Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Twisted Tale of Peter Braunstein


Christopher Wilder
Christopher Wilder

During his December 20 arraignment, the judge ordered that he be held without bail, since he was clearly a flight risk. There was also some question, apparently due to material on his computer, about whether he might have had other victims in mind. In Memphis, it was learned, he may have accosted a young woman, 19-year-old Erica Porter, posing as a Maxim photographer who was interested in taking sexy or nude photographs of her. She said that a man outside her dorm room had approached her when she came out. He'd commented that she was pretty enough to be a model and tried to persuade her to go with him to get his camera (a cunning ploy once used by serial killer Christopher Wilder). She declined, but the man grabbed her arm and insisted he had to have photos by the next day. She screamed and he left. Later she said she could not be absolutely certain the pseudo-photographer was Braunstein, but she thought the resemblance was very close.

Police indicated that after his arrest Braunstein seemed to enjoy the media attention he was getting, and according to the local papers, "he remains one of the most bizarre fugitives they've ever dealt with." He was held in the prison ward at Bellevue, on suicide watch, where his mother visited him for fifteen minutes and told reporters that he was not himself. She believed he had stopped taking his Prozac when he ran out of insurance and had "snapped." He was quite emotional, she indicated, even fragile, and he asked her not to believe what she was hearing from the press. He also requested a fresh set of clothing. The New York Daily News reported that he was undergoing a psychiatric examination, adding he faced a formal hearing on January 5.

Braunstein's neckwound
Braunstein's neckwound

Apparently the court had not ordered this examination, nor had Braunstein's attorney, so when they showed up in court, Gottlieb told the press that he did not understand what was going on. State Supreme Court Justice Brenda Soloff said that in light of this apparent mystery, the results would not be turned over to the prosecutor. Braunstein stood before her in his gray prison uniform, his curly hair shorn into a crew-cut. He listened to the 13-count indictment filed by the Manhattan DA's office that included arson, burglary, kidnapping, sexual abuse, and assault, and responded with only two words, "Not guilty." His father was present in the courtroom, but Braunstein did not look at him.

The next hearing was scheduled for February 23, and Gottlieb said that he was considering requesting a hearing to determine whether Braunstein was even competent to continue with legal proceedings.

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