Tag - murder

Bella Thorne to star Joshua Caldwell’s Thriller ‘Southland’

Bella Thorne (Assassination Nation, “Famous in Love”) has signed on to star in writer/director Joshua Caldwell’s (Layover) Southland. Colin Bates and Michael Jefferson of Lucidity Entertainment are producing alongside Thor Bradwell and Scott Levenson. Garrett Clayton, Katie Leary, Bennett Litwin and Adam Litwin will serve as executive producers.

Living in a small Florida town and working at a diner was never Arielle’s (Thorne) dream life. She’s always wanted more. Fame. Popularity. Admiration. When she falls for a recently paroled young criminal named Dean, she drags him back into a life of danger, learning that posting their criminal exploits on social media is an easy way to viral fame. Obsessed with their rising number of followers, they embark on a dangerous adventure together that leads to robbery, cop chases and even murder. Heading to Hollywood, the City of Stars, they will realize what it takes to become famous and have to decide if this dangerous lifestyle is really worth it. Principal photography will commence this spring.

Thorne is an actress and singer, known for roles in Lionsgate’s The Duff, Warner Bros Blended, Freeform’s series “Famous in Love,” and Open Road Films’ Midnight Sun. Most recently, she starred in NEON’sAssassination Nation, alongside Maude Apatow, Suki Waterhouse, and Joel McHale.

Caldwell is a director/writer/producer who made his feature directorial debut with the French language film Layover in 2014. The film premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival and was nominated for the FIPRESCI New American Cinema Award. He then dire

Special Event in Celebration of Jonas Åkerlund’s LORDS OF CHAOS

Gunpowder & Sky’s special event last night with Vice Studios in celebration of Jonas Åkerlund’s LORDS OF CHAOS starring Rory Culkin at St. Vitus in Brooklyn. Special guests Black Anvil, the black metal band, performed.

LORDS OF CHAOS

Opening In Theaters February 8th and On Demand February 22nd

Synopsis:A teenager’s quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in Oslo in the 1980s results in a very violent outcome. Lords of Chaos tells the true story of True Norwegian Black Metal and its most notorious practitioners – a group of young men with a flair for publicity, church-burning and murder: MAYHEM.

Directed by | Jonas Åkerlund

Starring | Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Sky Ferreira, Jack Kilmer, Valter Skarsgård

Written by | Dennis Magnusson & Jonas Åkerlund, based on the book of the same name

Co-Produced by | Vice Studios, 20th Century Fox, Scott Free Productions and Insurgent Media

 Official Trailer https://youtu.be/M7zrHiqoJ6k

This Week In Theaters: Jonas Åkerlund’s ‘Lords of Chaos’ starring Rory Culkin

A teenager’s quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in Oslo in the 1980s results in a very violent outcome. Lords of Chaos tells the true story of True Norwegian Black Metal and its most notorious practitioners – a group of young men with a flair for publicity, church-burning and murder: MAYHEM.

Directed by | Jonas Åkerlund Starring | Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Sky Ferreira, Jack Kilmer, Valter Skarsgård Official Trailer | https://youtu.be/M7zrHiqoJ6k

POSTER RELEASE: Jonas Åkerlund’s LORDS OF CHAOS

A teenager’s quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in Oslo in the 1980s results in a very violent outcome. Lords of Chaos tells the true story of True Norwegian Black Metal and its most notorious practitioners – a group of young men with a flair for publicity, church-burning and murder: MAYHEM.

Directed by | Jonas Åkerlund

Starring | Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Sky Ferreira, Jack Kilmer, Valter Skarsgård

Written by | Dennis Magnusson & Jonas Åkerlund, based on the book of the same name

Co-Produced by | VICE, 20th Century Fox, Scott Free Productions and Insurgent Media

Opening In Theaters February 8th and On Demand February 22nd

Jeff Weekley of Oxygen’s ‘Snapped’

Jeff Weekley has made many roles as a detective on Oxygen’s Snapped. The show just started their 24th season. The cases throughout the years have been a classic in many homes. Weekly talks with us about its impact and his experience.

ATM: What does this show exhibit about man’s effect on a man?

Jeff: If you’re referring to man’s inhumanity to man, this show has taught us all too well, that vengeance puts a very low price on the value of a human life.

