Catherine Zeta-Jones: Terrified
Los Angeles, July 29 (Reuters): Catherine Zeta-Jones yesterday recounted her terror at the hands of a stalker who threatened to “slice her up like meat on a bone” in a crime that would make “entertainment history.”
Struggling to maintain her composure while testifying at a preliminary hearing, the Oscar-winning actor recalled how at one point she feared having a heart attack or a stroke because of the death threats contained in letters and telephone calls.
Zeta-Jones, 35, said she was “shocked at the violent, horrific, satanic desire that someone would want to do that to me. A total stranger.” “I have never had a death threat in my life and this will affect me for the rest of my life,” she told the court.
Dawnette Knight, 32, is charged with 25 counts of stalking Zeta-Jones with threatening phone calls and letters between January 2003 and May 2004. The preliminary hearing will determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a trial.
Knight, described by her lawyer as having a “girlish crush” on Zeta-Jones’ husband Michael Douglas, accused the actress in her letters of being a gold-digger, a whore and a bitch.
None of the letters were sent to Zeta-Jones but were addressed instead to her 87-year-old father-in-law Kirk Douglas, family friends and TV networks.
They accused the actor of having an affair with actor George Clooney, of marrying Douglas for his money, and showed detailed knowledge of Zeta-Jones’ complex travels between homes in Bermuda, Spain, Las Vegas and Los Angeles and to movie and commercial shoots.
Much of the graphic nature of the threats was kept from the actor as she tried to carry on with her career. But she was required to read portions of the letters in court yesterday, often choking up at their chilling nature.
“The bitch will be shredded to pieces like Sharon Tate was. This is going to be entertainment history,” said one, referring to the actress murdered by the Manson gang. “See ya at the funeral,” said another.
One letter threatened to blow her brains out “like President Kennedy,” while another was written in obituary style with a picture of Zeta-Jones alongside the words “goodbye”.
Zeta-Jones, wearing a simple long-sleeved black dress, said her most terrifying moment came in May when three death threats in two days were telephoned to the Amsterdam hotel where she was staying while filming the upcoming movie Ocean’s Twelve.
She said she started to shake and sweat and felt faint. “I said ‘I think I am going to have a heart attack or a stroke’,” she recalled telling her husband by phone.
| Michael Douglas
Douglas, testifying earlier in the day, said Zeta-Jones was “hysterical, hysterical. She could not get any air. She showed all the signs of having a nervous breakdown.”
Both Douglas, and Zeta-Jones, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for Chicago, said the letters contained personal details such as the name of the nanny to their two children, and a description of a hallway in their Los Angeles residence.
“She just felt that she was a marked person, (she) couldn’t understand how they knew where she was,” Douglas said.
Douglas said he vaguely recalled seeing Knight at a golf tournament in Las Vegas where she walked directly toward him. “She was hyper-ventilating a little bit and her behaviour was a bit strange. She was wiggling,” Douglas said.
Knight has written a letter apologising to the couple and said she would never have harmed anyone. Her lawyer, Richard Herman, asked Douglas if he knew that female stalkers were seldom violent.
At that point, prosecutor Debra Archuleta said, “Isn’t that the premise of a movie called Fatal Attraction?”
In the day’s only light moment, the packed court burst into laughter and Douglas smiled wryly at the mention of one of his best-known films, about a woman murderously obsessed with a married man.