|Death Of A Dream
An Aspiring Broadway Dancer Is Found Murdered
(Page 1 of 6)May 12, 2007
Catherine Woods (CBS)
(CBS) Some children never lose that fantasy of making it
big on Broadway. Catherine Woods was one of them.
"It was her dream. Itís what she wanted to do. She
wasnít going to be happy until she reached her goal,
which was to dance on Broadway," remembers Catherine's
friend Katie Miller. "She just looked like a dancer,
looked like a star."
Katie and Catherine met as children in a Columbus, Ohio,
dance studio. With her big smile and personality,
Catherine was the image of the all-American Midwestern
Catherine's father, Jon Woodsóthe well-known director of
the Ohio State University marching band and a music
professoróhad hoped his oldest child would follow him
But Catherine made it clear all she wanted to do was
dance. "She told me that if she didnít leave now, she
never would," her mother Donna recalls.
In the summer of 2002, when Catherine was just 17, her
father and mother Donna, drove her to New York. They
were filled with hope and anxiety.
"She had never lived away from home. I mean this was the
true coming of age, going to the biggest city in the
United States and going to start putting a career
together," Donna explains.
For the next three years, Catherine seemed to thrive in
New York, taking dance, voice and acting lessons, and on
a visit back home, Catherine found love.
David Haughn, then a 20-year-old rap musician, was
selling his CDs in a parking lot when he met Catherine.
Weeks later, David moved to New York to be with her and
pursue his career
In many ways they were an unlikely couple. Catherine
grew up in middle class comfort with her parents and two
younger siblings; David was raised in foster homes. "She
made me feel confident about myself. I looked up to her
so much, almost in a way as a parent," David says.
David says he and Catherine were "real serious," and had
even thought about marriage.
But sometime in 2005, the relationship became strained.
Catherine was paying Davidís bills and the money was
tight. Finally, she broke it off with David although she
allowed him to remain living in the apartment.
"Did you break up because you or she was interested in
seeing other people?" Moriarty asks.
"Not on my part. I donít know on her part. Iím not sure.
Itís possible," David says.
Catherine was 20 years old when she met 24-year-old Paul
Cortez, a trainer at her gym. By early 2005, Paul says
they were dating.
Asked if he thought David knew he existed, Paul says, "I
donít think so. I think, you know, in that situation
when one is just breaking up with someone else and you
know, youíre seeing someone newóI donít think so, I
wouldnít think Catherine would tell him about me."
That summer, Paul unexpectedly showed up at the
apartment while David was there and told David that he
had been dating Catherine for almost a year.
How did David react? "He was upset," Paul remembers. "He
But Paul got a surprise as well.
"Did you realize that David still thought they were
boyfriend and girlfriend?" Moriarty asks.
"Yeah thatís what he told me," Paul remembers. "And I
was like, 'Ok, well thatís not good.'"
Later, David called Paul. "Oh he was definitely angry.
He was upset," Paul recalls.
Asked if David threatened him at any point," Paul says,
"Yeah, he was like 'Donít see her again or else.'"
For the next four months, Catherine continued to live
with David and secretly date Paul. But according to
Katie, Catherine was still searching for true love.
"Sheíd say 'Why do I always get these guys? Why canít I
find Mr. Right who rides up on a horse and comes and
picks me up and we go riding off in the sunset,'" Katie
One week after Katie last spoke with Catherine,
Catherine was dead.
On the night of November 27th, 2005, Catherine Woods was
getting ready to go to work, when David says he left
their apartment to pick up his car. When he returned,
David says he made a chilling discovery. "It was a bad
scene. Blood everywhere. It was bad. My first instinct
was to call 911," he remembers.
Catherine lay on the bedroom floor, face down, blood.
She had been stabbed 20 times, her throat cut twice. No
weapon was found, according to New York City police
detective Steven Goetz, who led the investigation.
"To be honest with you, the first thing that I remember
thinking to myself was that this girl is dead on the
floor in her bedroom. And she has a family out there and
that they donít even know that she is dead," Goetz
Catherineís mom and dad were 500 miles away, at home in
Columbus, when three police officers arrived. "I said
'How bad is it?' And he said 'Itís bad.' And I said 'Is
she dead?' And he said 'Yes,'Ē Donna recalls.
