The Staircase: The Truth About Michael Peterson's Military Past

Michael Peterson, the subject of Jean-Xavier de Lestrade's documentary film "The Staircase" on Netflix, was charged in his wife's 2001 death. However, as reported by The Herald Sun, the details surrounding the manner of Kathleen Peterson's death and Michael's specific involvement remain a point of controversy.

Michael Peterson was ultimately convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison on October 10, 2003. However, his conviction was overturned in 2017, and he was released from prison after entering an Alford plea.

Prior to his conviction, Michael Peterson was a successful novelist and newspaper columnist. As reported by The Herald Sun, he is also a former Marine, who claimed he received two Purple Heart medals after suffering injuries during the Vietnam War. Peterson further claimed that he was awarded a Bronze Star and Silver Star with Valor for his time in combat.

During an interview, Michael said he received one of the Purple Hearts after he was shot in Vietnam. According to The News & Observer, he said the other Purple Heart medal was related to a landmine explosion, which killed a radio operator and sent shrapnel into Michael Peterson's leg.

The controversy surrounding Michael Peterson's military past

As reported by The News & Observer, Michael Peterson was in Vietnam from August 24, 1968, until September 5, 1969. However, there are no records indicating he was injured while serving in Vietnam.

In September 1969, Peterson was transferred to San Diego, California, where he worked at a recruiting station. Ten years later, he was transferred to Atsugi, Japan.

Records confirm Michael Peterson was severely injured while working security for the Naval Air Facility Atsugi. The News & Observer reports Michael was transporting a sergeant to another location when their vehicle was struck by another car. Although Michael survived the crash with serious injuries, the sergeant was killed in the crash.

As a result of injuries sustained in the crash, Michael Peterson retired from the Marines with a permanent medical disability. His military record confirms he received an honorable discharge. According to The News & Observer, the record further confirms he did, in fact, receive a Silver Star and the Bronze Star with Valor.

When questioned about his prior claims about the Purple Heart awards and his time in Vietnam, Michael Peterson admitted that his story was "a cover," as he did not want to discuss the incident in Japan.