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Crime News

How To Tell Scott Peterson, Scot Peterson, Drew Peterson And Michael Peterson Apart

Your guide to the most famous Petersons in true crime, including Michael Peterson from "The Staircase" on Netflix.

By Gina Pace
The Michael Peterson Case, Explained

We will admit that this is getting a little confusing.

With Netflix’s True Crime documentary series, “The Staircase,” your friends will be asking you what you think of that Michael Peterson case. And you’re going to be thinking of that guy with the frosted tips that killed his wife. Or maybe that police sergeant that killed his wife.

But no.

This is a different guy with the last name of Peterson who was accused of … you guessed it. Killing his wife.

To make it simpler, here is a primer on every Peterson, a Peterson Primer, if you will, that every true crime fan needs to know about.


Michael Peterson

Kathleen Peterson was found at the bottom of her stairwell in 2001 in Durham, North Carolina, and suspicious were cast on her husband, a novelist and former candidate for mayor, Michael Peterson.

Michael said his wife had fallen down the stairs, but investigators thought it would have been nearly impossible for a fall to create so many severe head lacerations.

Prosecutors also pointed to Michael Peterson’s visiting male sex workers, Kathleen’s spending, and a life insurance policy as motives behind a possible murder. Michael was convicted in 2003 of the murder. He maintained his innocence, and was granted a new trial in 2011, in part because of faulty blood spatter analysis.

In 2017, months before the retrial, he took an Alford Plea to reduced charges of manslaughter, meaning he acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him but did not take responsibility for murdering his wife. A judge sentenced him to time served, and he was released leaving court a felon but continuing to proclaim his innocence.



Drew Peterson

Oh man, this guy. Drew Peterson is a retired police sergeant who was convicted in 2012 for the 2004 murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. He was also a suspect in the 2007 murder of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, whose body has never been found.

Initially, since Savio was found in a bathtub, her death seemed accidental — but that got a little more fishy once wife number four disappeared. Authorities exhumed Savio’s body and changed their ruling to a homicide.

But … there’s more. In 2015, Drew Peterson was charged with trying to arrange a hit on James Glasgow, the prosectuor who helped convict him. It earned him 40 more years on his sentence.

Scott Peterson

This is perhaps the best looking of the Petersons, convicted of one of the ugliest crimes.

Scott Peterson’s 27-year-old and very pregnant wife Laci went missing in 2002. Months later, the fetus of Scott and Laci’s child was found washed up in San Francisco Bay. A day later, Laci’s body was found a mile away from her son’s. It was gruesome: she was decapitated and all her limbs were missing.

Scott was eventually arrested, carrying $15,000 in cash, four cell phones, a gun, a fake driver’s license, and a map to his mistress’ workplace. All suuuuuper weird stuff to be found with — and he had dyed his hair and goatee, giving him the look of a busted Backstreet Boy in the courthouse.

He’s currently on death row, but has an active appeal.

Scot Peterson

This Peterson isn't accused of killing anyone at all — in fact he's in the news for what he didn't do. 

Scot with one “T” Peterson was a security guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and did not enter the school during the Feb. 14 mass shooting.

Peterson has faced ire from parents, and President Donald Trump called him a “coward.” He recently gave his accounting of the day to the Washington Post.

“It was my job, and I didn’t find him,” Peterson said of alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz.

In June 2019, criminal charges were brought against Peterson for failing to take action on the day of the shooting. He could possibly face up to 100 years in prison if convicted.

[Photos: Getty]

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