On this day, Dec. 9, in 2001, Nortel Networks executive Kathleen Peterson, the wife of novelist Michael Peterson, was found at the bottom of a staircase in a bizarre case that spawned a made-for-TV movie, "The Staircase Murders."

Michael Peterson, author of novels "The Immortal Dragon" and "A Time of War" and a onetime mayoral candidate in Durham, N.C., called police to say that his wife had slipped down the stairs of their mansion in North Carolina.

But authorities doubted his story, noting the splattered blood in the stairwell. Peterson was charged with murder.

At trial, prosecutors said Peterson repeatedly struck his wife with a fire poker after she confronted him over an affair.

Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder, but a judge last year ordered a new trial after ruling that testimony of a prosecution expert was discredited.

-- Scott McCabe