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Zeta-Jones stalker in pill drama
Thu 29 July, 2004 22:49


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An obsessed fan accused of making death threats against Catherine Zeta-Jones has been found slumped on the floor of her jail cell after illicitly taking two sleeping pills following a day of chilling testimony by the actress and her husband Michael Douglas.

Richard Herman, who is defending Dawnette Knight on 25 counts of stalking Zeta-Jones through threatening letters and phone calls, dismissed suggestions on Thursday that his client had attempted suicide.

But he told reporters Knight posed no danger to the actress and was sorry about the letters, parts of which were read out in court by Zeta-Jones on Wednesday. The writer threatened to "slice her up like meat on a bone" and said the Oscar-winning actress would be "shredded to pieces like Sharon Tate."

"She is just devastated. She is very, very sorry. She had no idea (the letters) would cause so much distress," Herman said. "She just wanted a good night's sleep and she took two sleeping pills and got a little too good a night's sleep."

Herman said Knight fell asleep on the floor of the Los Angeles jail where she is being held pending trial. The pills had not been prescribed for her and when prison guards were unable to rouse her, she was taken to hospital, checked over and returned to jail. Thursday's scheduled court hearing was postponed because Knight was too drowsy to follow proceedings.

Herman said Knight was driven by a huge crush on Michael Douglas and a conviction that Zeta-Jones had married him for his money and was cheating on him. She is accused of making death threats in letters written over an 18-month period and mailed to family and friends of the actress.

"This is probably the only 'stalker' case ever where the defendant has no history of mental problems. She is perfectly normal. This is an aberrant thing that happened to a normal woman," Herman said.

Douglas testified on Wednesday that the letters and phone calls drove Zeta-Jones to the verge of a nervous breakdown. The actress said she felt terrorized and was so panicked that she felt she was about to suffer a stroke or heart attack.

The preliminary hearing will resume on Friday to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a trial.

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