ATM: Name an episode that totally transformed or changed your conscience about humanity.

Jeff: Every episode affects my views of humanity, but filming the Shayna Hubers (AKA “nose job killer”) episode was a real eye opener, because it demonstrated just how brazen a murderer could be. Not only did she celebrate her crime in the interrogation room, but she bluntly admitted her guilt to investigators without remorse. One can’t view that behavior and not be affected by it.

ATM: What can you say about a person before their breaking point and after? Describe the observation you notice.

Jeff: A person’s breaking point is a line where rationality and logic do not cross. Unlike crimes of opportunity (theft, etc.) this series deals with crimes of passion, and as we see all too often in society, extreme emotions exhibit extreme behaviors.

ATM: What does this show express about the women species without being bias?

Jeff: Casting the “hell hath no fury” cliché aside, what this show says about all people, in general, is that one who feels trapped with no other options will resort to whatever means they deem necessary to escape from their current situation, no matter how immoral or extreme that option might be.

ATM: How does the documentary series style create a sharpened relationship between the audience and the perpetrator being viewed?

Jeff: Unlike the many great crime shows that aired in my youth, this format puts the audience there when it happened. Back in the day, I loved watching shows like Dragnet, Columbo, and Hawaii Five-O, and still do, because their acting and writing were fantastic, but what the documentary format does is allow the viewer to walk a mile in the investigator’s shoes as it happened.

ATM: Why has this true crime series lived in our homes for so long as a classic?

Jeff: Because it’s reality. Years ago, crime shows were sanitized to shelter the audience from graphic violence. Now that we live in a world of instant information, viewers have become more savvy and are on a quest for the true picture, no matter how much blood and gore it entails.

ATM: Talk about your daily contribution to your role.

Jeff: Preparation is essential to any actors success, but documentaries demand it, because the Detectives I’ve portrayed are real people who’ve investigated real homicides. Our show represents real human lives, and I respect all my fellow cast members, as well as the crews, for their hard work and research necessary to make these shows as authentic as possible.

 

Actor John Hensley on ‘How To Get Away With Murder’

ATM: What does your character internally and externally like about Bonnie?

John: Miller’s moral compass is very black and white. Miller has a very defined idea of what is right and wrong. He relishes his position in the DA. He is a bit of a crusader. Bonnie in many ways represents to him, one being a very strong woman. Two, there is something in Bonnie’s ability to navigate the grayier areas of life and of the job that is intriguing to Miller. He really appreciates this in her. There is something in him that really recognizes that she has lived quite a life without knowing the details of this life. This is always a phenomenal attractive thing when we cross paths with people who seem to have miles under their belts.

I think all these things make her a phenomenal, intriguing, and compelling person to Miller. This is my take on it. If you were to interview Peter Nowalk or someone else, then they might have a completely different answer. Honestly, there is something to say about there being a spark between them. He got sparked by her. There is just that chemical thing. Maybe it is a little of opposites attract. Miller does not strike me as a dancer. He is a pretty straight-laced kind of dude. Maybe there is something in her that represents a side of life that he does not have access to. This is always intriguing.

ATM: How could a person that is portraying a bad persona link up with someone that is playing a good person to have a good turn out?

John: You are talking about Miller and Annalise. And how they could have an alliance if they are so different. This is a great question. For me, of this very dynamic is about how all this is going to shape out. Annalise is obviously a highly intelligent, complex person. I’m not sure. Miller might have a few tricks up his sleeve. He might be a little like Ned Stark and being able to play the game. Miller is a clever guy, but he is not a manipulative human being. He is kind of what you see is what you get. He is in the DA office. He is not a chump. He is used to swimming in sharky water. Annalise is a shark of a different cut.

ATM: Personally, how do you get by when swimming in sharky water?

John: I try not to. Maybe this is where Miller and I are kind of similar. I am kind of a what you see is what you get kind of guy. I tend to give others the benefit of the doubt, not in a naïve way. I am not into playing games. If the water is feeling a little sharky, then I do my best to get out. Get out and move on. Life is too short to play games like that.

ATM: Do you feel Viola Davis character’s intimidation is a part of the reason she has trouble getting along with people in high positions?

