'The Staircase' Prosecutor Freda Black Dies at 57

Courtesy of Netflix
Freda Black during the first Michael Peterson trial in 2003.

Black tried the infamous Michael Peterson trial featured in Netflix's 'The Staircase' documentary series.

One of the prosecutors who tried the infamous 2001 North Carolina killing featured in The Staircase documentary series has died.

Police say Freda Black, a former Durham assistant district attorney, was found dead in her home Sunday.

Durham police spokesman Wil Glenn said the 57-year-old's death "does not appear suspicious at this time." The body was sent to the state medical examiner for an autopsy.

According to USA Today, authorities were alerted to Black's home after loved ones were unable to reach her and grew concerned. “She was found in her home during a welfare check by officers,” Glenn said. “Family members hadn’t spoken to her in a few days.”

Black gave closing arguments at the 2003 trial that ended with novelist Michael Peterson convicted of murdering his wife, who was found dead at the bottom of the staircase in their home in Durham. A judge later ordered a new trial, and Peterson entered a special plea in 2017 acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him of manslaughter.

The case has received recent attention after Netflix distributed new episodes of the documentary originally aired more than a decade ago. The Staircase returned to Netflix with new episodes in June. 

The Staircase comes from Oscar-winning filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade. His original series of the Peterson trial aired on ABC in 2004. The director revisited the story with three new hourlong episodes that followed Peterson as he faced his final trial. Netflix acquired the original series and the three new episodes at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

Black is the second person to be featured on the miniseries who has died since its Netflix release. Ron Guerette, the detective who assisted attorney David Rudolf on Peterson's case, died June 19 at 73.

“Ron was the best and most dedicated investigator I ever worked with," Rudolf told The News & Observer of Guerette's passing. "He was an integral part of the Peterson defense, and whatever I was able to accomplish in the courtroom was made possible by what Ron did outside the courtroom. And best of all, he was my friend and brother as we went through the courtroom wars together. He was one of a kind."