Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Nearly Speechless

First of all, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say here that I have despised Raleigh's Metro Magazine since its inception, I do not know Michael Peterson and I did not know Kathleen Peterson (although I know a number of people that worked with and/or for her). But dammit, I do know owls!

What the fuck am I talking about? If you were too busy a couple of years ago paying attention to "the other" Peterson trial (you know, that Scott guy), you might not have been very aware of the one in Durham for columnist/novelist/ex-mayoral candidate Michael Peterson, accused (and then convicted) of murdering his wife Kathleen. The accused has some pretty influential friends who stood by him throughout the trial, eating up his accusations that this had all been an accident - that his wife had fallen down the stairs and that the Durham establishment was out to get him because of his newspaper columns. This went so far that after the trial, some of his buds, including Nick Galifianakis, came up with the theory that the poor Ms. Peterson was attacked on the interior stairs of her home by an owl. Yep, an owl. Now, as many of you know, I personally have been attacked by an owl in the same region of my person as the late Ms. Peterson was struck (top of the head) and while it was worth a tetanus shot, I'm having trouble believing a local barred or great horned owl inflicted several deep lacerations across the deceased's head. Apparently everyone else had trouble with that too and the "theory" (and the theorizers) became the butt of many local commentators' jokes.

So now, the aforementioned Metro Magazine (I know you were wondering when I'd get around to them) has resurfaced the "theory" with a couple of modifications but on top of that it has published Ms. Peterson's autopsy photos to try to bolster their "case". As in the case of Dale Earnhardt, I think it's in incredibly poor taste to publish autopsy photos. But to do so in this case to advance a "theory" (and I'll keep putting quotey marks around that word because this is not a theory - it barely even passes the test to be called a hypothesis) is just. fucking. wrong.

Do I have to actually point out the obvious? That owls are not generally known to attack critters that are the size of adult humans? Repeatedly? Enough to cause a grown woman to bleed to death? And recall that this happened in winter, not nesting season. I was running on a trail in the woods in late March during nesting season and just got scraped across the top of the head by an owl that was obviously defending its nest - it did not continually attack me.

You know, I've just spent about 100 words more on the previous paragraph than this ridiculous idea warrants, but Metro Magazine has used it as an excuse to publish autopsy photos of a victim of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, a woman whose family and many friends are no doubt going to be subjected to this travesty.

I've purposely not hyperlinked to Metro's website - Lord knows I don't want to drive any more traffic to their site at all. It just sickens me (and frankly not a whole lot that doesn't look like President Chimpy McSmirksalot or his puppeteer Karl Rove has the power to sicken me these days). If they want to guarantee passage in the state legislature outlawing publication of such photos, this is a pretty good way to do it.


At 6:07 AM, Blogger Lex said...

Nice fucking work, MM. You've probably just permanently made the jobs of real journalists -- by which I mean not necessarily professionals but anyone, professional or amateur, who believes in news reporting as public service -- much harder.

At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait a minute--they're claiming she bled to death from an owl attack? What, did it rip out her jugular with its mighty beak? I can't imagine that you could bleed out from scalp wounds.

And owls are not all THAT big, y'know--this would be like a full-grown woman being killed by a good-sized house cat.

Oh, and another question--is there any evidence that an owl was ever in the house? Pellets, owl shit, feathers, that kind of thing?

Bizarre with a capital B.

At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't bear it any longer, so I went to the Metro site to look at the "owl theory," and calling it unmitigated bullshit is the closest thing I can manage to a moderate assessment.

Aside from the fact that the "talon prints" on the autopsy photos are obviously photoshopped in, the whole saga is just astonishing. The husband's claim that he was at the pool, 100 yards away, "out of earshot" doesn't make any sense when you're talking about owls, whose cries are audible at some distance. (I've heard them.) And it's hard to believe that the victim wouldn't be yelling and screaming loudly as well.

A little research (i.e. Googling "owl attack" and "owl attacks on humans") showed owl attacks aren't common, and come exclusively when the owls' nests or nestlings are involved.

Oh, and there's the whole weight thing: the biggest owl in the U.S.--a female Great Horned Owl--weighs about four and a half pounds. So this defense requires us to believe that the woman could be knocked down, cut open, and killed by something that doesn't even weigh as much as a bag of flour.

At 6:35 PM, Blogger Tony Plutonium said...

Placing the victim outside by the pool when attacked represents a twist on the original theory put forward - that a door had been left open and an owl had flown in and attacked her on the stairs, causing her to fall. As you pointed out the owl would then have had to quickly dispose of any signs of its presence (feathers, droppings, etc.). Smart dang owl!

All that being said, I'm sorry I led to another hit on their website. :-)


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