, of o.j. case fame, to show the jury in theatrical fashion just how kathleen, falling, then staggering about, coughing up blood, could have accounted for
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the spray. >> an injured person can walking, can move, can shake their head. >> obviously, the blood all around was due to her being alive and moving around for some period of time. it didn't have to do with what inflicted the wounds. >> reporter: the blood on his shorts, that could have happened, the defense said, while michael peterson was cradling his wife. the fact that some of the blood was dry when first responders arrived, well, michael never said he knew what time kathleen fell. and as for those drops of blood in the house and on the walkway outside suggesting he staged the scene, the defense said none of that could be trusted. >> the blood in that area had been completely altered. the scene at the house had been completely contaminated. >> reporter: but what about those ghastly lacerations on kathleen's head which the state's medical examiner
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attributed to a beating? defense attorney rudolf notes what he didn't find -- though the cuts were deep, there were no skull or bone fractures. >> there was absolutely no fractures anywhere. no fractures to her fingers, to her arms to her skull. and there was absolutely no injury to the brain. and that's just almost an impossibility if what you're doing is beating somebody with a metal object. >> reporter: and for a final exclamation point, the defense had a "perry mason" moment up its sleeve. the prosecution had insisted throughout the murder weapon used to bludgeon kathleen peterson was the fireplace blowpoke, only police never found it. almost three months into the trial, one of michael's sons made a stunning discovery in the peterson's basement. >> he immediately runs up to margaret who was at the house and said, "margaret, i think i -- i -- i think i found the blowpoke." >> reporter: in court, the defense played the moment for all it was.
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getting the lead detective to agree there was no evidence at all that the peterson's blowpoke was used to commit a savage crime. >> see any dents in there? even like a tiny little indentation? >> it doesn't appear to have any dents in it. >> that was the blowpoke. well, if it is, then what was the murder weapon? >> reporter: lawyer david rudolf thought he'd peppered reasonable doubt all the way through the state's circumstantial case. the peterson camp was confident. >> we were so positive that he was going to get off. because in our minds, it was the clearest thing in the world. >> reporter: but after sitting through the trial, kathleen's sister candace thought that the brother-in-law she once admired was both a killer and a liar. >> did i ever think he was capable of murdering my sister? no. did i know he'd already found another woman dead at the bottom of a staircase? no. did i know he lied about his military awards? no. he's a writer of fiction, and that's what i found.
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he makes things up as he goes to suit the situation. >> reporter: when the case went to the jury, three days passed without a verdict. finally on day four -- >> they came out and one of them said, you know, "we have a verdict." your heart stops. >> reporter: a hush, then, the clerk began to read -- >> we the twelve members of the jury, unanimously find the defendant to be guilty of first-degree murder. >> it's guilty. and i just -- >> as soon as we heard the first juror say, "guilty" i was just was weeping, like i was like being taken over by grief and shock. >> is there anything you would like to say before the court imposes judgment. >> i'd like to say -- >> reporter: michael peterson turned to his kids -- >> he said, "it's okay. it's okay." i think on his part he was just trying to calm himself down but also i think he felt like his role was to protect us.
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>> i was the only continuity in their life. and just to see them and i thought, hey, it's -- you know, it's -- it's okay. and i could. and i could do it. >> reporter: michael peterson turned back to face the judge for the reading of the sentence. >> the defendant is imprisoned in the north carolina department of corrections for the remainder of his natural life without the benefit of parole. >> i believed that michael was innocent. i continue to believe michael is innocent. uh, and i thought we won that trial. so when that guilty verdict came out -- i was pretty devastated. >> reporter: for kathleen's sister, candace, the verdict was nothing to celebrate. >> it makes me cry. cried when i heard it. i mean, i was happy we were getting justice. but there's no joy in this. there's -- there's just great sadness. >> reporter: the peterson children resigned themselves to the harsh reality that prison was now their father's home. they sold the dream house on cedar street, and tried to get on with their lives.