At the precinct, police began grilling David Haughn. "I
really just couldnít believe it was happening. I just
kept asking God in my headÖyou know, 'Why is this
happening?'" David recalls.
Det. Goetz says the killer left what appeared to be a
bloody handprint on a bedroom wall and several bloody
boot prints in the apartment, including one left on
The print, says Goetz, came from a 10.5 size shoe. Asked
what David's show size is, the detective says 10.5.
"Did the police at first accuse you, I mean did they say
'Come on, David?'" Moriarty asks.
"Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah," David recalls.
Asked what he said to them, David says, "I told them
'No, you have the wrong person. You have the wrong
person. I would never, never hit that girl. Not at all.
I loved her. I would have did anything for her.'"
As the interrogation wore on, David showed little
emotion or grief. "Couldnít even cry. Even afterwards,"
David remembers. "The detectives were asking me 'If you
love this girl so much, why are you not crying?' I
looked at them 'I donít know. I really donít know.'"
The brutal end to a beautiful young womanís life and
dreams was the lead story that morning. Ivette Cortez
heard it on the radio as she was getting ready for work.
When Ivette saw Catherineís picture in the paper, she
recognized her instantly. Ivette is Paul Cortezí mother.
She knew her son had been seeing Catherine, which is why
the rest of the story sent her into a panic.
"They just kept mentioning the boyfriend being held and
I didnít know what that meant," Ivette remembers.
She didn't know if they were referring to her son Paul.
"But I tracked him down, he was at work. He didnít even
realize what was happening," she says.
Ivette went to the health club where Paul was working to
break the news to him.
"She told me that Catherine was killed the night before.
Just like, I just buckled. I remember just kind of
sitting on the stoop right almost outside of the club
and I just couldnít believe it. I was just in complete
shock," Paul remembers.
Later that day, police called Paul and brought him in
Asked to describe Paul Cortez, Det. Goetz says, "Quiet,
he came to the precinct with his mother, and he seemed
like a very nice person."
While police questioned Paul in one room in the
precinct, and David in another, they were learning about
something else in Catherineís life that could have a
bearing on her death: in the months before she was
murdered, she had been working as a dancer in a topless
For the tabloid press it was suddenly a sensational
story. For investigators, it opened up a whole other
line of possible motives and suspects.
Chloe hired and managed the dancers at a club called
"Privilege." "I looked at her and I am like 'What is
this girl doing here?' Because she looks like the girl
next door and she needed to have money to live on," she
Catherine, who worked under the name Ava, danced nights
so she could audition and attend classes during the day.
She hid that part of her life from her parents.
"I was, like, you know 'This isnít you, this isnít what
Ö' Sheís like 'I know. I know,'" her friend Katie
Was Catherine was having trouble with one of the
customers? If so, she never mentioned it to anyone.
Katie spoke with Catherine the week before she died. And
Katie says she didn't seem worried about anything or
afraid of anyone.
Six hours after Paul Cortez and his mother Ivette
arrived at the police precinct they were allowed to
Police discovered that Paul,
like David, wears a 10.5 size shoe. And thereís more: a
serious problem with the written statement Paul gave to
police, detailing what he did the day of Catherineís
At the time of Catherine's murder, Goetz says, Paul said
he was home in his apartment.
According to the detective, Paul told police he was
making calls at his apartment a mile and half away from
Catherineís, but when police set out to verify his
story, Paulís cell phone records indicated something
else. Paul called Catherine a dozen times shortly before
6 p.m. the evening she was killed. If he had been home,
his calls would normally go through a cell tower in his
neighborhood. Instead, some of those calls were handled
by a tower just two blocks from Catherineís apartment.
But according to Goetz, Paul didnít tell any officers
that he was in Catherine's neighborhood at the time of
Ivette Cortez always believed her son Paul was going
places. "He just does so much with his life. And to live
vicariously through all of his accomplishments."
Ivette was a single mom when she was raising her three
children in a tough neighborhood in the Bronx. Paul, her
youngest, earned scholarships at some of New Yorkís most
prestigious prep schools.
