Maggie Peterson
Maggie Peterson
Name Maggie Peterson
Occupation Prostitute
Pathology Serial Killer
Family Unnamed mother
Unnamed adopted son
Status Deceased
Actor Sharon Lawrence
First Appearance "Chameleon"

Margaret "Maggie" Peterson (alias Debra Weldon) was a prostitute and known serial killer of several men.


Maggie was the daughter of another prostitute and her father was not on her birth certificate. She had a male child in her possession which she claimed was her son, but it was later found that she had kidnapped the child as a baby after killing his mother. Maggie then went on a series of killings targeting men.


After killing a man named Shawn Becker, who coincidentally had gone on a raping and killing spree targeting prostitutes, Maggie was initially assumed to be a would-be victim who killed Becker out of self-defense. However, suspicion was placed on her after ballistics of the gun she used to shoot Becker were tied to another one of her murders. Maggie attempted to evade murder charges by claiming that the men she killed had attempted to rape her, forcing her to kill in self-defense. However, the discovery that she had killed several men in this manner made such a claim unlikely.

Dr. George Huang determined that Maggie was a medically diagnosable psychopath. Maggie displayed the classic symptoms of psychopathy: such as being utterly manipulative and without remorse and utterly compelled to lie in any situation, without hesitating to consider that she was telling mutually contradicting lies.

For example, when Huang interrogated Maggie, she gave a sob story about being abused as a child, trying to manipulate him because he was a "gentle, caring doctor". However, when Huang left and Stabler entered the interrogation room, Maggie's entire personality changed as if someone flipped a switch. While not minutes before she was claiming to Huang that she was shy and abused, Maggie assessed Stabler as a "strong alpha male" and began aggressively flaunting her sexuality, throwing herself at Stabler and trying to seduce him. Then, when Benson's turn came to interrogate Maggie minutes after Stabler left, she again altered her persona. Gauging Benson as a sympathetic fellow woman, Maggie shifted to acting like a sexual assault victim and claiming she'd been sexually abused. Throughout all three interviews, which happened only minutes apart and with a combined duration of under ten minutes, Maggie was utterly willing to passionately lie, each time telling a backstory which blatantly contradicted the others.

Shocked, Benson and Stabler asked Huang how Maggie could possibly believe this would work, because even if she did not somehow realize that the entire group of detectives was watching all three interviews through the one-way mirror, she should at least consider the possibility that they'd compare the three entirely separate stories she gave them. Dr. Huang explained that this is one of the classic symptoms of Psychopathy: utterly manipulative, utterly willing to tell any lie, but also custom-tailoring each lie on the spur of the moment. Huang says that it is commonly known as a "Cocktail Personality", as in, life is like a cocktail party to her, in which you meet for shallow two minute conversations with people you don't know before moving on to the next one: most people at such cocktail parties tend to custom-tailor their talking points, praises, or feigned hobbies to compliment whoever they are talking to - Psychopaths, however, do this pervasively, like a switch they just can't turn off.

Upon her arrest, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office intended to seek the death penalty against her.

However, such a sentence could not even be considered, as Maggie, whilst awaiting bail, committed suicide in Rikers by hanging. In a suicide note, she left her possessions to Erin Byers' son and proclaimed her love for him. (SVU: "Chameleon")


  • In the episode "Chameleon", it is stated that Maggie would become the first woman to be executed in the state of New York, but that statement doesn't apply. Among others, in the Law & Order eighth season episode "Bad Girl", convicted murderer Monica Johnson was put to death for a murder. Also, Ethel Rosenberg was electrocuted at Sing Sing on June 19, 1953, with her husband, Julius, after the couple was convicted of espionage for the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
  • Maggie Peterson is based on Aileen Wuornos, a female serial killer who also worked as a prostitute and targeted men, claiming that she killed all of them in self-defense because they were all trying to rape her. Both Maggie and Wuornos were also indeed raped by one of their victims.

Known Victims

  • 2001:
    • Unknown dates:
      • New York borough unknown:
        • Erin Byers (strangled)
        • Erin's unnamed baby son (kidnapped and adopted as her son; was rescued)
      • Manhattan, New York: Phillip Malacowski (bludgeoned)
      • Queens, New York: Michael O'Connell (bludgeoned)
      • New Jersey:
        • John Donatov (his throat was slit)
        • Brad Horton (stabbed)
    • December, Manhattan, New York: Leonard Graves (shot three times in the head)
  • 2002, Manhattan, New York:
    • September 9: Shawn Becker (shot three times in the chest in self-defense)
    • September 10-13:
      • Vincent Bertram (stabbed six times)
      • Detective Olivia Benson (attempted to assault, but was overpowered by her)