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Witness Describes Stranger's Proposition at Mall

Testifying in a murder trial, the woman tells of an encounter with the defendant similar to one reported by a woman later found dead.

July 14, 2006|Tanya Caldwell | Times Staff Writer

When Susan Murphy read in the paper that a model hoping for her big break through a photography shoot had been missing for almost a week, she said she had to tell the police her story.

"Call it women's instinct," Murphy testified Thursday as the first witness in the trial of Victor Paleologus. He is charged with the murder of another young woman, who disappeared in February 2003.

Murphy said a stranger had followed her into the Macy's at a Century City shopping center a month before Kristine Louise Johnson's disappearance, promising her a $100,000 role in a James Bond movie. All she had to do was show up the next day in a miniskirt, dress shirt, nylons and stilettos for an "informal screening" with Pierce Brosnan and Sean Connery.

Nothing happened to Murphy at the meeting.

The man told her to "forget it" after she showed up in tennis shoes and demanded identification, she testified.

On March 3, 2003, Johnson's body was found at the bottom of a ravine in the Hollywood Hills, bound and strangled, 16 days after she had left to meet a man she had met at the Century City mall about a role in a James Bond movie. Johnson was 21.

Paleologus, 43, was charged with her murder while being held at Men's Central Jail in 2003 on suspicion of auto theft.

On Thursday, Murphy pointed to him as the man she had met years ago. She said he told her his name was Victor Thomas.

Murphy is one of several women who will testify and tell similar stories about their encounters with Paleologus, Deputy Dist. Atty. David Walgreen said.

But defense attorney Andrew Flier told the jury that there is no evidence -- including DNA or hair samples -- to prove that Paleologus was involved in the killing or that he had ever met Johnson.

"Not one scintilla of science, physical trace -- anything -- connects Mr. Paleologus to this case," Flier said. And even if Paleologus had encounters with other women, Flier said, "the bottom line ... is that he never killed any of them."

Testimony was scheduled to continue today.

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