John: People are challenged by Annalise’s sort of good combination of confidence, intelligence, and her fearless nature. This would be a challenge for anybody. We are even seeing this season with Emmett who is also a formidable character, but he has gotten this great acquisition with Annalise. She is no one’s chump. I am assuming Old Emmett is going to have his hands full. Annalise is often in the literal sense the smartest person in the room. This can be highly intimidating for anyone. I believe Miller really respects this about her. He knows she is legit, and this commands his respects. This is my opinion and my take on this.

ATM: Do you feel there is a journalistic component to working as a lawyer?

John: Oh sure. Just to give you a little insight into my life. There are a lot of country attorneys in my family on my mother’s side. I am originally from Kentucky. I have witnessed through them that depending on the nature of the case and the kind of law that you practice that it is vital. Whether it is negotiating a contract in a conference room or arguing a case in litigation, you are fighting for the life of your client. Whether this is their financial life or actual life.

An attorney that is worth their salt is going to research the hell out of not only their client but also their argument. This is a lot of what journalism is. There is no such thing as unbiased journalism. The best thing a journalist can do is research their subject and do their best to present what they feel is the clearest to their audience. This is the same with an attorney, which their audience happens to be a judge and often a jury.

A Trans-Woman’s Justice?

True crime is becoming the new topic in the documentary sector. It is about merging investigation with storytelling. Filipino American Filmmaker PJ Raval adheres to this but took a different direction. In his documentary, Call Her Ganda, Raval follows the family of a trans-woman named Jennifer Laude from the time of her murder to April 2018.

ATM: How did the participants in the film become sensitive to sharing details about this murder? For instance, Jennifer’s mother?

PJ: I met the attorney early on at a panel discussion in the Philippines. She had trust in me with my previous work. I told Vergie this was something important the world needed to see. I kind of felt me as Filipino American should not do this, but rather a Filipino. I got comfortable with it the more I thought about it. I was a person coming from both sides. I wanted to use my skills as a storyteller and filmmaker to aide this movement. I wanted to have the family’s blessings and support. I knew the family would be the focus. I could not make this film unless having the support of the Laude family. You have to work up to them telling you things. They understood my reasons for wanting to make it. I am a Filipino American and a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

ATM: You take the audience step by step of when the murder happened. You even provide specific times. This gave it a CSI feel to it. How did you want the audience to convey the expression of this time chart?

PJ: You want to be cinematic and embrace the elements of storytelling. It is interesting to actually go through the events of Jennifer being discovered dead. Instead of having someone just telling us this in the News report. It was important to present it this way. These are the little known facts we do know. This is presented in a procedural narrative eye type of way. This was the basis of the legal evidence. This evidence went into the trial. This is based off the journalistic reporting Meredith was able to uncover.

The news reports gave you a response, but never the specifics. They just told you a trans woman was found dead in a motel room. This is it. They do not talk about the things that led to it. They do not talk about the potential intent of how this happened. It was important for me to show the starting point. This is not a crime drama. This is very big in the documentary world and their series. Everyone is focused on true crime and investigation. This film follows the story of those trying to get justice. I want to take the viewer into their experience of obtaining justice. Meredith and Vergie are telling their story of what they learned through Jennifer.

ATM: Talk about the title of this film.

PJ: This title does not quite translate to U.S. Culture. This word does not mean only pretty, but it also stands for physical beauty. It also alludes to dignity and inner strength. Everyone in this film had inner strength in order to take on the U.S. as a foreign superpower in the forms of justice. This all revolves around Jennifer. There will always be attempts to question her character and undermine her life. She was a poor Filipino trans woman. I wanted to start off the film by talking about a beautiful human being who was murdered.

ATM: How can Jennifer’s story give people more knowledge about this situation and lifestyle?

PJ: There are several things. I hope the film humanizes Jennifer and makes someone understand her experience. This is where the film becomes powerful. It helps you walk in someone else’s shoes. You have the ability to understand Jennifer from a more intimate, personal, and deeper level. You cannot get this from just reading the News report. You hear the way Jennifer’s family talks about her. She has her own dreams and ambitions. These were unfortunately cut short. I realized in editing that every scene was tied to Jennifer somehow.

