NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Bronx man recently convicted of a 1986 killing was sentenced Monday to the maximum of 25 years to life in prison in a case prosecutors say was solved by DNA.

Steven Carter was charged just last year with killing and raping 26-year-old Antoinette Bennett in the early morning hours of Nov. 10, 1986.

Carter attacked Bennett in St. Nicholas Park, threw her to the ground, stabbed her three times in the face and strangled her with his hands, prosecutors said.

WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reports

Workers found Bennett’s body in a playground with her pants pulled down.

Carter was about a month away from potential release in a weapons case when he was indicted last year in Bennett’s death, authorities said.

Assistant District Attorney Melissa Mourges told the court Monday that Carter has a long and violent criminal past.

“He should never be free to prey on another living human being,” Mourges said, noting that Carter had at least two dozen prior convictions.

When he was 16-years-old, Carter choked, beat and raped a female teacher at a youth prison, Mourges said.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office said it matched Carter’s DNA, taken after one of his prior convictions, to samples found on Bennett’s fingernails and leggings. The samples couldn’t be tested at the time of her death.

“The defendant committed an unspeakable crime against a young mother nearly 26 years ago,” said District Attorney Cy Vance. “In her final moments, the victim tried to fight off her attacker, and in doing so, left DNA evidence that led us to her killer.”

Carter was convicted last month of murder.

Carter said he and Bennett had a consensual sexual encounter, and he didn’t attack her.

“I did not commit this crime,” Carter, now 50 and married, said Monday. His lawyer, Lori Cohen, said he planned an appeal that would emphasize statements by and about another man who may have argued with Bennett on the night of her death.

Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Bonnie Wittner gave Carter the maximum possible sentence for what she called “a very brutal attack.”

“The saddest thing, for me, is that the family (of Bennett) is not here today” to see Carter sentenced, the judge said.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Watch & Listen LIVE