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Updated July 30, 2004, 3:02 p.m. ET

Actress Zeta-Jones testifies stalker threatened to chop her in pieces
Oscar-winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones says 35-year-old Dawnette Knight threatened her with violent letters and phone calls.

Blockbuster beauty Catherine Zeta-Jones is playing the leading role in her own real-life courtroom drama this week as she testifies in a preliminary hearing against an accused stalker who allegedly threatened to chop the Oscar winning actress into tiny pieces.

A shaken Zeta-Jones, 34, testified at a Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday that violent threats from defendant Dawnette Knight, 35, have caused her to have an emotional breakdown.

Knight faces 25 counts, including stalking and criminal threats, and could face jail time if the case goes to trial.

The hearing to determine if Knight will stand trial was postponed Thursday when defense attorney, Richard Herman, said his client was too groggy to continue after taking two sleeping pills purchased form another jail mate the night before.

Story continues

Knight was rushed to the hospital when she was found asleep on the jail floor and could not awake. Herman claims his client wanted to be rested and alert for the morning hearing.

Zeta-Jones, who has starred in silver screen successes "Chicago," "Traffic," and more recently "The Terminal," read excerpts earlier from 19 eerie letters from Knight revealing plans to "dice [Jones] up like meat on a bone and feed her to the dogs," according to court documents from the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Knight even wrote an obituary, comparing her death to the brutal slaying of Nicole Brown Simpson, John F. Kennedy, and Ted Manson victim Sharon Tate.

She wrote that after she was finished with her, "she will not be this pretty face actress, you won't be able to recognize her in her casket."

Zeta-Jones' actor-husband Michael Douglas, 59, told the court that the threats reached a pinnacle when his wife received aggressive phone calls at her hotel in May when she was filming "Ocean's 12" in Amsterdam.

Dawnette Knight, 35, charged with threatening to murder Zeta-Jones appears in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Douglas testified that Zeta-Jones had an anxiety breakdown after the omnipresent threats consumed her life. He detailed how his wife would faint, cry, and live with one eye looking behind her shoulder in fear of her stalker.

Douglas recalls in court meeting Knight in Las Vegas one night and described how she was hyperventilating and acting strange.

According to Knight's attorney, Richard Herman, his client became enraged after reading a tabloid rumor discussing an alleged affair between Zeta-Jones and Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney.

"I can't even imagine how a sane human being would have these images locked in their brain," Zeta-Jones testified. "I can hardly put into words how I felt. It's very hard to understand why someone would write more and more and personally terrorize me — personal terrorism that has changed my life."

Knight admitted in court Wednesday to sending harassing letters addressed to her family, friends, in-laws, Kirk and Anne Douglas, and even Barbara Walters.

Knight sent a letter to the actress, care of Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta, pleading for forgiveness in the courtroom and expressed hopes she could return to college and attain a degree in child psychology.

"What Ms. Knight did was awful," the defense said. "The issue now is the punishment."

The issue of protection from stalkers in California legislature was strengthened when actress Rebecca Schaeffer, star of "One Life to Live" and the sitcom "My Sister Sam", was tragically murdered at her Los Angeles apartment when a crazed fan obtained her address from DMV records.

"The State of California is particularly attuned to the fact that entertainers of varying degrees of celebrity are particularly vulnerable to stalking and other forms of harassment from individuals who are obsessed or suffer from psychological impairment," court documents said.

The preliminary hearings are to resume Friday afternoon and are expected to last until early next week. Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg will then decide whether the case should go to trial.

Court TV wire services contributed to this report.

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