Ivette acknowledges she couldn't afford to send her son
to those prestigious schools but that he had to win the
scholarships. "He worked really hard for everything that
he has," she says.
But it meant Paul had to rise before dawn each day for
the two hour ride to school. He didnít just thrive
academically Ė Paul also stood out on the stage starring
in high school productions of Pippin and West Side
Paul got a scholarship at Boston University, where he
majored in theater; he was the first in his family to
get a college degree.
At 24, Paul replaced show tunes with rock. He was the
lead singer and lyricist for a New York band,
Paul also had a day jobóhe worked as a trainer in the
gym where he met Catherine Woods.
"She was playful. Thatís what I liked about her. She was
really like open and you could see like compassion in
her eyes. And I loved that about her," Paul says.
Within a couple of months Paul and Catherine were
dating. But when Paul learned Catherine was dancing on
the side in topless clubs, he insisted that she stop.
How did she react to his demand? Says Paul, "Well
basically, like you know, 'I know what youíre saying,
but it really isnít any of your business and Iím gonna
be careful and nothingís going to happen to me.'"
But in April 2005, something did happen while Catherine
was working at Privilege. "In the middle of the night,
Catherine called me," Paul recalls. "And she was crying
and she was like 'Please come, please come here.'"
Paul went to the club to get her. "I had never seen her
like that, just stumbling and just kind of like off
balance and her eyes were just like pins. She looked
like she was on drugs or really drunk," he remembers.
Catherine believed a customer slipped drugs into her
drink. Paul says Catherine thought she might have been
The next day, when she told him she planned to go back
to work, Paul says he was shocked and went through her
cell phone to find her fatherís telephone number.
Paul called Catherineís father and told him where
Catherine had been working and what had happened that
Paul says he didn't tell Catherine he was making the
"When he told me, as a father, I thought, 'Wow, you know
thank you for this information,'" Jon Woods remembers.
Jon took the next flight to New York to confront his
daughter. But Catherine told her father the story wasnít
Paul says Catherine was "really mad" when she found out
Paul had called her parents.
They broke up, Paul says, but not for long. "We realized
we loved each other and we always were thinking about
each other, and we got back together," he says.
But just how serious a relationship it was is in
dispute. Catherine did go to one of Paulís performances
that summer and he introduced her to his mom.
Yet apparently Catherine never told her friends or
family that she was even dating Paul.
As for Catherineís other
boyfriend, David Haughn, Paul believed he was out of the
picture. "Eventually she told me he did move out in, I
think August of 2005," Paul says.
"I moved out for a few weeks, I went to a friendís,"
David acknowledges. But in fact, he moved back in with
Catherine not long before she was killed.
Paul says he didnít know that David had moved back in
with Catherine and that she hadn't told him.
Lead Detective Steven Goetz says Paulís obsession, and
jealousy, is plain to see in the journals he wrote. And
so is something else. "The writings were very violent.
Spoke about slashing peopleís throats," the detective
Police point to some of the songs and poems Paul wrote
as proof that he had a deep seated anger towards women
and Catherine in particular.
"At one point Paul, you wrote, 'She wipes clean the
shaft that cuts her throat.; And then Catherineís throat
is cut. Thatís how she dies," Moriarty remarks.
"Itís a poem, I mean," Paul replies.
Paul says he wrote that poem eight months before
Catherineís murder, after she told him she had once been
sexually assaulted at knifepoint. "I mean, to say that I
had been plotting this thing eight months before is
ridiculous. I didnít know what was going to happen to
her that night," he says. "You can take anything out of
context and make it sound the way that you want it to
fit and tailor it to your needs."
But the meaning of Paul's writings wouldnít have
mattered at all if he could prove where he was when
Catherine was murdered
"You loved this woman. She had lied to you over those
months. Did you in fact, that night just snap and kill
her?" Moriarty asks.
"No, I would never do that," Paul says.
Paul could have had an alibi. "We had rehearsal
scheduled for 6 p.m. that Sunday night and Paul didnít
show up," says Alex Rude, who was one of Paulís band
mates in Monolith.
Asked if that was normal, Alex says, "No, he usually
Alex says Paul's performances had been getting erratic
and he had planned to ask Paul to leave the band that
night. So where was Paul?
