Aspiring 'Law & Order' Actress Shot

04/25/2003 AT 10:29 AM EDT

Aspiring actress Lyric Benson, who performed small roles on TV's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," was clinging to life Friday morning after being shot Thursday morning by her former fiance, who then killed himself, the police said.

Benson, 21, a Yale graduate, reportedly was being kept alive at New York's Bellevue Hospital Center so that her organs could be donated, The New York Times reported.

The shootings occurred outside Benson's walk-up apartment in Chinatown as she was waiting for her mother, who was visiting from North Carolina, to let her in, according to local NBC News.

Benson's mother reportedly opened the apartment building's front door when her daughter was returning from work, and Robert J. Ambrosino, 32, shot Benson and then turned the gun on himself. Police said he used an unlicensed .45-caliber Starfire pistol.

Benson, who worked as a hostess at the popular downtown New York bistro Balthazar, performed voiceovers and small roles, mostly on soap operas. Her face also is seen smiling out at the city on posters for the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival, notes The Times.

The Times describes Ambrosino as a merchant marine who had been unemployed for about a year. Three years ago he was working to become a city firefighter.

The two were said to have been dating since before Benson graduated from Yale last May, though the engagement was broken off about two months ago.

"He wouldn't leave her alone," Benson's coworker at the bistro, Paloma Nunziata, tells The Times. "After a while she didn't pick up the phone. She erased the messages."

"She was extremely beautiful; she had these beautiful blue eyes," recalled Ron Hansen, 40, a former neighbor. "He was short, good-looking. They were such a good-looking couple."

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