Captain Walter Lee Peterson

Captain Walter Lee Peterson

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Pennsylvania

End of Watch Monday, December 10, 1973

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Walter Lee Peterson

Captain Walter Peterson was beaten to death with a chair after being attacked by four inmates in the exercise room at Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh. He had just been promoted to captain three hours before the attack.

One of the suspects was in prison for murdering Officer Joseph Zanella, of the Verona Police Department, on September 19th, 1969. He hanged himself in his cell on December 6th, 1978.

Two inmates were convicted of first-degree murder and got a life term added to their sentences. One had recently stabbed a fellow inmate to death. As of 2017, he had been in solitary confinement for 47 years, longer than any other inmate in Pennsylvania prison history. Another one was in prison for murdering two women near Bedford. He died in prison in 2001. The fourth inmate turned state evidence on the others and was acquitted.

Captain Peterson was a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Korean War. He had served with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections for 15 years. He was survived by his wife and son.


  • Age 42
  • Tour 15 years
  • Badge Not available
  • Military Veteran

Incident Details

  • Cause Assault
  • Weapon Blunt object; Chair
  • Offender Sentenced to life

prisoner custody

Most Recent Reflection

View all 17 Reflections

I began my career with the Department of Corrections just months after you were murdered in the line of duty. In time, I came to know your wife, son, friends, and numerous other family members, along with your “center,” the congregation of Clairton’s Mt. Olive Baptist Church. I am not sure I have ever met a man held in such high regard. Salute.

Jim Hollock; Unit Manager.
DOC, State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh.

December 10, 2022

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