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they visited their dad whenever they could. >> i would just sob every time i left. you hold it together for dad because why would you cry in front of dad? that's not gonna help him. but then, when you leave, you know, you're sobbing in your car. >> reporter: they watched his lawyer file a series of failed appeals. >> we would have hope for every single appeal. and every single time, it would get beaten down. >> reporter: his case went all the way up to the north carolina supreme court, and was rejected. but michael says he never lost hope. >> i told everybody. i am not going to die in prison. >> reporter: the odds were certainly stacked against him. but then, life can take some very strange twists and turns. coming up, a wild, new theory about what happened to kathleen. >> the owl flew down and landed on kathleen's head. >> and the fresh evidence backing it up. >> you have to magnify them 400 times just to see them.
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>> reporter: there are pleasant places to idle away your golden years, but north carolina's nash correctional institution isn't one of them. but that's where michael peterson, father, novelist and wife-killer, according to a jury of his peers, was incarcerated. just another number in a cell block with other felons. >> no parole, life without parole. and they meant it, too. they did. and they did everything they could to make that happen. >> reporter: after he'd exhausted his appeals, it looked as though prison was where he would stay. but out in nevada, michael has a look-a-like younger brother, bill peterson, who's also an attorney. >> did the lawyer in you say, "that's it. my" -- >> no. >> -- "brother's done?" >> that's when the really hard work started. we were out of money, out of lawyers. and, so, that's when the burden fell on me and whoever would
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help me. >> reporter: bill peterson spent hours in the durham county courthouse combing though the district attorney's piled high boxes of evidence. was there something that had been overlooked? and he wasn't the only supporter nursing alternate theories of kathleen peterson's death. there is a neighbor on cedar street, an attorney, who had an intriguing idea for what he believes happened that night. his scenario of an accidental death has come to be known as the "owl theory." >> he's seen owls in the area. he thought that this was very plausible. he put together this whole theory himself. >> reporter: so here's how the neighbor's theory goes, according to brother bill. kathleen, who has spent the day putting up christmas decorations, goes out front that night while michael is back by the pool. she's checking on her lawn display beneath the trees. >> the owl flew down and landed on kathleen's head and then tore her scalp in a manner that would be consistent with the lacerations that were found on her scalp. >> reporter: bleeding, kathleen
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leaves drops on the walk and a smear on the door as she struggles into the house, getting only as far as the staircase where she joins the defense's depiction of falling, passing out, coming to, and rising again only to fall for the final time. the owl theory was not completely new. it had been floated years earlier. >> the cops were making a big joke out of this. they put a picture of the owl on their on their most wanted list. >> reporter: and back then without any forensic "owl" evidence, the defense didn't want to confuse the jurors. so the peterson jury never did hear about an owl theory. but five years into peterson's sentence, the neighbor who was advocating for it was still looking for something to back it up, and sure enough, there it was in the original case notes file. a mention of a feather. >> you have to magnify them 400 times just to see them.
