By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Though fate proved cruel in the end, who could blame Dr. Jon M. Grazer's initial excitement at meeting a petite, well-educated Malaysian woman at Newport Beach's Classic Tailoring in May 2003? Grazer, a prominent Orange County plastic surgeon and bachelor, gave Renee Taiyean Au his business card and telephone number. After Au called, the two dined at upscale Fleming's and slept together.
At the time, Grazer had no way of knowing that, as a lover, Au—then 38 years old and an Orange County civil engineering expert—had trouble accepting that no means no. In fact, according to police and court records, Au's response to male rejection has been something akin to the Big Bang: a combustible mix of outrage—cursing, spitting, pouting, odd stunts, stalking—frightening violence and even threats of a murderous rampage. Her gouging tool of choice: a screwdriver.
Signs of impending disaster arrived a month after Grazer dined with Au. The doctor says Au showed up unannounced at his Fashion Island surgery center and quizzed his employees about their identities and jobs. Then, a few weeks later on a Saturday, Au grabbed Grazer's cell phone while he was in the shower and called one of his ex-girlfriends, Victoria Bahr.
"Jon doesn't want you to ever call him again," said Au, who also erased Bahr's contact information from the doctor's cell phone. "I will be running the office so stay away."
Bahr called Grazer's office manager and described the bizarre phone call. The employee contacted the doctor. Later that night, when Au wasn't in earshot, Grazer called Bahr and apologized.
The following morning, Au searched through the doctor's cell phone calls and confronted him.
"We need to talk," she said. "You called that woman last night!"
"I don't need you to be investigating me like that," the doctor said. The behavior caused Grazer, 47, to throw her out of his Newport Beach residence. However, Au wasn't done with the relationship.
Cue the haunting, high-pitched music.
* * *
Villains in horror flicks often escape justice. Au hasn't been so lucky. She alleged it was an elaborate conspiracy involving the victims, Newport Beach police, a handwriting expert, prosecutors, a judge and her own defense lawyer that landed her in the Central California Women's Facility north of Fresno last year. More on what put her in prison and how she continues to fight in a moment. Next: Dr. Grazer wasn't Au's first victim.
A Costa Mesa city official, who asked not to be identified, briefly dated Au in late 1999. After the man ended the relationship, she harassed him at his home and office, according to court records. In March 2000, Au paged him "30 or 40 times" when he was attending a public function. His car was vandalized with maple syrup. Someone spray-painted "whore" and "bitch" on a vehicle belonging to the man's next girlfriend. Later, yet another girlfriend found this message painted on her car: "End it now bitch." One witness claimed Au admitted to the destruction because she was "angry" with her ex-boyfriend.
In 2001, a jury found Au not guilty of stalking. But she was convicted of vandalism and sentenced to three years' probation and 40 hours of community service. After the case, the city official even attended counseling sessions with her.
* * *
By the time Au met Grazer in 2003, she was on probation and had attended anger management classes. The lessons didn't stick. Just days after Grazer dumped her, Au called his office and, according to court records, told employees to "watch their backs." In a second call 30 minutes later, she said, "You're all dead." The staff called police but nothing was done. Perhaps Grazer intervened. Despite all the trouble, the doctor was not able to resist Au's charms. He would date her twice more before ending the affair again in August.
It was a busy month for Au. She appeared at the home of Grazer's sister "tearful, weepy, lost and pathetic," wearing a cape, hiding her arms and hands, and seeking another "private meeting" with the doctor for "closure." On at least four other occasions, the doctor attended public functions with dates or visited a Starbucks near Fashion Island and saw Au standing alone watching him. At Mosun in Laguna Beach, Grazer called police because of Au's presence. And when the doctor attended a dinner party on another night, she called his cell phone 21 times.
On Oct. 18, 2003, Grazer dined at Fleming's with friend Suzanne Earnest. During dinner, Au called the doctor and demanded that they meet for dinner at Fleming's. He hung up. She called his cell phone 15 more times and his home phone 31 times. A car belonging to Earnest was vandalized at the doctor's residence. The next morning, Grazer left his surgery center and found that someone had keyed and smeared dirt and spittle on his Porsche.
In November, the doctor discovered his car scratched again, Au watching him at a Hoag Hospital parking lot, and his property scattered outside of his home. After receiving numerous hang-up phone calls from a pay phone, Grazer filed a report with Newport Beach police accusing Au of stalking.
The move wasn't a deterrent. Not only did the calls continue, but Au left a message taped to the doctor's front door on Nov. 29. It read, "Jon, I am now more receptive to listen to your apology."
* * *
A court ordered Au to stay at least 150 yards away from Grazer as well as Ann Ciulla and her three young children until January 2015. Ciulla had the misfortune of going on a blind date with Grazer on Dec. 26, 2003. They drank cocktails at Gulfstream and dined at Chat Noir. They didn't know they were being tailed. A police investigation later discovered that Au had rented a white Ford Focus that same day.
After the doctor took Ciulla to her home, he noticed a white Ford Focus tailing him closely. Spooked, he drove to Newport Beach police headquarters near Fashion Island. Au didn't fall for the trap, but her night was far from over.
Ciulla, clueless about Au, woke the next morning to find her front porch vandalized. At his own home, Grazer found his Hummer had been keyed. This time someone had made huge horizontal scratches on the driver's door.
On Dec. 30, Ciulla found that someone had used dirt and flowers to construct a grave at her front door. The word "SLUT" was written on her front door. Her garage door carried this handwritten message: "In my opinion nicely paid call girl in neighborhood; Men, hold onto your wallets; Ladies, hold onto your men; Compliments of the Jon, December 26."
Told of the vandalism, Grazer informed Ciulla that Au had been stalking him.
On New Year's Eve, Ciulla left for vacation but was called by an alarmed neighbor. Someone had used a screwdriver to gouge holes in her home's doors and a black ink marker to write "CALL GIRL" on the garage door. Red syrup that looked like blood had been poured on her patio. Terrorized, Ciulla wouldn't go home. She took her kids and temporarily relocated to a friend's house.
Au still wasn't finished.
Late at night on Jan. 3, 4 and 5, witnesses saw a white Ford Focus in Ciulla's neighborhood and parked near Ciulla's empty residence. In the following days, police detectives learned that Au had switched to a leased red Mitsubishi. The cops informed Grazer. Later that night he saw the car parked near his office. Police arrived and questioned Au, who gave them two bogus stories to explain away her presence. Pressed, she finally admitted she was there to spy on the doctor. Officers found her carrying a screwdriver, a calendar containing detailed information on Grazer's activities and notes containing the license plate numbers for vehicles belonging to the doctor, his friends, his family members and Ciulla.
* * *
Au didn't testify at her September 2004 trial. But according to court records, she told people that she was the stalking victim, that an unknown caller had lured her to Ciulla's neighborhood in a trap and that the stories told by Grazer and his friends, family and employees were lies. She said other men whom she'd dated would vouch for her character. Au also wanted to know why Newport Beach cops never tested the spit left on Grazer's car for DNA. This test would have proven her innocence, she claimed.
Prosecutor Charles Ragland dismissed the spit argument as a red herring and suggested someone had watched too many CSI episodes. He said there was more than sufficient evidence to prove not just her guilt but lack of remorse. An Orange County jury agreed. She was convicted of two felony stalking counts.
After the verdicts, Ron Cordova—her own defense lawyer—told a county probation officer that Au had "antisocial" tendencies, was "obviously obsessed" with Grazer and needed to be incarcerated. Superior Court Judge Richard Toohey sentenced her to a two-year prison term and reduced Grazer's restitution demand from $59,000 in damages to $24,000 because of a lack of receipts.
From her Chowchilla, California, prison cell in July 2005, Au appealed her convictions as fraudulent and the restraining orders as unnecessary. She alleged misconduct by the prosecutor, the judge and her own lawyer. "Some evidence which should have been presented was not, and some that was presented should not have been," she wrote.
In mid-October 2006, a state court of appeal based in Santa Ana rejected Au's motions. The justices said there was "overwhelming evidence" of her guilt. However, the court did overturn Judge Toohey's restitution order by claiming he'd never given Au a chance to challenge the expenses. That matter remains unresolved.
But here's something for all single Southern California men to contemplate: Au is now free. Prison officials released her eight months into her two-year sentence. She returned to Orange County, lives in her Rancho Santa Margarita condo and works in marketing.
No word yet on if she's back in the dating game.