Man in custody in alleged Central Park rape of elderly woman in broad daylight, NYPD says

Police officers talk near a crime scene in a heavily wooded section of Central Park in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. Police say a woman in her 70s has reported that she was sexually assaulted in Central Park.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig
NYPD police officers talk in a heavily wooded section of Central Park near where a 73-year-old woman reported that she was sexually assaulted in broad daylight
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - A law enforcement official said investigators have a man in custody Thursday in the reported rape of a 73-year-old woman who was attacked in broad daylight in New York's Central Park.

Police said the elderly birdwatcher told them she was raped Wednesday morning in a wooded area near the park's Park's Strawberry Fields, which serves as a memorial to former Beatles' singer John Lennon. She told investigators the man threw her to the ground and attacked her, then made off with a backpack that contained her camera.

The woman, whose name hasn't been released, said she thinks the assailant was the same man she photographed masturbating about nine days ago in an isolated part of the park. She said he demanded she delete the image and tried to grab her camera but didn't succeed. Police said that initial encounter wasn't reported.

Authorities have a man in custody of the special victims unit, but no arrests yet been made as the investigation is ongoing, an official told The Associated Press under condition of anonymity.

The woman told the New York Post on Thursday that the man also jumped on her back, pummeled her, grabbed her throat and threatened to cut her jugular when she screamed. She said she feels jittery but is mostly enraged.

"I hope he goes to jail for a long time, and he gets raped, over and over again," she told the newspaper.

Eric Ozawa, a college professor and birdwatcher, found the woman and called 911. He said her face was badly swollen, she had a black eye and was covered in mulch, but she appeared "self-possessed and lucid."

The woman said she regularly visits the park, and vows to return again. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn planned to go to Central Park on Thursday to announce a free self-defense class that will be offered in the park.

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