From across the room, he stared at her with an unblinking gaze. She could feel his eyes, but rather than meeting his stare the attractive blonde gazed down with her arms crossed defiantly across her lap.
For the first time in more than two years, former lovers Peter Braunstein and Jane Larkworthy met again Wednesday. But this time, they were separated by two burly security officers in a court of law.
In a pointed, revealing afternoon on the witness stand, Larkworthy described to jurors how her former boyfriend's behavior shifted during their relationship, about how he changed from a man who wrote heartfelt love letters into a frightening bully who physically assaulted her.
Although he is not on trial for his behavior toward Larkworthy, her testimony is considered crucial to the current case in which Braunstein is accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing one of her former co-workers.
Prosecutors argue that the couple's breakup eventually drove Braunstein to dress up as a firefighter on Halloween night in 2005 to gain access to the alleged victim's apartment, whom they say he stripped, tied to a bed and brutally assaulted for 13 hours.
The prosecution is trying to demonstrate that Braunstein, on trial for the Halloween attack (he has admitted his role in it), knew what he was doing. The defense argues that Braunstein is a latent paranoid schizophrenic, and that Larkworthy's testimony is evidence of Braunstein's unraveling.
Ever since Braunstein made headlines as a fugitive up until his arrest in Memphis, Tenn., in December 2005 and through the current trial, Larkworthy's tale has been the most anticipated part of the saga. Who else could explain his descent into madness than the woman who seemingly inspired his rage?
As soon as Larkworthy, her blond hair tied up in a ponytail and wearing a white jacket over a black dress, took the witness stand at New York Supreme Court yesterday afternoon, the courtroom became riveted. In the audience were her new husband, whom she married seven months ago, and her brother and sister.
Toward the end of her two hours of testimony, she related an anecdote that eerily predicted Braunstein's assault on her co-worker. At one point in their two-year relationship, he introduced her to fantasy role-playing. Larkworthy described how Braunstein liked one particular scenario in which he pretended that he was a patient in a mental institution and that she was a "mean, manipulative" nurse. She even bought a nurse's uniform to play the role.
"I would tease him sexually and act like I was in control … but he was not taking his meds and pretended to feed them to me, and then I would be out of it and it would proceed to sex."
Other fantasy scenarios involved him coming up behind her and putting a rag in her mouth, said Larkworthy.
Larkworthy described a time at the beginning of their relationship when she was smitten with Braunstein, and he with her. Shortly after their August 2001 meeting in the offices of Fairchild Publications, where he worked as a media reporter at Women's Wear Daily and she was a beauty editor at W magazine, the couple began an affair.
She said was captivated by his personality, describing him as "incredibly charming, incredibly intelligent, flirtatious and very intriguing and very funny."