What is "The Owl Theory"?
Michael Peterson found his wife, Kathleen Peterson, bleeding and unconscious at the bottom of a staircase in their home just before 3am one night in early December. He called 911, but paramedics were unable to save Kathleen's life, and police began treating the death as a homicide. Michael was charged with murder, but from the beginning -- and to this day -- he maintains he had nothing to do with it.
We'll have to leave much of what happens during the trial behind, but suffice to say that no convincing theory ever comes to light before Peterson is convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Enter The Owl Theory. In 2009, a lawyer and neighbor of the Petersons named Larry Pollard, who was not involved in the case, reviewed the evidence files and came up with what sounded on its face like the ravings of an ornithologist madman. But when you look closer, it might actually make sense.
According to the theory, the events of that night unfolded like this: Kathleen Peterson was outside the couple's home at night, while her husband was down by their pool. An owl -- likely a barred owl -- swooped down and attacked Kathleen on her head, causing the lacerations police found later. (Yes, owls do attack humans; we'll get into that later.) Kathleen then ran inside to escape the owl, which had ripped out chunks of her hair; pine needles were also found in her hands, along with microscopic feathers. Drops of blood were found on the front steps, and the door had blood smeared on it, indicating that whatever happened, it wasn't totally confined to the staircase.
Continuing with the theory, Kathleen at this point attempted to go upstairs, where she slipped and fell. Toxicology reports found traces of anti-anxiety medication, muscle relaxants, and alcohol -- combined with an owl attack, getting up a long flight of stairs is far from a straightforward proposal. The theory posits that she slipped and fell, causing the injuries that ultimately led to her death.
Here you can see Pollard laying out in some detail his case for The Owl Theory: