There is nothing like a little sex and sleaze to take your mind off the Middle East.
That has been the story in affluent Westchester County, N.Y., where the so-called "fatal attraction" murder trial has been drawing huge crowds since Jan. 14. A tale of greed, lust and bowling, it is a suburban shocker that gets steamier by the week, raising one lurid question after another:
* Did 27-year-old Carolyn Warmus really murder the wife of her lover, Paul Solomon, and then join him for sex in the back seat of her compact car?
* Why would Solomon, who portrays himself as a grieving husband, hop in bed with yet another woman soon after his wife's death -- and sign a $130,000 movie deal with HBO?
"Everybody knows that men cheat on their wives," says an elderly woman, standing in line outside the courtroom in White Plains, N.Y. "But this is all so messy. It's the kind of thing you expect actors and musicians to do. Not nice people from Westchester."
Never mind that Warmus, a flirty blond, and Solomon, 43, a brooding man with dark, curly hair, both teach elementary school. Forget the fact that Warmus is considered an outstanding instructor and that Solomon coaches kids' basketball on weekends. Their carryings-on have parted the curtains on a snake pit of marital problems that many people whisper about but rarely see splashed across front pages and on television news.
The 18-month affair with Solomon might have gone on forever but for the fact that someone shot Betty Jeanne Solomon nine times in the back on the night of Jan. 15, 1989. And it was Warmus' final desperate play for Solomon that ultimately led police to arrest her.
Six months after the shooting, she tracked her lover and his new girlfriend to a hotel room in Puerto Rico. Enraged, she flew to the island and demanded to see him. A frightened Solomon fled the hotel that night, and detectives began turning their attention to Warmus several days later.
According to prosecutors, the murder took place when Warmus entered Solomon's home and shot her lover's wife. She then met Solomon for drinks, dinner and sex. Warmus has denied the charge, saying that she was at a bowling alley with Solomon the entire time. Her attorney says that his client has been framed, but has not named a culprit.
Since the opening arguments Jan. 14, the trial has produced one bombshell after another, including testimony that Betty Jeanne Solomon also had affairs during her 19-year marriage.
The trial is expected to run through early April, and none of the people who pack the courtroom can guess what the outcome will be. But one senior citizen, a diminutive woman with frosted gray hair, summed up the prevailing view from Westchester.
"This gal Warmus isn't looking too good," she said. "Whatever else happens, she'll have trouble getting dates around here when this is over."