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>> reporter: tim thompson, owner of associated microscopes , was asked by the neighbor to examine a slide of that feather. >> they grow under the claws of an owl. when they attack something, they leave behind these small particle feathers. >> reporter: thompson peered through his microscope, studying bloody strands of hair found clutched in kathleen peterson's hand. tangled in the hair were not one but two minute bird feathers. a surprise he says to the detectives and an assistant da watching in the room. >> i think they were surprised because of the lab had not found the second feather. >> bill peterson was interested in the results, too. a review of the slides showed what? traces of bird feather? >> yes. yes. exactly right. in her hair. another very, very compelling fact. >> reporter: what was most compelling about the idea that an owl attacked kathleen, the supporters thought, was how it accounted for the distinctive lacerations on her scalp. had the three main talons of an
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owl, like these, caused this bleeding head wound when it swooped down? symmetrical tears. >> we had an ornithologist who said these tears are consistent with an owl claw. >> you think of the characteristic trident like talon claws? >> yes, and as we all know scalp wounds cause plenty of bleeding. that she panicked. obviously, you'd run in the house to get away from the owl. that she did and ran down the stairwell. >> reporter: and if an owl attacking humans sounds like so much urban legend, don't tell that to byron unger. he owned a company about 20 miles away from the peterson home. he was leaving work with his manager one night when an owl swooped down from the trees and swiped his colleague on the head. this surveillance camera caught the entire freakish event. and if that weren't strange enough, it happened to byron himself just two weeks later. >> i've never been hit so hard by something it felt like a baseball bat knocked me probably five feet to the ground. >> knocked you. >> on the ground, scattered me
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on the ground. i was bleeding so bad i thought i lost my eye. >> reporter: his wife, waiting for him in the car, dialed 9-1-1. >> they didn't believe my wife. they thought we were crazy when they said, "my husband's been attacked by a bird or an owl." >> show me where on your head you think it got you. >> the talons got me right here into my eye a little bit, and all the way up in my hair really bad. all this was black and blue. my whole side of my face and all up in here was hit by talons. >> reporter: is that what happened to kathleen peterson? but critics see problems with the idea that an owl attacked kathleen. problems like, why isn't there more of a trail of blood from the front door to the staircase? and wouldn't michael have heard kathleen being attacked? kathleen's sister candace doesn't believe it for an instant. >> i'm supposed to believe an owl ripped her apart? there is no ripping on her arms of an owl's talons. the thing is so ludicrous. >> reporter: and even michael peterson understands the skepticism. whooo done it, huh? >> oh, it's just awful. >> reporter: but he says the evidence is worth considering.
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>> there are feathers. and where were they, in kathleen's hand, so -- >> with strands of her hair. >> with strands of her hair. does that mean an owl did it? i don't know. >> what do you think? >> well, it's a much greater possibility -- >> reporter: i'm surprised to hear you say that -- that it's not as ludicrous as everybody made it. >> no, no, no. i -- because i -- i've seen the photographs. so, is it possible? well, certainly it's possible. i don't know. did an owl do it? i can't tell you that. >> reporter: in the summer of 2009, peterson's attorney neighbor helped him file a motion requesting a new trial based on the owl theory. but the trial judge dismissed it. the owl theory was dead in court but lives on still in the court of public opinion. >> there were people a lot smarter than me who absolutely convinced that this is what happened. >> reporter: so with the motion denied, with the owl hooted out of court, it really did seem finally to be the last chapter for the novelist. but a development was in store
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that would call the heart of the case into question, and no one, not even michael peterson, could have seen it coming. coming up, dramatic revelations about the scientific evidence against peterson. did the blood expert manipulate one of his experiments? >> his assistant does little jig. >> reporter: a happy end zone dance? >> exactly. (announcer) important message for women and men ages 50 to 85. right now, in areas like yours, people have already called about life insurance through the colonial penn program
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hello. a 7.1 magnitude earthquake has hit southern california. it's centered near the city of ridgecrest, that's also where a 6.8 magnitude quake struck on july 4th. at this point no reports of fatalities or major injuries, this have been a few fires and structural damage reported along with power outages. seismologists warn more seismic activity can be expected. we'll keep you posted. now back to "dateline."
