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Scandalous Admissions in Murder Trial of Novelist

Aired August 12, 2003 - 19:37   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, by now you're surely familiar with the story of Scott Peterson, who's charged with killing his pregnant wife, Laci, their unborn child. But another Peterson case, just as scandalous, is already under way in North Carolina. It's the trial of a novelist named Michael Peterson -- that's him there -- who's charged with murdering his wife.
There's also a subplot -- rumors that Peterson may have killed a woman in a similar manner in Germany 18 years ago. But this trial has already taken some surprising turns.

We get more now from Julia Lewis with CNN affiliate WRAL.


JULIA LEWIS, WRAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wearing a nervous grin, the N.C. State student looked out over a crowded courtroom and introduced himself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: State your name, please.


LEWIS: In the fall of 2001, Brent Wolgamott was a soldier stationed at Ft. Bragg. He was also a gay male escort.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What types of service did you perform?

WOLGAMOTT: Oh, wow. That's pretty broad. Basically it's a companionship for other males of legal age.

LEWIS: Wolgamott met Mike Peterson over the Internet. He told the jury Peterson agreed to pay him for sex. In an e-mail to Wolgamott, Peterson wrote, "You're not looking for a relationship and neither am I. We each have lives. I understand we're in a client relationship and I'm paying for the services. No problem. If we get together, I'll pay for the time."

Peterson fidgeted while the former escort talked about plans the two made together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you all actually discuss what you were going to do when you were to get together on September 5 of 2001?

WOLGAMOTT: Yes, ma'am. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what were you all planning on doing?

WOLGAMOTT: Having sex.

LEWIS: The defense quickly pointed out the meeting never took place and the two never had sex. Attorney David Rudolf also suggested Kathleen Peterson knew about her husband's sex habits and tried to show they didn't interfere with the marriage.

DAVID RUDOLF, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Did Michael Peterson ever do or say anything either on the phone or in an e-mail that indicated that he was not in love with Kathleen Peterson?

WOLGAMOTT: To the contrary, in his e-mails, unlike most of my clients, he indicated that he had a great relationship. Most client don't want to say anything about their relationship. He indicated he had a warm relationship with his wife and nothing would ever destroy that.


COOPER: Well, Court TV anchor Lisa Bloom joins us now with the analysis of the North Carolina Peterson case.

And also, joining us from Raleigh, Tom Gasparoli, a columnist with the "Durham Herald-Sun." Appreciate both of you joining us.

Tom, I want to start off with you. You broke the story of the large amounts of gay pornography a couple weeks ago that this Mr. Peterson had on his computer. I guess he tried to get rid of some. They were able to get some of it back.

The testimony today of this former escort, what significance -- I mean why was he on the stand? What was the prosecution trying to prove?

TOM GASPAROLI, "DURHAM HERALD-SUN": Well, actually, the testimony was yesterday and in opening statements, Mr. Rudolf had stated that Mr. Peterson and Ms. Peterson, Kathleen Peterson, had an idyllic marriage. When this man Brent Wolgamott strolled in there, strapping young former Army man, and sat up there that he and Peterson had had cyber exchanges soliciting sex, talking graphically about sex, and arranging to meet for sex, which never did, you have to ask yourself was that a recipe for trouble in a marriage that was supposed to be idyllic?

COOPER: Lisa, was the prosecution able to do that though? I mean, because -- you know, there's this-- I'm going to quote from one of the e-mails, not one of the salacious e-mails that you've read and been telling me about.

But this is an e-mail from Mike Peterson to this former escort, Brent Wolgamott. Quote -- "Evenings are not good for me anyway. I'm married, very happily married with a dynamite wife. Yes, I know. I know. I'm very bi and that's all there is to it." So if the prosecution is trying to show that he was going to male hustlers and his marriage was in trouble, were they able to do that? I mean....

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV: Two words: secret life. Notice how he says in the quote that you just saw. Evenings are not good for me. Why? Because his wife works days. She's home in the evenings.

Michael Peterson only gave this gay male ex-prostitute his cell number and his e-mail, not his home phone. I think it's going to be a hard sell for this defense team to convince the jury that Michael Peterson's wife knew all about it. She was just absolutely fine with the idea that he's all over the Internet, in my opinion, really obsessed with gay porn. About 2,500 different hits on gay male pornographic Web sites. These e-mails are very detailed and explicit. Much too explicit for us to say on television. Really detailed e- mails about what he wants to do with this prostitute.

COOPER: But Tom, I mean, I guess the prosecution is sort of hinting that perhaps Mrs. Peterson found out about this alleged secret life, whether, you know, I guess they're saying she didn't know about it, she found out about it and maybe that caused some sort of argument which led to her murder. Have they been able to prove that?

GASPAROLI: They haven't been able to establish that yet. They have been hinting about it. And I certainly think it raises the question of if she found out about it and confronted him with it, could he lose control? Could he try to save or protect that secret life for his reputation in the community?

My understanding is they're going to try to show she may have found it. I don't think they're going to be able to put those dots together though, Anderson, and that's going to be critical. However, the jury, I believe, will look at this man and his whole life and what he said about what happened that night differently as they learn more and more secrets about him, as Lisa mentioned.

COOPER: Also, I mean, Lisa, and Tom, both as you know, I mean, blood has been a central part of this case, thus far. This woman, the defense is alleging, fell down the stairs, the blood splatter, according to prosecution witnesses, not consistent with that. There was new evidence introduced about blood spatter on Mr. Peterson's shorts. What was it and what does it mean?

BLOOM: We are finally just getting to the crux of the prosecution case seven weeks into this trial, and that is the blood spatter and the autopsy results, which show seven lacerations to the back of Kathleen Peterson's head. Prosecution says there has to be a beating, not a fall down the stairs. The blood..

COOPER: Defense says -- defense says it's actually only three lacerations that...

BLOOM: That branch out in different directions. That is correct. And the blood spatter goes as high as six and 10 feet up the wall on the side of the staircase. Prosecution says that's cast off from the weapon hitting her over and over again, casting blood that high up on the wall.

COOPER: But Tom, you know, they introduced these shorts as evidence and they had a witness saying that there was blood coming from inside, I guess, the rear leg of one of the shorts. I don't get it. Why is that significant?

GASPAROLI: Well, it's significant because you have to ask yourself, How did it get there?

Mr. Peterson has talked about cradling his wife and being up against her and he was smeared with blood and his shorts on the outside were smeared with blood. How do you get blood spots, eight or nine blood spots, from the -- on the inside of your shorts? It appears to be spatter. They didn't use that word yesterday. I think they will. How does that happen? The guy yesterday -- the witness yesterday -- testified that he believes it could happen by beating someone -- by standing over someone, leaning over someone and beating them in the head, as he is accused of doing.

COOPER: It is just a fascinating case that just keeps going on. Tom Gasparoli, Lisa Bloom, thanks very much.

BLOOM: Thank you.

COOPER: All right.


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