Deaver had testified before . This was the first time the eight women and four men who will decide whether Mike Peterson beat his wife to death were listening. They were transfixed.
"A forceful impact occurred on step No. 16," Deaver said. "It was an impact on the surface, and the back of the head of the victim came in contact forcibly. It is consistent with something more forceful than a fall."
On Friday, District Attorney Jim Hardin won a legal fight to allow Deaver's blood-spatter analysis before the jury. On Monday, with a silver pointer, a scale model of the back staircase and photographs, Deaver explained the experiments he conducted with bloody sponges, clothing and mannequin heads.
Some jurors leaned forward as Deaver walked by with diagrams and poster boards with blood spattered on them . Deaver's testimony is critical for the prosecution, because it puts Mike Peterson at the scene of his wife's death. Peterson, who faces life in prison if found guilty of first-degree murder, says he found his wife dying after she fell down the steps at their Durham mansion in December 2001.
Deaver, an 18-year veteran of the State Bureau of Investigation, told the jury that Kathleen Peterson was hit at least three times on the back of the head with an object and that the back of her head also hit two wooden stairs. He said that based on the blood spatter on her husband's shorts and shoes, the wearer was standing directly over Kathleen Peterson when she was killed.
Holding one of Peterson's worn Converse sneakers in front of him and walking along the jury box, Deaver said: "The source of blood at the time of impact was above the shoes. I can't say how high it was. I can say it was above the shoe."
Pulling out state's exhibit No. 72, Hardin asked Deaver whether he had seen it before. Deaver replied that the fireplace tool, called a blow poke, was presented to him by Durham police Detective Art Holland. "He asked me if an instrument like this could produce stains like on step No. 15," Deaver said.
Another similar bloodstain was also found near Kathleen Peterson's left leg. Deaver said he pressed the hooked end of the tool into a bloody paper towel and then against a poster board. It could have left such marks.
While processing the scene Dec. 9, 2001, Deaver looked for such a tool but found no fireplace tools in the sitting room near the kitchen. But when he went back June 27, 2002, to do more investigation, a fireplace set was there.
At the end of the day, Hardin reached the question that he had been building toward for a week. "Do you have a conclusion as to what happened in the stairwell on the early morning of December 9th, 2001?" he asked.
"Yes, I do," Deaver replied.
Deaver swung the silver pointer to show how an attacker standing outside the stairwell used a weapon to strike Kathleen Peterson . Facedown on the stairs, she was hit twice more. Then she got up, bleeding heavily. "At some point she is standing in her own blood," Deaver said.
Then her head "forcibly" hit two steps, Deaver said. Someone began cleaning up.
"There should have been bloodstains on step No. 17," Deaver said. "In my opinion, the blood has been purposely removed after the victim came to rest on step No. 18."
Deaver and Hardin held up Peterson's khaki shorts, the ones he was wearing when the emergency workers arrived at 1810 Cedar St. Someone was "trying to destroy or change bloodstains on the front of these shorts," Deaver said. But the stains still were a textbook case of blood spatter from a beating, he said.
Defense attorney David Rudolf is expected to attack these conclusions during his cross-examination .
The Peterson trial - Day 29
SUMMARY: The death of Kathleen Peterson was written in blood, State Bureau of Investigation agent Duane Deaver concluded, and it was a story of someone beating her head with a weapon and then against a stair. The spatter marks on the shoes and shorts worn by Mike Peterson that night indicate they were close to the attack, Deaver told the jury Monday, while the absence of blood on one step and part of the pants shows that someone tried to clean them up.
Deaver's testimony was followed by the first day of hearings to determine whether Elizabeth Ratliff's death in 1985 can be offered as evidence to aid the prosecution's case that Peterson killed his wife in 2001.
COMING UP: Deaver will wrap up his testimony for the prosecution and is expected to encounter vigorous cross-examination. The Ratliff hearing resumes Wednesday with more testimony from Cheryl Appel-Schumacher.