Kathleen Peterson’s Mysterious Staircase Death: Accident or Homicide?

Caitlin Atwater’s Civil Case: Peterson Found Financially Liable

June 19, 2006 would mark the beginning of Peterson’s civil trial, and the end to many desperately maintained fictions.

Caitlin Atwater, through her dedicated attorney Jay Trehy, contend that she deserves monetary damages because Michael Peterson “did intentionally, maliciously, willfully and wantonly assault and kill” Kathleen Peterson.

In a last-minute money maneuver, Michael Peterson declared bankruptcy. The civil trial was delayed. News accounts said Caitlin Atwater’s lawyer was “livid upon learning of the bankruptcy application.” Jay Trehy was quoted as saying:

“Once again, Mr. Peterson has found a way to hurt the family and friends of his deceased wife. This is a transparent effort to avoid the civil justice that Caitlin Atwater is entitled to. All this accomplishes is to delay the trial. In the long run, bankruptcy cannot wipe out the damages you caused by murder.”

Caitlin Atwater has accepted $25 million to settle her wrongful death lawsuit.

“With this settlement, I believe that Michael Peterson is agreeing to an offer great enough to begin to speak to the value of my mother’s life and the loss I must continue to deal with,” Caitlin said. Jay Trehy, who has tirelessly represented Caitlin in this matter, offered, “We believe the $25 million is an absolutely appropriate, if not conservative, figure.”

“It didn’t really matter what number a jury would give. Mr. Peterson doesn’t have money,” remarked Peterson attorney, Kerry Sutton. “He specifically told me that he hopes this gives Caitlin some peace to close this legal chapter of her life.”

Under the settlement, the wrongful death suit would be reinstated in the unlikely event that Peterson’s conviction is overturned. The settlement also states that Peterson admits no guilt or liability in the death of Kathleen Peterson.

The hearing on Caitlin Atwater’s civil suit was completely by the book.

In his place was a mortified Thomas Maher who quietly told reporters “I’m not being paid for being here. I’m appointed to his appeal and that’s the situation.” And while the criminal trial was five months — the hearing lasted about five minutes. Also Michael Peterson wasn’t there and neither was stepdaughter, Caitlin Atwater who was represented by Jay Trehy.

But Judge Orlando Hudson was again on the bench, and in his usual charming, affable way, agreed with Jay Trehy that Peterson “did intentionally, maliciously, willfully and wantonly assault and kill” his wife Kathleen Peterson, and is financially liable.

The amount of monetary damages will be decided at a jury trial to be held in May, but Trehy said the ruling was “just one more step in seeing to it that full justice is received for Kathleen Peterson and that her life is valuable.”

Other steps include Caitlin Atwater’s federal case against Kathleen Peterson’s former employer NORTEL NETWORKS, who quickly paid out $300,000 in benefit money to Michael Peterson — and the potential criminal trial against Peterson for the murder of Elizabeth Ratliff. Kathleen Peterson’s daughter, Caitlin Atwater, has finally reached a settlement with Prudential Insurance. Atwater’s attorney, Jay Trehy said she will share the money with Fred Atwater, Kathleen Peterson’s first husband.

The insurance money, much of which Michael Peterson imagined would pay for his dream team of attorneys, amounted to about $1.4 million.


Page 10: Michael Peterson’s Appeals