Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Twisted Tale of Peter Braunstein

Sorting Out Motive

Braunstein after his arrest
Braunstein after his arrest

Did Braunstein wish to get caught? Unless he's not the brilliant man his colleagues have claimed, or he was more delusional than people realized, then despite psychiatric predictions that he would not wish to be caught, his behavior points to a man who fully expected to be brought to ground. We can look at several indicators:

  • After the assault, he remained in Manhattan, using his credit card and allowing himself to be recorded on cameras.
  • He stashed the victim's possessions at his own place — where he must have known police would search.
  • He knew he could be recognized and yet he went out. 
  • When he finally went on the run, despite publicity he continued to use his credit card at times and even his real name.
  • After giving his name to a blood bank, he remained in the area for more than two weeks, being caught not far from where the blood bank is located. 
  • Once he was spotted and approached by officials, he made clear mention of his notoriety, as if he wanted to ensure they knew.
  • His behavior with reporters afterward indicated he was pleased to have made a name for himself, even in a negative context.
  • He wrote about his intentions and activities in a journal, making a record.

There was speculation that Braunstein had intended the act of breaking into an apartment and assaulting a woman as retaliation for the girlfriend who had jilted him and then gone to court after his retaliating harassment to prevent him from contacting her. His frustration may have been deflected toward the woman in the stilettos — a woman whom some sources believe he did not even know (although this was unclear). In either case, whether he meant it for someone he knew or turned it against a stranger, if he did indeed commit the alleged assault, he probably suffered from a condition commonly known as a love obsession.

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