Judge takes Peterson off house arrest
Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson took Michael Peterson off house arrest Tuesday and let him remove an electronic ankle bracelet as he awaits re-trial in his wife’s slaying.
Hudson granted the motion despite impassioned pleas by family members of the victim, Kathleen Peterson, to keep the bracelet requirement in place, saying they believe Peterson is a flight risk and might hurt them.
In agreeing to the motion, Hudson said Peterson will still be monitored by pre-trial services officials, and his bond will stay at $300,000.
Hudson said Peterson will be required to notify court officials when he leaves the state, especially if he travels to northern Virginia, where members of Kathleen Peterson’s family live.
Peterson has been under house arrest and electronic monitoring since December 2011 while awaiting a new trial.
A Durham County Superior Court jury convicted him in 2003 of killing Kathleen, who was found dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the Petersons’ Forest Hills home on Dec. 9, 2001.
He was granted a new trial when Hudson ruled that a key witness gave false and misleading testimony at the trial. In December, the N.C. Court of Appeals upheld Hudson’s ruling.
No date has been set for the new trial.
At Tuesday's hearing in Durham County Superior Court, Candice Zamperini, Kathleen Peterson’s sister, told the judge she believes Peterson is guilty of a “callous murder” and is a flight risk.
“We’re terrified of him and his family,” she said in a trembling voice. “Please make sure he continues to be monitored.”
Another sister, Lori Campbell, said she considers Peterson “a very dangerous man. I’ve lost one sister and I don’t want to lose another one.” Even after 13 years, she said, her sister’s death remains “very painful.”
The motion to lift house arrest was filed by Peterson’s attorneys, Kerry Sutton of Durham and David Rudolf of Charlotte, who represented him at the first trial.
Tuesday’s motion says Peterson has complied with all conditions of his pre-trial release, including not leaving Durham County, and that his $300,000 bond continues to be secured by family property.
He was required to surrender his U.S. passport to the clerk of court as part of his bond conditions in 2001 and does not have a current one, the motion says.
Peterson, 70, appeared to be in good spirits at the courthouse Tuesday, occasionally laughing and exchanging banter with his attorneys and members of the courtroom gallery before the proceedings began.
The novelist, ex-Durham mayoral candidate and former Herald-Sun columnist has always maintained he is innocent in his wife’s death.