Does Michael Peterson Have a New Wife? Inside His Relationship History

With every episode of The Staircase on HBO Max, more and more details and jaw-dropping twists and turns continue to play out in the story and criminal case against Michael Peterson.

On December 9, 2001, Michael Peterson's wife, Kathleen Peterson was found dead at the bottom of their staircase with severe injuries. Peterson was charged with her murder, convicted at trial, and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

He was released in 2011 on bond ahead of a retrial but in February 2017, Peterson submitted an Alford plea to the reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter, meaning he admitted the evidence against him would likely lead to a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt but the did not have to admit he committed the crime.

Flash-forward to the present day and true-crime enthusiasts want to know every possible detail about Peterson's life and personal relationships—like, does he have a new wife? Newsweek has everything you need to know about his relationship history:

The Peterson family
True-crime enthusiasts have taken a renewed interest in Michael Peterson and the death of his wife, Kathleen, with the premiere of the mini-series "The Staircase". Above (L-R): Tim Guinee, Sophie Turner, Colin Firth, Olivia DeJonge, Patrick Schwarzenegger appear as the Peterson family in "The Staircase" on HBO Max. HBO Max

Does Michael Peterson Have a New Wife?

No, Michael Peterson does not have a new wife today.

The woman who The Staircase viewers may be mistaking for Peterson's new wife could well be Sophie Brunet (played by Juliette Binoche), an executive producer of the Jean-Xavier de Lestrade documentary, also titled The Staircase. They dated until 2017. At the moment, very little is known about Peterson's private life.

Today, Michael Peterson, 78, is still alive and remains a free man. Since his release from prison on bond in 2011 and his official release in 2017, Peterson has returned to his passion for writing, publishing two books about his trial, his life behind bars, and the taste of freedom.

He published his first memoir, Behind the Staircase, in 2019 and went on to write a follow-up, which was released that same year, titled Beyond the Staircase. He donated all of the proceeds to charity.

Warning: This article contains spoilers about The Staircase

Inside Michael Peterson's Relationship History

As seen in The Staircase, Michael Peterson admitted to his family and The Staircase documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade (streaming on Netflix) that he was bisexual when evidence of male pornography was found on his computer. He stated Kathleen Peterson was aware of his interest in men and his first wife, Patricia Sue, was also there to support Michael Peterson's bisexuality claims.

Patricia Sue

Michael Peterson's first marriage was to Patricia "Patty" Sue (now Peterson), an elementary school teacher. Like Patty's father, Michael Peterson was a military man, having served in Vietnam as part of the U.S. Marine Corps from August 1968 until September 1969. They married in 1965 and moved to Durham, North Carolina.

Together they had two sons Clayton and Todd Peterson before removing to Germany.

Michael Peterson first wife
Above (L-R): The real Todd Peterson, Martha Ratliff, Margaret (Ratliff) Blakemore, and Clayton Peterson. Todd and Clayton are Michael Peterson's sons from his first marriage to Patricia Peterson. Netflix

There, Patty Peterson worked for the U.S. Department of Defense for 35 years as an elementary school teacher.

They separated in the 1980s and divorced in the early 1990s. At first, their two sons lived in Germany with their mother but eventually went to live in Durham, North Carolina with their father.

Throughout Michael Peterson's murder trial, his ex-wife was not only his emotional support but also his financial, and until her death, she believed him to be innocent. According to CNN, Patty Peterson loaned Michael Peterson $168,000 to help him fight his case.

She also stood by Michael Peterson when suspicions were raised during his trial about the death of their friend Elizabeth Ratliff in 1985. Ratliff was found dead at the bottom of the staircase in her home in similar circumstances to Kathleen Peterson. The last person to see her alive was Michael Peterson. Her death was investigated by the U.S. military police in Germany at the time and an autopsy concluded she had died from an intracerebral hemorrhage.

Ahead of Michael Petersons' trial, Ratliff's body was exhumed for a second autopsy in April 2003, where a Durham medical examiner concluded the cause of death as "homicide." The prosecution didn't accuse Peterson of Ratliff's death at his trial. They did, however, use her death as an example of an incident that could help him "fake" Kathleen's accident.

According to their son Clayton Peterson, Michael and Patricia lived together between 2019 and 2021 as "companions."

He told the News & Observer: "They were companions. They took care of each other."

Patricia Peterson died in July 2021 of a heart attack when she was 78 years old.

Kathleen Peterson

Kathleen Peterson, née Hunt, and Michael Peterson became acquainted when Kathleen Peterson moved to Durham and became one of Michael's neighbors.

They married in 1987 and together they raised a large, blended family with children from previous relationships. Michael Peterson had two sons, Clayton AND Todd, and Kathleen Peterson had a daughter, Caitlin, from her previous marriage to Fred Atwater.

They also raised Margaret and Martha Ratliff, the daughters of their late friends, George and Elizabeth Ratliff.

Kathleen was the first woman to attend Duke University's School of Engineering and throughout her marriage to Michael Peterson, she worked for Nortel, a telecommunications company.

Kathleen Peterson Michael Peterson wife
Kathleen Peterson, seen above, died on December 1, 2009. Netflix

On December 1, 2009, Kathleen Peterson was found dead at the bottom of the staircase in their North Carolina home. Her husband, Michael Peterson, was convicted of murder on October 10, 2003, but the circumstances surrounding her death have been called into question, including Peterson's guilt or innocence since his trial.

At the time of her mother's death, Caitlin Atwater supported her stepfather and after his arrest told the press of his innocence.

She said: "My mother and Mike had an absolutely loving relationship and there is no way that either of them would ever wish any sort of harm on the other one."

However, Caitlin's opinion changed after she saw her mother's autopsy photographs that depicted horrific injuries. Her stepfather's lies, including about his sexuality, also played a role, as depicted in the HBO Max miniseries, The Staircase.

Sophie Brunet

In a big twist that fans of the original documentary, The Staircase, wouldn't have seen coming, Peterson dated Sophie Brunet, an editor of Jean-Xavier de Lestrade's documentary series. The pair are believed to have formed a relationship whilst Peterson was in prison and following his release in 2011.

Speaking to the French publication L'Express, de Lestrade shared: "This is one of the incredible things that happened during those 15 years. Life is really full of surprises. They had a real story, which lasted until May 2017. But she never let her own feelings affect the course of editing."

Speaking to The News & Observer, Michael Peterson shared their relationship came to an end because he did not want to live in Paris.

He said: "We made plans to live in Paris. Then I went and realized, no, I can't. I can't live in Paris. I don't speak French. I'm too old. I couldn't afford to live in Paris and my children, and grandchildren were in America. And [Sophie] said, well, if you can't commit to live with me all the time, let's end it and it was a great blow to both of us...I could not give her what she really needed and deserved."

Michael Peterson's Bisexuality

The true extent of Michael Peterson's physical relationships with men remains unknown. The prosecution at Michael Peterson's trial alleged Kathleen had found thousands of pornographic images of men on his computer and several emails between him and a man named Brad, where they discussed sex in detail.

Brad even testified at Michael Peterson's trial and under cross-examination, stated Michael Peterson spoke about Kathleen Peterson, calling her a "dynamite wife," reported the NZ Herald.

The Staircase airs on Thursdays on HBO Max and Sky Atlantic.