Girlfriend testifies at Norwich Goth trial
Occupants of a New London courtroom strained Thursday to hear the testimony of a young woman at the center of a conflict in a Norwich apartment two years ago that left a man without legs.
Lauren Muskus, a 23-year-old brunette in a wool skirt and sweater, walked to the witness stand past her ex-boyfriend, Kristopher Prudhomme, and whispered her responses to questions from prosecutor Stephen M. Carney.
Prudhomme, 30, is accused of choking Michael Lovering with the string of a corset on Oct. 22, 2016, after Lovering admitted he had slept with Muskus while Prudhomme was at work. The state alleges Prudhomme left Lovering in an unnatural position on his bedroom floor for 12 to 15 hours, resulting in a loss of circulation that necessitated amputation of both his legs.
Defense attorney Damon A.R. Kirschbaum has asserted that Lovering was heavily intoxicated and suicidal.
If jurors were hoping for clarity from Muskus about the incident, they may have been disappointed. She said she was in Prudhomme’s bedroom from the early morning hours of Oct. 22 through the next afternoon and did not see who strangled Lovering.
Her version of events contradicts Lovering, who testified last week that Muskus was sitting on his bed, and he was sitting on the floor talking to her with his back to the door, when somebody came up behind him and strangled him.
Muskus suffers from anxiety so severe that she sometimes can’t speak, a condition known as “selective mutism,” according to testimony. She paused before responding to many of the prosecutor’s questions, bowing her head and closing her eyes, but managed to communicate her version of the events in a childlike voice.
Prudhomme and Lovering, involved in the Goth scene, had met at electronic music venues in Louisiana, and Lovering, seeking a new start, had come to live with Prudhomme, according to testimony. Muskus testified that she had met Prudhomme on a dating website and sometimes spent the night at his apartment at 586 E. Main St. in Norwich.
Sitting with his attorneys at the defense table during Muskus’ testimony, Prudhomme slowly rocked from side to side in his swivel chair, much as he has done during two weeks of testimony. Prudhomme, who had been working as a draftsman at Electric Boat, broke up with Muskus and moved back to Houston, Texas, after his arrest. He and his father are staying in Connecticut during the trial.
Muskus, responding in short sentences that the prosecutor often repeated back to ensure he heard correctly, said that after Lovering told Prudhomme he slept with her, Prudhomme went quiet and seemed angry. She said Prudhomme asked her if she “wanted it” with Lovering and she said she didn’t.
She said Lovering came into their bedroom with a deck of tarot cards and attempted to “fix” the relationship, but that Prudhomme told Lovering he had to leave. Lovering cried and said he didn’t have a place to go, she testified. Prudhomme was angry.
She said she stayed in the bedroom playing games on her phone and fell asleep at some point. She said Prudhomme got up and left the room but she didn’t know for how long. She said they heard groaning sounds coming from the room and Prudhomme told her, “Don’t worry,” when she “posed” her concern to him. She said she was afraid to check on Lovering. The next afternoon, after receiving messages from Lovering’s friends saying Lovering wasn’t responding to texts, Prudhomme “very begrudgingly” went into Lovering’s room, Muskus testified.
She said Prudhomme told her Lovering has his legs underneath him and was covered in vomit. She said Prudhomme said he was going to try to get Lovering in the shower, and she heard “bumps” but Prudhomme came back and said he was calling an ambulance. Prudhomme told her to stay in the room, she said, and later told her Lovering had probably committed suicide.
Days later, she learned that Lovering’s mother was blaming his injuries on his corsets and wanted to throw them out. She said she wanted one, and Prudhomme gave her one from Lovering’s room, though it wasn’t the one she wanted. She took it back to her condominium in Monroe.
Asked whether Prudhomme told her what to say during the police investigation, Muskus responded, “Not directly.” She said, “Yes,” when the prosecutor asked whether she believes Prudhomme was trying to manipulate her responses to police.
Prudhomme was not happy when her mother hired her a lawyer, Muskus said. He broke up with her, she said, because “he felt it was better for things.”
Though the defense attorney Kirschbaum had grilled many of the state’s witnesses during cross-examination, he had no questions for Muskus.
The state is expected to rest its case Friday morning, when the defense will begin presenting witnesses. The six-member jury that will decide the case is expected to begin deliberating sometime next week
Prudhomme has pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault, second-degree assault, intentional cruelty to persons and tampering with evidence. In taking his case to trial, he turned down an offer from the court to plead guilty in exchange for a prison sentence of up to seven years.