Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Twisted Tale of Peter Braunstein

Fall from Grace

Things began to decline for Braunstein in 2002, after he quit his job in a pique of ego when his boss warned him not to use his position to bully people for comp tickets. Employed since 2000 at Fairchild, home of W magazine, Braunstein was a long way from his previous status as a student at the Sorbonne and a Ph.D. candidate in history at New York University. Apparently this son of immigrants preferred to be a journalist. Grigoriadis indicates that his female idols were strong women, such as Faye Dunaway, Jackie Onassis, and Jane Fonda. "He had a crippling insecurity and an enormous sense of his own intellect," she states, "and was possessed of a desire to court the most powerful New York women." It seemed, she goes on, that he also wanted to destroy them.

Braunstein purchased potassium nitrate off the Internet
Braunstein purchased potassium nitrate
off the Internet

Braunstein's alleged Halloween attack showed planning rather than impulse. He had purchased a number of items on eBay besides the fireman's duds, including a police badge and potassium nitrate, a bomb-making material. Some people who knew him said he possessed a sadistic streak and often talked in rigidly moral terms. He once had been hospitalized for an overdose of pills and was said to be taking Prozac. Model Kate Moss, who was scheduled for a New York visit in November, was warned to be careful because Braunstein had once written an article entitled, "Stalking Kate," about his decade-long obsession with her. Apparently, it was viewed with amusement at the time of its 2003 publication in BlackBook, but now that Braunstein had allegedly attacked another woman with whom he may have been obsessed, Moss was considered a potential target. No one quite knew what to expect next for this character. 

Kate Moss
Kate Moss

Such things had happened before. Andrew Cunanan went on a crime spree in 1997 that was precipitated by delusions, love obsession and sinking self-esteem. After killing four people, including a total stranger, he targeted fashion designer Gianni Versace, shooting him outside his home in Miami's ritzy South Beach. About Moss, Braunstein had written that she was "every woman, real or fake, I've ever fallen hopelessly in love with." He'd even managed to persuade his girlfriend at the time to allow him to keep a photograph of Moss beside his bed. He seemed obsessed to a degree that was potentially hazardous. Better to be careful.

Andrew Cunanan
Andrew Cunanan

As the hunt went on for Braunstein, other journalists discussed his reputed narcissism in articles that gushed over gossip in the low-level New York fashion world. After Braunstein had exited Fairchild, more trouble dogged him. His girlfriend (an editor at the magazine) had declined to quit her job in a show of support, and when she threw a party for her birthday, he arrived late and behaved inappropriately. She ended up dumping him, which apparently enraged him. AP reports state that he harassed her with nonstop phone calls, threatening e-mails to her family, and vulgar behaviors, such as posting nude pictures of her on the Web. Braunstein was carted off to Bellevue for a brief psychiatric confinement, but he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was given three year's probation. That's around the time when he penned the article about Kate Moss. "There will never be a 'next Kate,'" he wrote, "for a simple reason: Kate is always 'the next Kate.'"

Then he apparently learned that the woman with whom he was to become obsessed had resigned over a disagreement at work over shoes. That apparently got Braunstein's attention.

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