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>> reporter: by 2010, seven years after michael peterson's conviction, his daughter martha had given up hope that her father would ever be released from nash correctional institution. >> dad was probably going to be in prison until he died. this was a reality that was never gonna to change. >> reporter: but in michael's cell block, an interesting story was circulating. a series of articles had been published in raleigh's "the news & observer" alleging misconduct at the state bureau of investigation's crime lab, the sbi. >> in prison, you don't really care much about international affairs or political, they don't have any effect. that the sbi who -- who were behind many guys being in there. oh, they're under investigation. oh, we cared about that. >> reporter: it turns out one of the experts at the center of the storm is a name you've heard before, special agent duane deaver. remember him? >> my opinion is that this is
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scene of a beating. >> reporter: he was a star witness for the prosecution in the peterson trial, the blood pattern expert who put michael peterson in the staircase bludgeoning his wife, reporter julia sims. you talked to the jurors here in this case, julia. how important was the blood expert, deaver's testimony? >> that blood evidence was critical. here's a guy who has been doing this for years for the state. look at what his experiment showed. it's got to be the truth. >> reporter: he'd been key in other cases, too. the newspaper recounted the story of a man who was sent to prison for murder after deaver's lab report suggested a stain on the man's car was the victim's blood. >> and it turned out not to be blood. >> wasn't blood at all. >> huh-uh, no. >> and deaver knew, and didn't disclose it? >> deaver knew that that was not blood and didn't disclose it. >> reporter: that man's conviction was overturned. >> gregory f. taylor is innocent of the charge of first-degree murder. >> reporter: and there was more
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evidence of questionable conduct linked to deaver. the newspaper investigation suggested that the methodology behind some of the blood pattern experiments he was involved in was flawed, designed to produce pro-prosecution results. like this test conducted for a 2009 murder case. deaver, videotaping the experiment, was attempting to match a blood stain on the shirt of the accused. >> oh, even better. holy cow. that was a good one. >> that's a wrap baby. >> that's a wrap? >> that's a wrap. >> just like the movies. >> right. >> reporter: peterson's attorney, dave rudolf, says it does not look to him like objective science. >> they come to the belief that someone is guilty. they don't have the -- the evidence that they think they need to convict the person, and so they make it up. >> reporter: rudolf signed back on to michael's case, this time without pay, and began to dig. he discovered that at the peterson trial, duane deaver had not been truthful about his professional experience on the
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stand. >> he said he had been involved in 500 cases, involving blood spatter. >> reporter: was that true? >> no. in fact, he had been involved in 54 cases. he said he had written 200 reports involving blood spatter analysis. not true. he said that he had been to the scenes of falls 15 times. in fact, he had never been to a scene of a fall. >> reporter: what's more -- remember deaver's conclusion at the trial that the blood stain on peterson's shorts proved he had been standing over his wife beating her. >> the individual wearing these pants at the time of that impact was in close proximity to source of blood when it was impacted. >> reporter: turns out he'd conducted an experiment pre-trial, and it was videotaped, too. watch. on the second attempt, peterson says it looks as though deaver and another agent got the results they wanted. >> his assistant does a little jig. oh. >> a little happy end zone dance? >> yeah. exactly. exactly. >> we got him. >> got you -- gotcha moment.
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>> reporter: when peterson's brother bill saw the experiment videos, he couldn't believe it. >> it's all reverse-engineered stuff. it's all designed to get a result. to me, it's not scientific at all. >> reporter: for michael's defense, the implication was clear. the jury had been duped. after all, in its closing argument, the state had even played on deaver's credibility to try to secure a conviction. >> then you're just going to have to believe that duane deaver is just a liar. and he has no reason in the world to come up here and lie to you. >> who are you gonna trust? duane deaver? of course, he would never lie. well, it turns he had -- he did lie. >> reporter: defense attorney rudolf filed a motion asking for a new trial. and the judge, this time, was ready to listen. coming up, yet another jolt for michael's children. >> i was weeping with shock. >> and a critical decision that could change everything. >> well, that's just not going to happen. i won't do it. lowe's knows you do it right
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>> reporter: a decade after he
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>> reporter: a decade after he was arrested for killing his wife, kathleen, michael peterson was back in a north carolina courtroom arguing for a retrial on the grounds that the state's crucial blood pattern expert had given false testimony against him. but as far as kathleen's sister, candace, was concerned, prison was where peterson deserved to rot. >> my sister's dead for eternity. oh, no, no, no. he murdered my sister. he took the prime of her. he needs to be held accountable for what he did. >> reporter: but peterson's attorney, david rudolph, was just as determined to free his client from prison. over the course of a seven-day hearing, rudolf methodically dissected the original testimony of blood pattern expert, duane deaver.
