One of the more interesting stories from the Netflix documentary series “The Staircase,” which follows the murder trial of Michael Peterson of Durham, happened off-camera.
It had long been rumored around Durham (and on French gossip sites) that Peterson, who was tried and convicted in 2003 of murdering his wife, Kathleen, had been involved in a romance with Sophie Brunet, the editor of the French documentary. (Peterson was in prison from 2003 until December 2011, when he was released pending a new trial. Peterson entered an Alford plea while awaiting a new trial last year, allowing him to plead guilty to manslaughter while maintaining his innocence.)
Last month, “The Staircase” director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade confirmed that Brunet fell in love with Peterson while working on the project. Apparently, it was a long-term relationship. Contrary to some U.S. blog reports, the two were never married.
De Lestrade told L’Express, a French news weekly, when asked about the affair: “This is one of the incredible things that happened during those 15 years. Life is really full of surprises. They had a real story, which lasted until May 2017. But she never let her own feelings affect the course of editing.”
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Brunet can be seen in a video posted to YouTube in February 2018 discussing “The Staircase.” Brunet can also be seen in Episode 10 of “The Staircase,” which was filmed in 2011. She is visible once in a courtroom scene, sitting with Peterson’s family, and briefly at a celebration at Peterson’s apartment the night he was released from prison.