A former model who escaped a rapist in Central Park years ago shot her boyfriend to death and set fire to her rented New Jersey home before turning the gun on herself, authorities say.
Peter Warshaw Jr. of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said Friday that the bodies of 36-year-old Carina Schlesinger and 29-year-old Daniel Cresci were found by firefighters in the Holmdel house after the blaze was put out Wednesday.
Authorities were alerted to the blaze just before 7 p.m., and firefighters discovered the bodies once the flames were out. It's unclear what sparked the shootings, but authorities say Cresci could have been dead for several days.
Cresci's longtime friend, Scott Broschart, told the Asbury Park Press no one had heard from him since last Sunday. He also told the paper the couple's 18-month relationship had grown shaky, "largely due to Carina, because she was emotionally unstable."
Cresci's father, Victor, told The New York Post that Schlesinger "was mentally ill, and Daniel wanted to help her," despite his family's warnings that she appeared volatile.
Schlesinger made headlines in May 2004 when she narrowly escaped a terrifying sexual assault in Central Park when a 33-year-old man jumped her while she was walking her dog. Tito Rodriguez, who had been accused of attacking another woman several days earlier, ripped of her clothes and demanded her to perform a sexual act, but Schlesinger fought back. Then the model's 4-year-old, 48-pound Shepherd mix, Cookie, bit the would-be rapist and he ran off in pain.
Blood on Schlesinger's clothes proved a DNA match to Rodriguez, and the jury swiftly convicted him of assault, attempted rape and sexual abuse. A judge sentenced him in 2005 to 125 years to life in prison.
Broschart says he was helping Cresci open a restaurant. Schlesinger, originally from Copenhagen, owned and operated the New Jersey State Dog School – a behavioral and obedience training facility for dogs -- Holmdel. According to the ex-model's Web site, the business, next door to her torched home, had been operating for more than 12 years.