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>> did duanedeaver misrepresent himself to the jury? >> yes. >> reporter: and there it was. michael peterson's conviction was tossed out. his family was overwhelmed. >> i was weeping with joy and shock and could not believe that there was hope. >> i was like, "my dad's getting out. we're gonna have our dad back." >> reporter: for the peterson children, now there was only joy. >> lots of hugs. lots of -- happy, happy photographs. so we're all, like, jumping up into the air in a silly picture of just so -- so happy. >> reporter: 24 hours after the judge issued his decision sharply criticizing the blood pattern expert's work on the case, 68-year-old michael peterson was released on a $300,000 bond. i imagine you remember the day, hour and date.
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>> i do. december the 15th. oh, my kids are there. oh my god. my grandson had been born, a sweet little baby. and, you know, i go out and i hold, crying of course. yeah. it was wonderful. >> reporter: you were meant to die in prison. you were going to be fitted for -- >> that was the plan, absolutely. >> reporter: and now, you're outside. >> and now, i'm out. i have waited over eight years. 2,988 days, as a matter of fact -- and i counted -- for the opportunity to have a retrial. i want to thank judge hudson for giving me that opportunity so that i can vindicate myself and prove my innocence in a fair trial this time. >> reporter: so michael peterson was out of prison, but not exactly free. the state had promised to try him for murder again and he was placed under house arrest. his every move monitored by an electronic ankle bracelet.
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but that hardly mattered to his girls, margaret and martha. for them, the dark cloud that lay over the family name for nearly a decade had lifted. >> "we're part of the peterson family. and we are not afraid to say it." we so were stigmatized before, you know, and, like, hiding it. >> reporter: still, the second trial loomed. but working in michael's favor was the fact that the prosecutor would have to try a very different much weaker case. duane deaver had been fired from his job and some of the state's critical blood evidence would be inadmissible. >> i think their case is very, very badly compromised because of deaver. he was all over the crime scene. >> reporter: and there was another important victory for peterson's side. >> what types of services did you perform? >> oh wow, that's -- that's pretty broad. >> reporter: brad, the male escort, a sensational centerpiece of the prosecution's case, wouldn't be part of a second trial either, a judge said. the escort had been revealed in a search that was deemed illegal.
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>> the search warrant that resulted in the seizure of the computer was found to be invalid. >> reporter: furthermore, that dramatic trial within a trial about michael's long-dead friend in germany? well, a change in north carolina state law regarding the admissibility of evidence meant a second jury might not hear that story either. >> the male escort is gone, the death in germany is gone, the expert blood testimony is gone. you're left with the autopsy pictures. >> reporter: yeah? >> the medical examiner's testimony. and maybe the prosecution's theory for motive. is that enough? >> reporter: the stars seemed to be aligning for michael peterson. perhaps vindication was at hand. but one final twist was on the way. >> i said, "well, that's just not going to happen. i would go back to prison before that happens. i won't do it. coming up, michael makes a choice that rocks everyone in the case.
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>> that was, wow. >> including michael himself. >> that was the most difficult decision i ever made in my life. >> when "dateline" continues. do you want me to go first or do you want to go first, brea?
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just text listen5 to 500500. >> reporter: michael peterson's days in the mansion on cedar street were long gone. as he awaited trial number two, he passed his days in a durham condo writing about his experiences in prison. meanwhile the prosecution was forging ahead, a new trial was scheduled for the spring of 2017. as it got closer, the reality hit daughters martha and margaret hard. >> and that was actually devastating for me, it was pretty much a nightmare to live the first trial, and to have to go through that a second time would be even worse of a nightmare. >> i can't go through that again. i can't go through another guilty verdict.
