Grim, grueling day of testimony at Norwich Goth trial

Michael Lovering, who lost his legs two years ago after a strangling incident at his Norwich apartment, became sick on the witness stand Friday while enduring a full day of cross-examination in New London Superior Court.

Lovering vomited into a waste basket just as prosecutor Stephen M. Carney, arguing that defense attorney Damon A.R. Kirschbaum's prolonged questioning was "borderline abusive," noticed Lovering was ill and asked for a recess. Lovering recovered a short time later and continued testifying.

The 37-year-old double amputee, now living with his mother in Denham Springs, La., was testifying at the trial of his former friend and roommate, Kristopher P. Prudhomme, 30, of Houston, Texas.

Prudhomme is accused of using a corset string to strangle Lovering after learning Lovering had sex with Prudhomme's girlfriend, Lauren Muskus. The state alleges Prudhomme left Lovering suffering for 12 to 14 hours in a position that resulted in the loss of circulation that necessitated the amputation of both legs.

He wheeled himself into the courtroom Friday morning, hoisted his body into the witness stand and quietly answered the barrage of questions from the defense. Lovering wears his head half shaven and his ears weighted down by large black gauge plugs. According to testimony, he and Prudhomme were involved in the industrial Goth scene, which is centered around electronic music. 

Kirschbaum used photographs from Lovering's Facebook page as he attempted to convince the jury that Lovering was suicidal and had a heavy drinking problem.

Lovering denied being suicidal, though he admitted he had struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. He calmly identified a whip shown in a picture of his bedroom in Norwich as his "flogger," and said he was rolling around in fake blood at a concert of the heavy metal band Gwar in another photograph that Kirschbaum showed him. Lovering testified that he had a large collection of pornography on his cellphone, didn't care who knew about it and had engaged in sex with people he didn't know.

"I danced a lot. I used to dance a lot," Lovering testified after Kirschbaum showed him a photograph of himself lying on the ground, bending backwards, and asked whether he used to be flexible.

According to testimony, Lovering, Prudhomme and Muskus returned from a show in New Haven about 2 a.m. on the morning of Oct. 22, 2016. Lovering said he was sitting in his bedroom, his legs bent at the knees and his feet tucked under his buttocks, facing Muskus, who was sitting on his bed. He said he had felt guilty that Prudhomme didn't know they had sex. He said he felt a pressure around his neck, everything went black and, the next thing he knew, he woke up in Hartford Hospital with no legs.

Lovering said he didn't see who strangled him but Prudhomme was the only other person in the apartment besides him and Muskus. His mother called police on Nov. 2 after speaking with her son, who had awakened a few days earlier from a medically induced coma. Kirschbaum tried to get Lovering to commit to a timeline of the events, but Lovering repeatedly said he didn't remember.

One of Kirschbaum's lines of questioning involved the death of Lovering's friend in Louisiana under suspicious circumstances. The man had died of a gunshot wound to the head, according to testimony, and people thought that Lovering knew something about it or was involved in his death. Carney, the prosecutor, attempted to limit testimony about the incident, noting with the jury out of the courtroom that it would be unfair for the defense to suggest it was a homicide, that the man's death was ruled a suicide and that Lovering was not implicated.

But Lovering admitted he was "getting blamed for everything" after the friend's death and got a tattoo on his right forearm that said "End." When he got to Norwich, he was looking to start a new life but had given Prudhomme all of his money for rent, had no job and was "off the wagon" in terms of his substance abuse, Lovering testified.

Kirschbaum also explored through questioning the possibility that Lovering injured himself while practicing erotic asphyxiation, or autoerotic asphyxiation. Lovering said he was familiar with the practice, in which a person tightens a noose around the neck to restrict the supply of oxygen and increase sexual excitement, but said he had never participated in it. He admitted commenting "totally" on a friend's post that referred to erotic asphyxiation but said it was just a joke.

The prosecutor objected to Kirschbaum's prolonged and repetitive questioning of Lovering, saying the defense attorney was trying to "run out the clock" and citing a victim's constitutional rights. Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed sustained some of the objections and told Kirschbaum to question Lovering about new information.

Kirschbaum cited a text in which Lovering wrote, "I wish he succeeded," which Kirschbaum inferred was a reference by Lovering that Prudhomme attempted to kill him. Lovering said he has never wanted to die, though he admitted he has "night terrors."

"My life is a lot more difficult now," he said. "I'm not as independent as I used to be. I'm stuck in the same four walls. I know it's hard."

Near the end of the day, Jongbloed allowed Carney to put into evidence a photograph of Lovering looking forlorn after waking from an induced coma at Hartford Hospital to discover he had no legs. Kirschbaum objected to the photograph, saying it was too prejudicial.  

The state will continue to present its case when the trial resumes next week.

k.florin@theday.com

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