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Girlfriend of defendant expected to testify Thursday at Norwich Goth trial

November 29, 2018

The jury that will decide whether Kristopher Prudhomme is guilty of strangling his roommate with a corset string at their Norwich apartment two years ago is expected to hear testimony as soon as Thursday from the young woman at the center of the conflict.

Lauren Muskus, Prudhomme’s girlfriend at the time, may not be of much help to jurors in New London Superior Court, even though she was in the apartment at 586 East Main St. in Norwich when Michael Lovering allegedly was assaulted. 

Muskus, 23, of Monroe has told police at least twice that she didn’t see the attack. Additionally, she suffers from an anxiety disorder that sometimes impedes her ability to speak, according to testimony. Though the victim, Michael Lovering, testified that Muskus was in the room with him and looked scared when someone came up behind him and put something around his neck, Muskus told police she was in Prudhomme’s bedroom. She said that at one point, Prudhomme left the room angry and returned happy, according to testimony.

The jury has been hearing about the strange events of that night since testimony began on Nov. 13. 

Prosecutor Stephen M. Carney resumed presenting witnesses Wednesday after a lengthy cross-examination of Norwich Detective Kyle Besse by defense attorney Damon A.R. Kirschbaum that had Besse on the witness stand for most of the past six days. Carney told Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed he will be calling three or four more witnesses, including Muskus.

Kirschbaum is expected to begin presenting the defense case on Friday and said he would be eliciting testimony from “lay witnesses” from out of state and from Yale physician Alexander Westphal, an expert in autism. Prudhomme has Asperger’s syndrome, which is a high-functioning form of autism. Detective Besse testified Wednesday that he knew there was something “odd” about Prudhomme when he was questioning him but didn’t know he was autistic until Prudhomme told him near the end of a videotaped interview.

The 30-year-old defendant, now living in Houston, Texas, is charged with using the string from a leather corset to strangle Lovering, whom he had met when both were part of the Goth/electronic music scene in Louisiana. Lovering, who worked as a DJ, had moved to Connecticut from Louisiana a few weeks before the Oct. 22, 2016, incident that left him legless.

Prudhomme, then working as a draftsman at Electric Boat, had invited Lovering to stay with him. The arrangement imploded that night after the men and Muskus returned to Norwich from a concert in New Haven. Lovering, who had not been able to find a job during his three weeks in Connecticut, admitted to Prudhomme that he had sex with Muskus while Prudhomme was at work.

On Wednesday, Chief Medical Examiner James Gill, who typically testifies about autopsies he’s performed on homicide victims, told the jury how he thought the strangulation could have led to the loss of circulation to Lovering’s legs that necessitated a double amputation. At the state’s request, Gill had reviewed medical records, police reports and photos of the apparent ligature marks on Lovering’s neck.

Asked to render an opinion to a “reasonable degree of medical certainty,” Gill said he thought the neck compression, or strangulation, caused Lovering to lose consciousness but not long enough to be fatal. He said the intoxication from the alcohol that Lovering had reportedly consumed heavily throughout the previous night kept him in a semi-comatose state in a kneeling position that caused him to lose circulation to the legs.

Though Lovering had no alcohol in his blood when tested some 15 hours later at the William W. Backus Hospital, his blood alcohol level could have been as high as 0.23 to 0.3 percent at 3:30 a.m., when the attack allegedly occurred, Gill testified. He said the marks on Lovering’s neck, which he examined only by a photo taken from the foot of Lovering’s bed, were consistent with being strangled with a corset string.

Kirschbaum cross-examined Gill at length about the opinion, suggesting that instead, Lovering was self-flagellating or had attempted suicide by hitting himself with a “flogger,” which is a whipping device used by those who practice bondage and sadomasochistic sex.

“I think floggers can cause injury but I don’t think it caused this type of injury,” Gill testified.

Late Wednesday, the prosecution called to the witness stand Jessica Stull, a friend of Lovering’s from Baton Rouge, La. Stull said that in the early morning hours of Oct. 22, she and another friend, Stormie Robinson, had a three-way phone conversation with Lovering, who was crying and upset and said he needed to come home. Stull testified that she started making flight arrangements but could not resume contact with Lovering after about 2:30 a.m. Louisiana time, which would be 3:30 a.m. in Connecticut.

Stull testified that she called Prudhomme via Facebook Messenger and asked him to bring the phone in to Lovering.

“He said, ‘No, if he wanted to talk to me, he’d answer his phone,’” Stull testified. She hung up, calmed herself down and called back after several more failed attempts to reach Lovering. She said Prudhomme told her, “Michael had hurt someone close to him,” and that he’d probably broken his phone.

It was not until about 5:30 p.m. the next day that Prudhomme called for an ambulance. First responders testified that Lovering was semi-conscious and sitting on his legs when they arrived.

k.florin@theday.com

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