CRIME

Plea in wife's staircase death lets man maintain innocence

  • In this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2017, photo, Michael Peterson speaks to a reporter in Martha Waggoner, N.C. Peterson says he’s agreed to accept an Alford plea in the 2001 death of his wife Kathleen, whose body was found at the bottom of a staircase. That means he agrees the prosecution has the evidence to convict him though he still maintains his innocence. (AP Photo/Martha Waggoner)

    In this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2017, photo, Michael Peterson speaks to a reporter in Martha Waggoner, N.C. Peterson says he’s agreed to accept an Alford plea in the 2001 death of his wife Kathleen, whose body was found at the bottom of a staircase. That means he agrees the prosecution has the evidence to convict him though he still maintains his innocence. (AP Photo/Martha Waggoner)  (The Associated Press)

  • Novelist Michael Peterson is directed to the exit of a Durham County, N.C., courtroom on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Peterson agreed to an Alford plea to a charge of manslaughter in the 2001 death of his wife, Kathleen, in their mansion. (AP Photo/Skip Foreman)

    Novelist Michael Peterson is directed to the exit of a Durham County, N.C., courtroom on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Peterson agreed to an Alford plea to a charge of manslaughter in the 2001 death of his wife, Kathleen, in their mansion. (AP Photo/Skip Foreman)  (The Associated Press)

  • Novelist Michael Peterson addresses reporters after his court hearing in Durham County, N.C., on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Peterson agreed to an “Alford plea,” which enables him to maintain his innocence in the death of his wife Kathleen Peterson in 2001, even as he acknowledges that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him of manslaughter. To Peterson’s right is defense attorney David Rudolf; behind him is defense attorney Butch Williams. (AP Photo/Skip Foreman)

    Novelist Michael Peterson addresses reporters after his court hearing in Durham County, N.C., on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Peterson agreed to an “Alford plea,” which enables him to maintain his innocence in the death of his wife Kathleen Peterson in 2001, even as he acknowledges that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him of manslaughter. To Peterson’s right is defense attorney David Rudolf; behind him is defense attorney Butch Williams. (AP Photo/Skip Foreman)  (The Associated Press)

The man once sentenced to life behind bars for the death of his wife in their North Carolina mansion expects to leave a courthouse as an officially free man.

Michael Peterson says he's agreed to accept an Alford plea in the 2001 death of his wife Kathleen, whose body was found at the bottom of a staircase. That means he agrees the prosecution has the evidence to convict him though he still maintains his innocence.

His attorney says prosecutors have agreed to sentence him to the eight years he already served. He's been out of prison since 2011, when a judge ordered a new trial.

In an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Peterson says he no longer theorizes on how his wife died. He says all he knows for certain is that he "absolutely, positively" had nothing to do with her death.