Autopsy: Freda Black, prosecutor in Michael Peterson case, died of end-stage liver disease

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Freda Black, a former Durham County prosecutor best known for her work in the Michael Peterson murder trial, died of end-stage liver disease due to chronic alcoholism, according to an autopsy report released Monday.

Black, 57, was found dead in her S. Roxboro Street home in late July 2018.

Durham police said at the time that her death did not appear to be suspicious and the autopsy confirmed that.

According to the autopsy, Black was found deceased lying on her right side on her living room couch.

The autopsy report shows that Black contacted “her eldest daughter via text with information for [her] attorney and that he had [her] will.”

After the family failed to hear back from Black, they requested a welfare check. It was then that police found Black dead in her home.

“The floor of the home was cluttered with food, wine bottles, and trash. There was no evidence of forced entry, theft, or visible wounds at the scene,” the autopsy report states.

“Recent social stressors included financial difficulties. The decedent’s past medical history was significant for chronic alcoholism and hypertension,” according to the autopsy report. “Although there were concerns for self-harm given the text and items at the scene laid out that the decedent may consider valuable, no toxicologic or other self-harm cause of death was detected.”

The Michael Peterson murder case was the focus of a recent Netflix documentary series titled “The Staircase.”

Black gave closing arguments at the 2003 trial that ended with novelist Peterson convicted of murdering his wife.

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 autopsy report states that Black’s cause of death was natural.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report

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