Jennifer Laude’s life was cut short on October 11, 2014, in Olongapo, Philippines. Laude was a transwoman in an environment that did not provide trans individuals with equal opportunities. Her most convenient answer seemed to be working as a sex worker. One night she left her fiancé’s home, went out with a few friends to never return. Laude’s mother’s anger and pain are addressed in Raval’s film.

Elizabeth Stillwell: LIZZIE

Elizabeth Stillwell produced and financed the film Lizzie. This psychological thriller stars Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart. The film addresses the conspiracy around the deaths of Lizzie Borden’s parents. We see more about how the societal norms influenced her motives and decision making. 

ATM: What was your prior knowledge of the Lizzie Borden story?

ES: Weirdly…nothing. I went straight to google before I even read the script and the top 5 search results showed Lizzie Borden’s name synonymous with Chloë Sevigny’s. It was clear to me it would be an incredible story, but, almost as enticing, a team of amazing were women backing it. It definitely lived up to those expectations!

ATM: Explain the energy around the suspense presented in this film.

ES: Bryce Kass wrote such a powerful script that our director, Craig Macneill, took to the next level. No one really knows what happened in the Borden house, and our film presents Lizzie Borden as a woman tied down by so many societal and familial constraints. Humanizing her and following her journey up until the murders really pull you into the story.

ATM: What were your likes and dislikes about the time era in this film?

 ES: I remember reading this script and thinking, “Wow- this happened in the 1890s? It feels so current.” Lizzie is suppressed by the men in her life – her father who controls her everyday life and frequents Bridget’s room in the middle of the night, and her uncle who seeks to steal her inheritance. It’s always liberating to have a story told where the women fight back.

ATM: How different were the social norms compared to now?

ES: It’s interesting to see that, while a lot has changed, we haven’t progressed the way one might think. We have a long way to go.

ATM: Do you feel the social norms influenced Lizzie’s murder?

ES: Assuming you are asking about what drove her to commit the alleged murders, yes. That’s how this film seeks to humanize her. She’s not some psychopath who picked up an ax and decided to kill her parents. Under her constrained circumstances, she lashed out!

ATM: How does this film present women? Men?

ES: The women steal the show in this film! All of the characters, male and female, in LIZZIE have a strong presence and role to play (acted by a ridiculously talented cast), and no character is completely innocent in this tale.  And, if I were, to sum up the film in short, Chloë so powerfully delivers to us “Men don’t have to know things. Women do.”

 

TV One’s ‘ATL Homicide’

David Quinn and Vince Velazquez are two former APD detectives. They are getting ready to premiere their show on TV One called ATL Homicide. These former Atlanta detectives have a long history with helping their community and fighting crime. They have set and broke a few barriers. Also, they coined a vast number of phrases. One of the two detectives even used the media as a strategic way to solve cases. Quinn and Velazquez talked with ATM about moments in their career and about the preparation for their show.

ATM: Take us through a day of production on this show.

DQ: Episode one was unique because we got to learned how things worked. One of the things we learned was that air conditioning makes so much noise. I am not sure if they visually removed the sweat, but we felt like a sauna. We were in a location in Atlanta that they rented out. It looked like an abandoned building and warehouse. It was a full day sitting in chairs talking about the particular dates for the cases. We were in suits and ties. I could have taken my suit off and rung it out. It felt like we were in the Himalayas.

ATM: Describe your overview on the Atlanta’s crime scene now.

DQ: There has been a huge shift in the way the policing is going down. The housing projects are closed. During the year 2000, this is where Velasquez and I lived with our people in the projects. There was an older and rich style of police. Each family we knew. The families have been disbursed throughout the county because of gentrification. Some lived 40 or 50 miles outside the county. Now, the homicides have been more metropolitan in terms of Atlanta. There is no more turf. We were very territorial, and it has changed a lot.

VV: Most see homicides occur in impoverished neighborhoods while watching shows. We had homicides in very fluent neighborhoods with murder, suicides, and domestics in million dollars condominiums during our careers. In one case, a man comes home in a high rise and was assaulted by two young men. They strangled him. Crime and homicides have no racial boundaries. Atlanta is no different.

ATM: Nicely said. What about crime fighting intrigues you to keep waking up every day to do it? Did you all get it mixed up?