"I called him around 8 oíclock. And I asked him why he
wasnít there and he said that he overslept," Alex
"One of the few times youíd ever miss a practice happens
to be at the time that Catherine is killed?" Moriarty
"I didnít go to rehearsal because they were gonna tell
me 'Youíre not part of the band anymore,'" Paul
explains. "And I didnít wanna have that whole
conversation that night."
The two men who knew Catherine Woods best are both
suspects, but as days passed, Det. Steven Goetz focused
less on David Haughn, and more on Paul Cortez. "My
feeling is if Paul Cortez had nothing to do with this,
then he had no reason to lie," Goetz explains.
Police say Paul hid from them the fact he was in
Catherineís neighborhood at the time of the murder,
leaving it out of his written statement
"In here, you never mention that you were right down in
her neighborhood, just blocks from her house. Why not?"
"I just remember that point being a haze. I was still in
shock. I had just found out that someone I had loved
dearly was killed. And that I was a suspect for it as
well. I just didnít know what to do or what to think or
what to really put in," Paul says.
And then police got a big break: in the midst of this
bloody crime scene, they say they were able to isolate
one single fingerprint. Goetz says the fingerprint
matched Paul Cortez.
Paul Cortez was arrested for killing Catherine Woods and
held without bail.
Marguerite Shinouda had met
Paul just a few months earlier on a Yoga retreat. "He
had been at my house a couple of weeks before Catherine
was killed and he was flirty, he was fun, he was warm,"
She is so sure of Paulís innocence, she used her own
money and borrowed thousands more to help pay for his
Over the next year, Marguerite created a Web site to
build support for Paul Cortez and helped hire lawyers,
defense attorneys Dawn Florio and Laura Miranda.
"He has a very gentle, caring soul about him. I canít
even imagine that somebody like this could have
committed such a vicious crime," Miranda says.
They say there could be any number of other suspects;
that a customer from one of the topless clubs could have
killed Catherine. They also believe police were too
quick to clear David Haughn.
"David is the one who gave up his life. He came from
Ohio to live with this woman. And Catherine was kicking
David out of the apartment. So if anyone had a motive,
Iíd say it was more David than Paul," Florio argues.
Her reasoning: a neighbor testified hearing screams
coming from Catherineís apartment about 20 minutes
before David said he left the apartment. But police
investigated David's movements that night and believe he
was away much longer.
Fourteen months after Catherineís death, Paul Cortez
goes on trial for murder.
Manhattan assistant district attorney Peter Casolaro
paints Paul Cortez as an obsessed boyfriend who didnít
want to share Catherine with anyone else. "Failure in
love often leads to anger and murder and thatís
precisely what happened here, ladies and gentlemen," he
Casolaro says that after months of Catherine seeing
other men, Paul was like a volcano, ready to erupt. And
on that night, Paul waited outside the apartment,
watched David leave and then slipped in to kill
"Itís the defendantís persistent use of his cell phone,"
The prosecutor introduces the phone records that prove
Paul was in Catherineís neighborhood, calling her
numerous times right before she was killed. And then the
phone calls stopped. "He never ever, ever calls
Catherine Woods again," Casolaro argues. "Is that a
coincidence? Is that why he stops calling her? Or is it
because he already knows sheís dead and thereís nobody
to answer the phone?"
But Paul's defense attorneys are quick to point that
Paul wasn't injured and that no DNA was found under
Catherine's fingernails, or elsewhere in the apartment.
There is little physical evidence that connects Paul to
the murder, but what does exist is incriminating.
"His fingerprint is in her blood put there at the time
of the murder. And there is no innocent explanation for
that," Casolaro tells the court.
But the defense attorneys say there is other evidence
that points to someone other than Paul: unidentified
strands of hair found in Catherineís hand that didnít
belong to Paul and were never tested by police.
Asked whose hair that is, Miranda says, "I donít know
the answer to that. But we definitely know that theyíre
not Paul Cortezís hair."
"The last piece of really, really critical evidence are
the footprints. The footprints are undoubtedly left by
the killer," Casolaro says.
