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Dawnette Knight
Dawnette Knight says she was in love with Michael Douglas when she allegedly stalked his wife, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones.
(Nick Ut/AP Photo)
Inside the Mind of a Stalker
From Imagined Love to Spurned Lovers, Why Stalkers Often Cannot Accept Reality

By Bryan Robinson
ABCNEWS.com

Sept. 8, 2004 — Dawnette Knight believed she was in love with Michael Douglas when she allegedly threatened to slice up his Oscar-winning wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and feed her to her dogs.


Neither Douglas nor Zeta-Jones had ever met Knight. She had become infatuated with Douglas after seeing him in movies such as Fatal Attraction. After reading about an alleged affair by Zeta-Jones in a supermarket tabloid, Knight sent the actress more than two dozen threatening letters and allegedly made repeated phone calls to her agents and hotels where the couple would stay.

Knight, who has admitted sending the letters, overdosed on barbiturates while in county jail after her arrest but a court-appointed psychiatrist found her mentally competent, and a judge ruled today she would stand trial on stalking charges. A pretrial hearing was to continue Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Experts say Knight's willingness to avenge Douglas for a supposed affair by Zeta-Jones illustrates the world celebrity stalkers often create when they believe they have a real relationship with the rich and famous.

"Celebrity stalkers tend to be psychotic," said Jack Levin, professor of criminology and director of the Brudnick Center on Conflict and Violence at Northeastern University in Boston. "They often possess rich fantasy lives in which they feel personally involved [with the celebrity]. Many of the celebrity stalkers actually imagine they are having an intimate relationship with their victims."

A Reality of Their Own

Sometimes celebrities have never had any physical contact with the stalkers who pursue them. Their stalkers may know them only as the character they play on a soap opera or major motion picture and refer to them primarily by their character's name.

Experts say celebrity stalkers tend to suffer mental illness and are so disenchanted with reality, or unable to cope with reality, that they create their own. And their favorite celebrity is the center of their imagined universe.

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