NEW YORK (CBSNewYork ) – A suspect accused of raping an elderly woman who was birdwatching in Central Park was arraigned overnight in Manhattan.
David Mitchell, 42, appeared in court around 12:30 a.m. Friday. He was charged with first-degree rape, assault, robbery and weapons possession. A judge ordered him held without bail.
More was learned about Mitchell on Friday. Some are now questioning his dangerous background and why he was in New York in the first place.
Authorities said Mitchell is a homeless man who attacked a 73-year-old woman in Central Park on Wednesday.
Police said surveillance video showing Mitchell walking away from the scene helped track him down. He was taken in for questioning on Thursday after officers saw him walking on Amsterdam Avenue between 77 and 78 streets, police said.
Mitchell was then arrested after being identified by the victim in a lineup, police said.
The 73-year-old victim told police that the attack occurred shortly before noon near Strawberry Fields, the park’s landmark memorial to John Lennon. Mitchell stole the victim’s backpack and camera before pushing her down into some mulch and raping her, police said.
NYU professor Eric Ozawa found the woman in some bushes.
“She looked like her face had been shoved into the ground and she looked like she had been punched many times in the face,” said Ozawa. “She said that he threatened to cut her jugular.”
Police said Mitchell has been in New York City since July even though he’s supposed to be under supervised parole in West Virginia. He was arrested in 1989 for murder and sexual assault in West Virginia for which he was found not guilty.
Mitchell was released from prison in march of last year, but since then, he has been convicted of violating probation three times. He has a long list of arrests and convictions.
In West Virginia in 1990, he began serving 10 years for first degree robbery as part of a plea deal with prosecutors where charges for raping a woman in her 70s were dropped.
During that sentence, he escaped from prison for two days before being caught. In 2000, he was convicted of grand larceny and served one year behind bars.
Most recently in Virginia, he was convicted of kidnapping, serving eight years in prison before being released on probation and then moving back to West Virginia.
Just weeks before this latest alleged rape, he was accused of threatening a man with a knife in Central Park.
West Virginia police contacted the NYPD on Friday to discuss an open homicide investigation from 2002.
Mitchell is a person of interest in that case — a 54-year-old woman disappeared and in 2004 her remains were found.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the Central Park victim was targeted after she had a run-in with Mitchell days before and caught him on her camera committing a lewd act.
“He was doing some act,” Kelly said. “He may have been exposing himself.”
At Mitchell’s court appearance, the judge also issued a protective order. Mitchell is to have no contact with the victim. He’s scheduled to be in court next week.
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