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>> reporter: kathleen's sister, candace, knew a second murder trial would dredge up all the pain again. but there was no way that she was backing down. >> i have to relive how my sister died. she died one of the worst, worst ways. she was beaten and she knew the person who she loved was beating her. >> there is no way i'm not going to get justice for her. >> reporter: but there was one other option that could avoid a trial -- something that had been floated a few years earlier. the d.a. and the defense could hammer out a plea deal whereby peterson could walk away with time served. but the negotiations went nowhere. >> and candace, no. under no circumstances. he must stand up and say, "he's guilty." and i said, "well, that's just not gonna happen. that will never happen ever ever, i would go back to prison before that happens. >> reporter: so it seemed the hopelessly divided families were destined to face off again on opposite sides of a north carolina courtroom all these years later. >> the district attorney was one
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hundred percent willing to go to trial, they felt they had a strong case. >> reporter: but as the trial approached, michael found himself rethinking a possible plea deal and how it would affect his family. >> and i'm all the time thinking, you got some responsibili responsibility. i got two grandsons now, four and six. >> so you didn't -- you didn't wanna spin that wheel again, huh? >> exactly. my son -- clayton's the one who said it perfectly. he said, "dad, you're playing a game at a crooked table. you're never going to win. the odds are against you. pick up your chips, and go home. >> reporter: and so that's what michael peterson agreed to do. >> i was a little surprised we were preparing to go to trial again then the district attorney heard from michael peterson's attorney and they wanted to make a plea. and that was wow, he's going to say the word guilty? ok. we'll take the plea. >> reporter: well, it was a little complicated. peterson was going to take what's referred to as an alford plea.
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>> an alford plea is when you don't admit guilt, but you acknowledge there is enough evidence there that a jury could convict you. in the books, it goes down as a guilty plea. >> reporter: in february of 2017, 73-year-old michael peterson arrived at the durham county courthouse for what would be the final chapter of this saga. he was there to take an alford plea -- pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter. kathleen's daughter caitlin came to durham to see it happen. >> reporter: and of course kathleen's sister candace was there. she ran into michael's chief defender outside the courthouse. >> oh david, good to see you today. pleading guilty. pleading guilty. thank you that's what i've always wanted. >> actually we're not pleading guilty. >> you're pleading guilty. alford schmalford. guilt. >> michael peterson, he'd like to walk around and proclaim his innocence, but he can't. he can play with words but he can't play with the facts. >> reporter: the courtroom was eerily reminiscent of the 2003 trial, packed with tv
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cameras. >> everybody's a little bit older, but there's so much that's the same. the emotion, the tension, the anger, all of it was still there. >> how does mr. peterson plead to charge of voluntary manslaughter? >> he enters a plea of guilty pursuant to alford. >> mr. peterson you're pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter. that's a class d felony. do you understand, sir? >> yes, sir. >> and do you now personally plead guilty pursuant to the alford case? >> yes, sir. that's -- was the most difficult decision i ever made in my life was to take the alford plea. >> and that's gonna give kathleen's family an opportunity for what they call the victim impact statement -- >> right. >> michael peterson you are pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter. you will be treated as guilty for murdering my sister kathleen. and you will be a convicted felon forever. >> it was very cathartic to say,
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ahh, this is what i fought for. we weren't quitting until we heard the word guilty. we thought we were going to hear it from another 12 jurors but we got to hear michael say guilty. michael peterson, not only can you wear the scarlet letter a for adultery but also the black letter g for guilty. not perfect justice but justice. >> reporter: michael peterson was sentenced to time served. his daughters say that at long last they can properly grieve kathleen's death together. >> i think a big piece that's importance to our family is to be able to say goodbye to mom. and to be able to -- honor her memory and let her go in peace. >> reporter: and they have accepted that their father is once again a convicted felon, but a free man who still maintains his innocence. >> so your plea allows you to take the position you've taken all these years, michael. >> exactly. >> and yet, on the ledgers of the criminal justice system, you're --
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>> guilty of manslaughter. >> reporter: it's an ending that neither side had hoped for, a family saga with so much love and so much loss. an imperfect conclusion. i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." it was a small new year's eve party. we took off, and then shortly thereafter we saw the police car. my gut was telling my feet to run back to that house. this can't be happening. >> reporter: when the party ended, the mystery began. >> it was just crazy. i didn't understand what was happening and why. >> reporter: his wife, the hostess had seemed fine all ni

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