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Man Arrested In Sex Assault Of Elderly Woman In Central Park

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The suspect accused of raping an elderly woman who was birdwatching in Central Park Wednesday has an extensive criminal past, including a murder charge of which he was later acquitted.

David Albert Mitchell, a 42-year-old from Virginia, had been held and questioned by police since late Wednesday. He was charged with rape, criminal sex act, sexual assault, robbery and assault in connection with Wednesday's attack.

The suspect was steps away from CBS 2 cameras when he was asked by someone "What do you have to say for yourself?" Mitchell responded angrily by spitting in that general direction, CBS 2's Derricke Dennis reported.

David Mitchell
David Mitchell spits toward reporters while being led away by authorities. (credit: CBS 2)

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.

WCBS 880's Marla Diamond Reports


Mitchell was identified by the victim in a lineup. He was to be arraigned sometime late Thursday night or early Friday morning.

The victim told reporters Thursday afternoon that she wants her attacker "dead."

A police source told CBS 2's Dennis the man walked past three uniformed officers around 7:20 p.m. Wednesday just blocks from the same Strawberry Fields location where the rape happened.

The officers recognized the suspect from the surveillance video that was circulated by the NYPD, that police source said.

Mitchell has an extensive record in Virginia and West Virginia involving violent crimes, 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reported. He was arrested by West Virginia State Police for first-degree murder and sexual assault in 1989 before being acquitted a year later.

More recently, the suspect was arrested in 2002 for possession of a firearm and being a fugitive from justice.

In May of 2003, he was arrested for abduction and kidnapping in Tazwell County, Va., for which he was sentenced to eight years and 30 days in prison.  In June of 2011, Mitchell violated probation in Virginia, officials said.

Meanwhile, Mitchell was charged with menacing in a separate incident on Aug. 20, which also took place at Strawberry Fields, police said.

In that incident, 1010 WINS' Papa reported that Mitchell told the victim "I have no problem stabbing you as many times as I want and making this circle full of blood."

As for Wednesday's incident, Mitchell allegedly stole the victim's backpack and camera before pushing her down into some mulch and raping her, police said.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the victim was targeted, adding she had a run-in with Mitchell days ago and caught him on her camera committing a lewd act.

Police said Mitchell demanded that she delete the picture, but she got away, 1010 WINS' Eileen Lehpamer reported. Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said the rape was the brutal follow-up to that encounter.

1010 WINS' Eileen Lehpamer With More On The Story


"He approached and said 'Do you remember me?' and then threw her to the ground and attacked her," Browne said.

Even though Mitchell also stole the woman's backpack and camera, she had already uploaded his picture to her computer so she was able to show it to cops and he was arrested.

The woman vowed she won't let the attack stop her from going back to the park.

1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reports


Some of the city's female leaders held a news conference Thursday to condemn the attack and announce that the city will be offering a free self-defense class in Central Park on Oct. 7.

Central Park rape anti-violence news conference
Upper West Side Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal at anti-violence news conference in Central Park (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

"This is a public health crisis, the epidemic of rape. And that's just not me saying it, that's the Centers For Disease Control," said Sonia Ossorio, the president of the New York City chapter of the National Organization For Women.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the victim has not been scared off by the assault.

"She's not willing to yield one inch of this park or this city to perpetrators, to people who think it's OK to prey on women," Quinn told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond. "She's inspired all of us to not give one inch of our city over to violence or crime."

"She will be back in this park birdwatching and enjoying the park," Quinn said.

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