VV: Great question (3x). A lot of people have a hard time understanding we fight humor and death. I’ll give you an example, we had a body that was badly decomposed, and the cavities were open. I have an intern with me when arriving to the scene. I also had a $300 pair Raybans on my head. There were maggots in the body. My glasses fell on the body as I looked down. The intern looked at me like, “Aw man, what’s going on next?” I got them back in my pocket. I was not about to lose these $300 pairs of Raybans. Every time I wear these glasses it reminds of the poor victims, location, and facial recognition.

DQ: I met my wife of 28 years on the police department. During this time, we had a house full of sick kids. My wife is still a cop in her last year before retirement. I could have not done it without her. I was solving murders like everyone else and folding clothes. While Vince and I were different, we were so alike in our passion. Keeping this real and honest. We put together investigation transparency when coming into this unit. We told everyone where we were going in terms of the suspects, courts, feds, and the prosecution. We wanted to hear things before the trial. We coined the phrase “Catch and Release.”

VV: That’s my favorite. People were like, “You had a killer come to the office. Here is your bad guy. You had enough to arrest him, but you let him go home.” We thought to arrest him another day because we found a way to make him feel comfortable. This is the transparency we worked with. People thought we were crazy.

DQ: We used to have a lot of these statements from the accused at the living room tables with their parents and love ones. This is a family matter. Our heart goes out to the victim in a homicide investigation. You have to respect the accuser. If you do not respect the accuser, then you will hit a wall. We stopped bringing the suspects to the station. We said, “Meet us at the house. Bring the aunts over and everyone.” We need to know what is about to happen to this family. Then we would leave and continue our investigation. Eventually, we locked them up.

ATM: Were these designated careers you envisioned as little boys?

DQ: Never (Laughs). My father was in prison. He met my son through a prison glass window. My son is going to be 24 in March. This is not the life I wanted myself to live. MY grandparents raised me. I grew up very modest, rather poor, but not to poor. I joined the military at 17 years old.  I started to get a small interest in law enforcement once I joined the military. I went to civilian work when exiting the military. I worked for Delta Airlines. I became fascinated about the police officer’s gear and how they interacted with the community. At 3.5 years with the airline, I started to feel a pull being a cop.

To become an aircraft engineer at Delta is very difficult. They pick one out of 100 interviews. I had made it. I took a 75% pay cut to be a cop. People looked at me like I was crazy. I wanted to be a police officer. I figured this was what I was supposed to do.

VV: I wanted to be a detective since six years old. I spent my 14 years going to prisons and courts to see family. I thought everyone visited the prison and court systems. It was amazing to me the males in my family went to prison and some of them survived it. I wanted to be on the other side. I saw my cousins get arrested and do long sentences like 20 and 40 years. I was raised going to prisons. No one in my family had ever worked in law enforcement.

ATM: How do you feel when you see your former careers wrongly depicted on television or in films?

V: Before we started filming for this show, I was like this is incredible, but we don’t do that shit. I am going to say it, “We don’t do that shit.” We had to get everything in 42 minutes when filming the show. DNA takes about six months. We always like to go back to talk with the jury to see how they felt after the trial. We had a case where a guy was beat with a gun. The guy cleaned the whole house up because we could not find blood anywhere. There was so much blood in the car. The jury’s response, “How come you did not pull something up to detect the blood?” This is not CSI Miami.

DQ: Gabrielle, the interesting aspect of this production is that they took the information Vince and I poured out to them and wrote the script. You will see characters playing us. Sometimes we could not be right together. On cop shows the partner never leaves each other’s side. We sometimes went solo to not overwhelm a person. The production team kept it 100. I really do applaud them.

ATM: Name a case that brought tears to your eyes and has never left you.

DQ: I had a case of a missing boy name Allen Watson, which you will see in episode two. He was a 15-year-old kid raised by this grandmother along with other siblings. Their mother died when while they were young. Watson came up missing. The jurisdiction in which he goes missing does not send up smoke signals. They assumed he ran away. Ten years later, his skull was found. I got close to the grandmother. The pain she felt has stuck with me. She ended getting very ill and grieved for years. We had her funeral in the mist of the investigation. I now have a tattoo of a skull on my shoulder, so this kid is with me for the rest of my life. They said he sold drugs, but this does not matter. Our job is to find out who did who and document the pain.