Those bloody foot prints in Catherineís apartment, says
the prosecutor, were left by a man wearing Skecher
boots, size 10.5. But Paul maintains he doesn't own any
And police never found any, but they did find a surprise
witness: Spencer Liebowitz. He knew Paul from the gym.
Spencer testified he saw Paul at this bar the night
Catherine was murdered and that Paul was wearing Skecher
It's surprising testimony, because a year earlier,
Spencer told 48 Hours he had no memory of what Paul was
Paul claims that he was wearing these Johnston & Murphy
shoes. And Paulís attorneys say they have video that
will prove it: a surveillance tape from a store that
shows what Paul was wearing when he was shopping a few
hours before the murder.
As the trial comes to an end, itís the evidence that the
defense hopes will convince the jurors that Paul Cortez
is innocent of murder.
Jon and Donna Woods donít
need to wait for the verdictóthey are already convinced
Paul Cortez killed their daughter. "Paul Cortez stabbed
Catherine 20 times," Donna says. "He slit her throat and
then stabbed her larynx. There is no doubt in my mind
that heís a monster."
But Paul maintains he is innocent. But what will the
For Paulís family, thereís nothing but doubt. They stand
behind him, believing that he is not guilty.
And Paulís lawyers are feeling confident, too. "We think
that thereís no way that this jury will be able to
convict him," Miranda says.
As one day of deliberations rolls into two, the pressure
on everyone intensifies.
Behind closed doors, jurors were fighting it out. At the
beginning, the majority believed Paul Cortez was guilty.
Four jurors sat down with 48 Hours. They asked not to be
identified by name, but they were willing to give a rare
look back at the drama that was unfolding inside the
Three of the women thought the cops may have gotten the
wrong guy. For them, David Haughn, Catherineís other
boyfriend, was a much better suspect.
"Actually I thought he could have done it. I thought he
was more likely the type of personality to do it rather
than the defendant," a female juror remarked.
Still, almost everyone on the jury was concerned that
Paul gave police the impression he was at home the night
Catherine was murdered.. He was, in fact, just blocks
"Everybody looked at that," another juror remarked. "He
lied on there clearly."
They were even more bothered by the fact that Paul had
no alibi for the time Catherine was killed and never
tried calling her after that.
"If youíre that worried about her, you would call. But
he didnít call," a female juror said.
As the hours wore on, two jurors stubbornly refused to
convict. If they didnít change their minds, there was
going to be a hung jury and Paul Cortez could go free.
And then they decided to look at one more piece of
evidence: the store surveillance video that Paulís
defense put into evidence at the end of the trial.
Itís the surveillance tape, from the appliance store PC
Richards, where Paul Cortez had gone shopping just hours
before the murder.
Paulís attorneys say the video proves Paul was wearing
shoes that day, not boots, which are similar to what the
But what did the jurors see? They decided he was wearing
For the holdouts, it was the tipping point. The grainy,
blurred video made everything crystal clear. They
believed he was wearing the Sketcher boots.
In a bitter irony, the evidence that sealed Paul
Cortezís fate came from his own defense lawyers.
After a day and a half of deliberation, the jury finds
Paul Cortez guilty of second degree murder.
"Your heart drops to your stomach and then you know, it
just kind of obliterates you," Paul says, recalling the
moment he heard the verdict.
"What if I told you that two individuals who were on the
fence who might have hung the jury changed their mind,
based on that videotape," Moriarty asks Paul's
"It would be the mistake of our lives. And it's
terrible. You know I'd feel responsible for him being
convicted," Miranda says.
The verdict changes nothing for Paulís mother, Ivette.
"Paul will always be my baby. Iíll always be there for
him. And so will his family," she says.
But for Catherineís parents, Jon and Donna, the verdict
comes as a relief, although it is no consolation.
"Thereís no happy ending to this. It isnít like anybody
really wins," Donna says.
"Weíve lost a daughter," Jon says. "And the Cortez
family has lost a son."
But loss is no longer what Jon and Donna Woods want to
focus on. They want to remember how much their daughter
Catherine lived, in her very short life.
"She was 20 years old, independent and strong and going
after her dream," Donna says. "With a little luck, she
might have made it."