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Woman Stalked Actress Zeta-Jones, LA Court Told
Wed Jul 28, 2004 04:34 PM ET
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones was driven to the brink of a nervous breakdown by death threats in letters and phone calls apparently sent by an obsessed fan, her husband, Michael Douglas, told a court on Wednesday.

Testifying at a preliminary hearing to determine whether Dawnette Knight, 32, should stand trial on charges of threatening and stalking Zeta-Jones for about 18 months, Douglas said the threats made his wife terrified and hysterical.

"She was hysterical ... hysterical. She was fainting. She could not get any air. She showed all the signs of having a nervous breakdown," the actor said during an appearance as a prosecution witness.

Knight, an aspiring child psychologist, is charged with 25 counts of stalking and making criminal threats against Zeta-Jones, who won an Oscar for best supporting actress as a murderous showgirl in "Chicago."

Prosecutors said Knight made the threats because she was obsessed with Douglas and wrote letters to friends and relatives of the actor and his wife declaring that she wanted to kill Zeta-Jones so she could be with Douglas.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg will determine at the end of the preliminary hearing whether Knight should be sent for trial. Zeta-Jones is expected to testify on Wednesday afternoon.

Douglas said the letters Knight sent contained personal details, such as a description of a hallway in one of the homes the couple own. He added that at one point three threatening phone calls were made over two days to an Amsterdam hotel where Zeta-Jones was staying in May for the filming of the movie "Oceans 12."

Douglas said he never recalled meeting Knight until a golf tournament in Las Vegas where he saw her walking directly toward him. "She was hyper-ventilating a little bit and her behavior was a bit strange. She was wiggling," Douglas said.

He only connected her to the golf tournament when police showed him a photograph of Knight, who has since written a letter apologizing to the couple and saying she would never have harmed anyone.

Knight's lawyer, Richard Herman, asked Douglas if he knew that female stalkers were seldom violent and generally not dangerous.

At that point, prosecutor Debra Archulta cut in and said, "Isn't that the premise of a movie called 'Fatal Attraction?"' The audience in the court burst into laughter and Douglas gave a wry smile at the mention of one of his best known films, about a woman murderously obsessed with a married man.

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