The Murder of Catherine Woods… Did the Rocker Do it?

After my trip to NYC at the end of November I wrote about the mysterious murder of Catherine Woods, which happened the night I arrived.

I wondered, not all that seriously, if Peter Braunstein was still in town and had escalated his alleged campaign of violence against beautiful women.

I didn’t write anymore about Catherine’s gruesome death the night of November 27, 2005, but I kept track of articles about it. I knew she had two boyfriends, David Haughn, who had come to Manhattan with Catherine from her homestate of Ohio, and a guy named Paul Cortez, a yoga instructor and rock singer. I knew the very attractive, professionally-trained dancer had come to NY to find her salvation in those bright lights on Broadway, but when she was murdered in the apartment she shared with Haughn, she was a topless dancer, using the stage name Ava.

There has been a development in the Woods investigation that merits a blog entry, particularly since one of our favorite social networking/blogging domains,, can again be referenced.

Let’s be clear— doesn’t kill people; people kill people. There are a lot of things about myspace that bother me, but they have less to do with anyone who runs the domain than with the people you find as you surf the pages there. The folks who created the domain and run it are just like a lot of us—trying to make a buck. I’ll save my issues with what one can find on myspace, especially related to teens, for a later blog entry.

The new development? While he has yet to be charged, Paul Cortez, age 24, is now considered the ‘prime suspect’ in the murder of Catherine Woods. From, an article posted to the web December 20, 2005:

Assistant District Attorney Martha Stolley made the statements about Paul Cortez, 24, in Manhattan Criminal Court during his arraignment on charges of sexually attacking another young woman during the early hours of Jan. 1, 2005.

Stolley told Judge Karen I. Lupuloff that evidence put Cortez at the scene of the fatal stabbing of Catherine Woods, 21, on Nov. 27 in the East 86th Street apartment she shared with boyfriend David Haughn, 23, from her hometown, Columbus.

“There was a bloody fingerprint found at the scene that was linked to this defendant,” Stolley said. “But for the transit strike, we would have arrested this defendant today.”

Stolley explained that a grand jury quorum—the minimum of 13 people legally needed to indict—could not be seated because the bus and subway worker walkout had kept some jurors from being able to go to court. A full grand jury in New York seats 23 members.

At Stolley’s request, the judge ordered Cortez held without bail, noting that he faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted just on the sex charges. The judge scheduled his next court appearance for Dec. 23.

The judge arraigned Cortez, a singer in the rock band Monolith, in connection with the January case, for which he was arrested Monday, on three counts of first-degree criminal sex act.

In that attack, Stolley said, Cortez grabbed the victim’s throat, pressed his knee onto her chest and forced her to perform sex acts…

Monolith, Cortez’s band, has a account— That’s sort of a ‘thing’ on—a CD has even been made, “Myspace Music” or something to that effect, because so many bands and musicians keep easy-to-maintain and inexpensive webpages there.

Monolith has 889 friends, individuals and other bands. Click to the other band pages and you will be treated to their music whether you want it or not. The individuals are apparently solo musicians in many cases, they range from a bookish-looking guy who appears to be chatting with Kermit the Frog in his profile pic to a dead-ringer for John Lennon in his bearded hippie stage. The other profiles show an untold number of twenty-something women in various stages of funky undress, giving off smoldering come-hither looks that seem to invite the idle web-surfer into a red-velvet lined cyber-room where there are sex toys and wickedly sharp objects hidden in equal numbers.

How much of this was also a part of Catherine Woods’s life? At first glance, it’s hard to say. Then again, not many people knew that she and the stripper Ava were one and the same, at least not in Ohio. Some members of the New York media machine were remarkably insensitive about this fact, once it came out, as if to say, “oh, wasn’t that a terrible way to go, but snicker—mum and dad from the midwest sure got a shock, did they not?”

I could not, on first pass, find a site for Woods herself, therefore at the moment can’t say that she had one, perhaps a myspace profile that would provide more insight into the “Ava” side of the double-life Catherine apparently led.

One gets the feeling that like a lot of people who are just stretching out, finding the boundaries of their world, Catherine may have gotten to New York and been thrilled by the color, the wildness, the danger of it all.

If Paul Cortez, lead singer for Monolith, embodied that danger, perhaps she didn’t know why until it was far too late.

One Response to “The Murder of Catherine Woods… Did the Rocker Do it?”

  1. friend of paul Says:

    on 3/30/6: regarding People vs. Cortez…”people moved to dismiss the entire sexual assault case. Based on a thorough investigation into all the facts of circumstances the people have decided not to further pursue prosecution.”

    the rape case was how they got his finger prints – might they also drop the finger prints ?

    while i this is no think blue line, remember the lesson from the movie: if the DA wants to put someone in jail, they will do whatever it takes…

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