‘The Staircase’ Director on Whether an Owl Could’ve Led to Kathleen Peterson’s Death

“It’s the most possible explanation for the very special injuries that Kathleen Peterson had suffered,” Jean-Xavier de Lestrade explains

(Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you have not watched Netflix’s “The Staircase.”)

In Netflix’s docuseries “The Staircase,” prosecution and defense teams lay out theories on how Kathleen Peterson might’ve died in 2001 — but filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade thinks there’s another plausible explanation.

“She may have been attacked by an owl,” de Lestrade told TheWrap. “The first time I heard about that it was in 2008, I really laughed. I thought, ‘it was not possible!’ But I have to say that since the time I started to study that theory, I met with Larry Pollard many times — Pollard was the first to raise that theory and he was a neighbor of Mike Peterson — and met with many people taking care of that house and who knew the behavior of the house, and I talked to people who have been attacked and injured by owls, and I have to say, in my opinion, it’s the most possible explanation for the very special injuries that Kathleen Peterson had suffered. No one introduced that theory inside a courtroom.”

“The Staircase” follows the trial of Michael Peterson in the case after he reported in December 2001 that his wife had fallen down the stairs and died. However, there was a lot of blood and lacerations to the head that caused investigators to look into a possible homicide.

The owl theory suggests a Barred Owl could have attacked Kathleen outside her house as she was walking in from the Petersons’ pool. As she fled inside, she could have fallen, hit her head and died. The owl could have gotten tangled in Kathleen’s hair as it attacked her, inflicting serious wounds with its talons. Owls have sharp claws on their feet that they use to attack and kill prey… and they do sometimes go after humans by dive-bombing, with focus on the head. Kathleen was found with pine needles and three small feathers in her hair, and seven long lacerations on her head, giving birth to the owl theory.

Peterson was convicted in 2003 of murdering Kathleen Peterson and spent eight years in prison. In 2011, he was granted a new trial, but before it could start, he submitted to an Alford plea to the reduced charge of manslaughter. He was sentenced to time already served and was set free.

Check out the video above for an explainer on the owl theory.

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