Years before Making a Murderer or The Keepers, viewers were introduced to a gripping true crime miniseries known as The Staircase. Directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, The Staircase originally premiered in 2004 on the French broadcasting channel Canal+ before airing stateside the following year. Now Netflix is delivering the miniseries to a new generation of true crime obsessives.
Beginning June 8, The Staircase will be available for streaming in its entirety on Netflix—and it will include three brand-new episodes.
The true crime miniseries centers on the trial of Michael Peterson, who stood accused of murdering his second wife Kathleen. In the early morning hours of December 9, 2001, 911 received a frantic call from Peterson. He said that his wife Kathleen had suffered a terrible accident—she had apparently fallen down the stairs of their Durham, North Carolina home, struck her head as she fell, and bled out at the base of the steps. Police arrived soon thereafter, where they discovered a brutal scene. Blood stained the floor and had soaked through Kathleen’s clothes. A coroner concluded that Kathleen had taken 90 minutes to two hours to die, and that the injuries to her head were consistent with blows from a blunt object. Peterson maintained that he was out by the pool, and therefore did not hear his wife's cries for help. Authorities were skeptical. Soon, suspicion centered on Michael Peterson himself in Kathleen’s death.
The trial quickly became a media circus. He was an accomplished novelist, she a successful executive at a major telecommunications company. They seemed a power couple, yet dramatic courtroom revelations about Peterson’s bisexuality, his extramarital affairs, and the couple's financial woes served to chip away at this image. And it turns out Peterson was connected to yet another sudden death, one with eerie similarities to Kathleen's demise: In 1985, while living in Germany, Peterson's neighbor and friend Elizabeth Ratliff was found dead at the base of her steps with injuries to her head. Peterson was the last person to see her alive. A coroner later concluded that Elizabeth Ratliff had died from an intra-cerebral hemorrhage. After Ratliff's death, Peterson adopted the deceased's two daughters.
De Lestrade was granted intimate access while filming The Staircase. The result is a true crime doc that not only dissects the nitty-gritty details of the investigation, but creates an intimate portrait of the individuals involved.
We won't spoil anything for those viewers who are new to The Staircase—needless to say, the miniseries is packed with twists and turns that will keep you glued to your seat for hours on end. That de Lestrade is revisiting the case with new episodes means new and seasoned viewers alike should cancel their weekend plans when The Staircase hits Netflix next month.
Every episode of The Staircase arrives on Netflix June 8. Until then, check out the trailer below, and let us know where you stand on the case.
Feature still from 'The Staircase' via Maha Productions