Whatever Happened To Duane Deaver, The Blood Spatter Analyst From The Staircase?

On December 9, 2001, Mike Peterson called 911 to report he found his wife, Kathleen, unresponsive at the bottom of a staircase in the couple's Durham, North Carolina, home. As reported by WRAL, Mike told authorities his wife "was injured in a fall." By the time paramedics arrived on the scene, Kathleen Peterson was dead.

Kathleen's autopsy, which was provided by WRAL, states that her cause of death was "severe concussive injury of the brain caused by multiple blunt force impacts of the head." Although Michael Peterson contends he found his wife on the floor and was not responsible for her death, the medical examiner concluded Kathleen Peterson's injuries were "inconsistent with a fall down the stairs" and were more likely the result of "multiple impacts received as a result of a beating."

Mike Peterson was subsequently arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Expert Institute reports one of the prosecution team's key witnesses was blood spatter analyst Duane Deaver. During the trial, Deaver testified bloodstain patterns on the walls of the stairwell proved Kathleen Peterson did not fall down the stairs. Instead, she was likely beaten to death.

On October 10, 2003, Michael Peterson was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Kathleen Peterson. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. However, Duane Deaver's involvement in the case was a key factor in the verdict being overturned.

Blood spatter analyst Duane Deaver accused of falsifying evidence

As reported by The Wrap, blood spatter analyst Duane Deaver was terminated by North Carolina's State Bureau of Investigation in 2011. The dismissal was prompted by an investigation into the case of Greg Taylor, who was wrongfully convicted of murder. Amid the investigation, authorities discovered Duane Deaver provided falsified information during Taylor's trial. They also concluded Deaver failed to provide Taylor's defense team with information that would have assisted in Taylor's defense.

The Wrap reports the incident prompted further investigation into several other cases in which Duane Deaver provided expert testimony. An official audit revealed the blood spatter analyst falsified evidence in a total of 34 different criminal cases throughout his 25-year career. One of the highest-profile cases included in the investigation was Mike Peterson's murder trial.

After the initial verdict was overturned, Mike Peterson entered an Alford plea. He was sentenced to time served and was released from prison. According to The Wrap, Duane Deaver's last known place of employment was ISS Facilities — where he served as Director of Operations.

Duane Deaver tried to get his job back

Duane Deaver, who is played by actor Myke Holmes in the HBO series "The Staircase," which was inspired by the mysterious death of Kathleen Peterson, attempted to get his job back in 2014. WTVD-TV reports that Deaver's attorney, Phillip Isley, claimed before the North Carolina Human Resources Commission that the state denied Deaver his right to due process and was therefore wrongfully terminated, adding that Deaver was a "scapegoat." Former SBI Director Robin Pendergraft also testified in a hearing that the explanations for Deaver's termination weren't valid. Deaver told the commission that the Department of Justice knew that he did nothing wrong, firmly stating that he never lied in the Taylor hearing and did not mislead the jury during Peterson's trial.

The commission ruled in Deaver's favor, noting that instead of being fired, he should have been demoted with a 10% pay cut (via WTVD-TV). Not only that, but The Cinemaholic reports that the commission ordered that Deaver receive 34 months of back pay.

Duane Deaver was sued

Michael Peterson's case might have been one of the highest-profile cases in the 34 cases in which Duane Deaver allegedly gave false testimony, but it was not the only one in which a reportedly innocent man served time. Kirk Turner, a dentist, stood accused of stabbing his wife to death in 2007. Turner said he stabbed his wife in self-defense after she attacked him with a spear, according to legal documents (via FindLaw). 

Taylor was exonerated in 2011, and he sued Deaver for malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, abuse of process, and false imprisonment. The Winston-Salem Journal reported that while the case was thrown out of Superior Court, the North Carolina Court of Appeals settled the case in 2018 for $200,000 (via The Wrap). Part of the settlement, however, was Deaver admitting to no wrongdoing.

Deaver moved from North Carolina after being sued. In May 2022, The Cinemaholic reported that he worked in Philadelphia as Director of Environmental Services for Aramark Healthcare until 2015. He then moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he reportedly still lives.