VV: David and I have figured out in our career that a young black boy missing is not given attention toward. It is considered a runaway and no one worries about it. Let it be some little white boy. You will see an hour of a case that took years to complete.

My case is still an open case since 2002. A 14- year old girl was killed in 1995. I got very close to finding the killer. I have kind of become her surrogate daughter in a way. We went through an emotional roller coaster. She hated me because I could not solve her daughter’s case. Then she would love me. Now, I know everything about her other daughters and their own kids.

ATM: In your former line of work, you all were surrounded around lifeless or soulless people, which best describes death. Does a person have to not be afraid of death to succeed in this profession?

DQ: From the time we get to the crime scene, there is the person who has been killed. They might have been slinging drugs. I do not fear death. I know it is inevitable. Velazquez and I have went to 100s of murder sites, but we also went to 1000s of death scenes. We have been around death so much that we really get it. Now, I say let’s have a ball today! Let’s go to Hawaii today! Our days are like this. I know that every day is exempt. This makes me laugh. There are cops who do not know this because they do not know homicide. One of our case was a guy working on this computer at home who died with a cup of coffee. He had no expectations to die. We understand how short life is. I wish more people understood this. This is church. You are not in control of your fate.

VV: It makes me live life fuller. I have jumped out of an airplane. I will not do it again (Chuckles). I went ziplining. I am about to ride on a camel in a couple of months. Who wants to ride a camel? I am going to do it to know what it feels like. We know how easy it is to get in your car, ride to a convenient store, get a soda, and get shot in the face. This could be a father of five. You can be church praising the lord and someone comes to shoot you, your wife, and your kids. No one expects this. We know this can happen. I am living in the dash. That line between the date you are born and the date you die. That little dash is your life.

Quinn and Velazquez are set to star in their show ATL Homicide on TV One. This show will be a full insight of their long served careers. Their cases were compiled into episodes throughout the tedious hours of sitting down with production staff. Both APD detectives express their love for crime fighting through dramatizations.

 

ATL Homicide premieres July 9, 2018 on TV One.

Diving Deep into the Mysterious Murder of Netflix’s “The Staircase”

While the biggest question posed in Netflix’s new documentary series “The Staircase” is “Did Michael Peterson kill Kathleen Peterson?” don’t expect to walk away from the show with a conclusive answer. Ultimately, the answer is never given within the 13 episodes, and maybe that’s how it should be.

Given the recent influx of crime documentaries and television series’ hitting the airwaves – Netflix’s “How to Make a Murderer” from 2015 explored the possibly wrongly convicted Steven Avery and HBO’s 2015 “The Jinx” followed Robert Durst up until his shocking confession of murder – it’s no surprise that Netflix swooped in fast to acquire French director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s 2004 original series “The Staircase.”

Lestrade shot over 600 hours of footage for the documentary chronicling author and war veteran Michael Peterson’s criminal trial after his wife was found dead at the bottom of the staircase at their home on December 9, 2001. Along with airing the original ten episodes of the show, Netflix enlisted Lestrade to produce three more episodes revisiting the Peterson family in recent years amidst newfound developments of the case.

At first glance of the grisly crime scene at the Peterson’s home, it seems almost impossible for Kathleen’s death to be an accident. The copious amounts of blood couldn’t possibly be the result of a fall down the stairs, right? Alas, only one person could ever know the truth surrounding the death and that’s Kathleen herself.

Michael Peterson called 911 around 2:40 A.M. upon his discovery of Kathleen’s body at the foot of the stairs. Earlier in the night Michael and Kathleen had been sitting by the pool of their home chatting and reading, drinking alcohol like most couples do in their downtime. Kathleen headed inside before him and left Michael outside to read alone.

Kathleen’s autopsy reported a 0.7 percent blood alcohol content (just under the legal limit) as well as the presence of valium in her system. It also stated that she had a fractured neck cartilage and hemorrhaging to the internal neck alongside several lacerations to her head. She had died from blood loss less than two hours after her injuries.

It is to be noted that Kathleen’s skull was not fractured and she suffered no brain damage, both of which are common injuries sustained from being beat to death. While the prosecution in the murder case believed Michael to be the culprit as he was the only one in the home at the time of Kathleen’s death, the defense argued that she simply fell down the stairs. Dr. Henry Lee, forensic blood spatter expert found the blood evidence to fall in line with the theory of an accidental fall down the staircase.

