updated 2/15/2007 1:55:17 PM ET 2007-02-15T18:55:17

A man was convicted Thursday of killing a classically trained dancer who chased her dream of stardom from the Midwest to Manhattan but wound up working in a strip club.

Paul Cortez, 26, was found guilty of second-degree murder for slashing the throat of his ex-girlfriend, 21-year-old Catherine Woods, on Nov. 27, 2005, in her Manhattan apartment. He faces 25 years to life in prison at his March 23 sentencing.

Cortez’s mother wept in the courtroom as the verdict was read, but he showed no emotion.

Defense attorney Dawn Florio said Cortez would appeal. She predicted that her client would prevail, most likely by claiming prosecutors had no right to introduce Cortez’s diaries, which detailed his tortured feelings over Woods’ refusal to love him.

Woods moved to New York from Ohio hoping to make it on Broadway, but ended up dancing in topless bars to cover her expenses. Her father, Jon Woods, is director of the Ohio State University marching band.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Peter Casolaro cited the key piece of evidence — a bloody fingerprint, found on a wall in the apartment, that matched Cortez, a personal trainer and aspiring rock star.

Casolaro also submitted phone records showing that on the day of the slaying, Cortez repeatedly called Woods. The calls stopped during the time she was killed, and Cortez never placed another call to her, Casolaro said.

“He already knows she’s dead and there is nobody to answer the phone,” Casolaro told the jury.

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