Oddly enough, one popular fan theory surrounding Kathleen’s death was not included in “The Staircase,” let alone Michael’s three-month murder trial. What is deemed “The Owl Theory” insists that an owl is partly to blame for Kathleen’s death. While this sounds extremely absurd and unlikely at face value, it has a lot more credibility than you’d assume.

The theory has its origins in Michael’s lawyer friend and neighbor T. Lawrence Pollard who in 2009 filed a motion for appropriate relief, claiming an owl attack led Kathleen to her death. Director Lestrade told Vulture he believed the theory, yet strayed away from theories in his documentary, focusing rather on the legal proceedings of the trial in an attempt to achieve neutrality. (Note: Peterson had a fifteen-year ling with the show’s editor, Sophie Brunet.) He initially filmed both the prosecutors and the defendants for the series, but the prosecutors opted out after four months of being filmed.

The lacerations found on the back of Kathleen’s head were a series of intersecting V and lowercase-T shaped cuts that look a lot like scratches from owl claws. Dr. Patrick Redig, veterinary medicine professor at the University of Minnesota, agrees with the likelihood of an owl attack.

“In my professional opinion, the hypothesized attack to the face and back of the head resulting in the various punctures and lacerations visible in the autopsy photographs is entirely within the behavioral repertoire of large owls,” Redig wrote in a report. In addition, Kathleen was found holding strands of her own hair in her hands as well as small feathers and wood splinters. Clutching one’s hair suggests some sort of defense or coping technique against an attack but the coinciding of bird feathers in Kathleen’s hands adds more to the story and casts reasonable doubt concerning Michael’s involvement. Aside from the owl theory, the defense suggests several other elements to prove Michael’s innocence.

Many skeptics proposed that Michael killed Kathleen for her life insurance money, but this can be quickly disproven by the impossibility of Michael living without Kathleen and her income. Michael was an author and Kathleen was a high-ranking businesswoman at Nortel, which was worth an estimated $7.3 billion before its liquidation in 2009. Michael was making pennies to Kathleen’s dollars and he would be unable to maintain his lavish lifestyle without the money she was bringing home from her own job. Furthermore, Kathleen’s million-dollar life insurance policy was in her ex-husband’s name, meaning Michael wouldn’t receive any financial gain after her passing. Digital Spy reports that the policy carried out to Kathleen’s daughter Caitlin and her father in 2004. Michael owed the bank $100,000 and his sons Todd and Clayton were an additional $30,000 in debt and killing the primary benefactor of the household’s income would serve Michael no purpose other than cement him further in debt.

Similarly, Michael was running for City Council in 2001 when Kathleen died. After his unsuccessful bid for mayor in 1999, what good would murdering his wife do for his political campaign? Murder would only tarnish his campaign and thrust his personal life into the spotlight amidst his fight for office, painting a huge public target on his back.

Also to be noted is the fact that the prosecution insisted Michael used a fireplace blow poke to administer the blows to Kathleen’s head. While they were unable to conjure this supposed murder weapon, it did surface near the end of the trial after it was found dusty and untouched in Michael’s basement without any traces of blood. If this was the weapon that was used to kill Kathleen, why was it coated in dust and spiderwebs? If Michael had used the blow poke as a weapon, why was it so lazily left in his basement in plain view and not hidden or destroyed? If Michael was guilty, why wouldn’t he make sure to destroy the tools he used to kill his loving wife?

The complexity of Kathleen’s murder is what piques viewers’ interest in “The Staircase.” Not only is Kathleen’s death peculiar, but the evidence supporting both side takes onlookers on a rollercoaster of doubt and confusion. There is still quite a bit of alarming proof on the prosecution’s side that Michael Peterson was guilty of his wife’s murder.

Kathleen’s autopsy stated that she had “died from a beating” based on the “bruising and abrasions on the front of her face [and] backs of her arms.” Dr. Kenneth Snell was the medical examiner who took the first look at Kathleen’s body and went on to testify in court concerning Michael’s guilt and also reported possible strangulation wounds that were not mentioned in “The Staircase.”

The biggest monolith pointing to the murderer being Michael Peterson is the fact that his former friend and possible lover, Elizabeth Ratliff, was also found dead at the bottom of a staircase in Germany twenty years prior. If lightning never strikes twice in the same spot, how is it possible for two women closely linked to Michael to die under the same circumstances? Now, Ratliff died of a brain hemorrhage after falling down the stairs, but her work friend Cheryl Appel-Schumacher found the circumstances unsuspicious, as she complained of having severe headaches in the days preceding her death. Michael went on to adopt her daughters, Martha and Margaret, and raised them alongside his sons. It seems suspicious for Ratliff to die so similarly and for Michael to take her children under his wing can be perceived as either an extreme alibi or just plain kindness.

Another storyline that the prosecution pushed was the emphasis of Michael’s bisexuality and they insisted his same-sex desires led to Kathleen’s murder. They proposed that Michael was dissatisfied with Kathleen and yearned for more and thus eliminated her to live out his own sexual fantasies. Michael insisted his extramarital affairs were accepted by Kathleen and that she was aware of his sexuality.

Ultimately, Michael Peterson was found guilty of Kathleen’s murder in 2003 and sentenced to life in prison. However a turning point arrived in 2011 when prominent figure in the case, special agent Duane Deaver of the State Bureau of Investigation, was found to have partially hid significant information regarding the results of various blood tests in many court cases. His negligence led to the exoneration of Greg Taylor, a man convicted of a murder after Deaver’s opinion swayed the jury. Deaver was fired from the bureau in 2011 after he admitted to fabricating the results of his blood spatter experiments throughout his career, including the Peterson’s case. Peterson’s defense attorney pushed for a new trial based on Deaver’s impact on the jury and thus, he was released on house arrest in 2011 after being granted a retrial.

At the age of 73, Michael didn’t want to endure the weight and stress of another trial so he took an Alford plea in 2017. Under an Alford plea, the defendant asserts their innocence but admits that the evidence presented against them is significant enough for a guilty conviction. Michael was freed in 2017 but legally admitted partial guilt under the plea.

While “The Staircase” doesn’t uncover the absolute truth regarding the circumstances of Kathleen Peterson’s death (how could it?), it does successfully cover both sides of the infamous North Carolina legal battle in a fairly neutral fashion. While the film focuses more on Michael’s own journey throughout the trial, it does also include the prosecution’s side and their evidence of Michael’s involvement. Netflix’s hit crime predecessor, “How to Make a Murderer,” failed to include very crucial facts of Steven Avery’s involvement in photographer Teresa Halbach’s 2005 murder and instead insisted Avery’s innocence.

Halbach’s camera and phone were found at Avery’s home and he called her twice on October 31 – the day she disappeared – using *67 to conceal his phone number. Avery had a violent criminal past that included anger management issues, two rape allegations and admittance to abusing his children and ex-wife Lori Mathiesen. Robert Fabian, a friend of the family, stated in court that he had witnessed Avery’s odd behavior on the day of Halbach’s disappearance. Fabian also noted that Avery had recently showered that day and had started a fire in the barrel where Halbach’s phone was eventually found and was overall acting very strangely.

The difference in coverage of “Making a Murderer” and “The Staircase” lays in part to the fact that the latter was French produced and filmed over a decade ago, long before Netflix originals existed. For Netflix to captivate its audiences successfully, it needed to drop a few facts to shock its viewers and keep them enticed with the swift storyline. Thus, the case made such a splash in mainstream media because the general public couldn’t believe how a man could be wrongly convicted not once but twice.

What Jean-Xavier de Lestrade achieves in “The Staircase” is a type of crime documentary that doesn’t lean on a gory collection of pictures or a salaciously drama-infused story to keep the viewer intrigued. Admittedly, part of the series can be found boring because of its length and heavy-handed scientific lingo, but that’s what makes it genuine and classifies it as non-fiction. If Lestrade had left out some of those court moments in order to progress the plot quicker, it would leave certain details out and thus slant the purpose of the documentary by biasing it.

To remain neutral amidst a murder trial is difficult, but Lestrade does his very best to paint the full picture of Michael Peterson, as dull or bizarre as his court case may be. Whether or not Michael is guilty of this crime is up to the viewer to conclude, because Lestrade’s series gives the viewer the opportunity to make an educated decision for themselves.

All 13 episodes of “The Staircase” are streaming now on Netflix.