(NEW YORK) — The man accused of raping and robbing a 73-year-old birdwatcher in New York’s Central Park has a lengthy criminal record and a history of attacking elderly women.
David Mitchell, 42, was arrested on Thursday evening and charged early this morning with rape, criminal sex act, robbery and assault, according to court documents.
Mitchell has a chilling history of attacking elderly women.
As an 18-year-old in 1989, Mitchell was charged with sexually assaulting and murdering 86-year-old Annie Parks in West Virginia, according to news reports from the time. When a plea deal in which he would have pleaded guilty was rejected by prosecutors, the case went to trial and Mitchell was acquitted.
Months later, he was accused of breaking into the home of a woman in her 70s and sexually assaulting her. He served eight years for the robbery charge and the sexual assault charge was dropped as part of a plea deal.
He later served another eight years in prison for a kidnapping in Virginia, according to ABC News’ New York affiliate WABC.
After the attack, police released surveillance footage of Mitchell leaving the park. On Thursday evening, three rookie cops recognized Mitchell on the street in New York and apprehended him, according to WABC. He spat at reporters on his way out of court.
Mitchell is being represented by an attorney from New York’s Legal Aid office. The office did not respond to request for comment.
The victim said Mitchell’s attack was not random.
About two weeks ago, the victim caught Mitchell allegedly committing a lewd act in the park and took his photo. He confronted her, but she refused to give him her camera.
“This was a revenge attack,” the victim told ABC News’ New York station WABC. “All I was doing was praying to stay alive.”
The 73-year-old birdwatcher and photographer was in the park on Wednesday when she said the incident occurred around 11:50 a.m. According to media reports, the man approached the victim and said, “Do you remember me?” He then attacked her.
When the attack was over, the victim said, “He pushed me into the dirt on my face, and he said, ‘You stay there. You count to 100.'”
College professor and birdwatcher Eric Ozawa, 34, found the beaten woman in the park. He entered the park around 11:30 a.m. on 72nd Street near the park’s famed Strawberry Fields, designed as a memorial for John Lennon, who was killed at the nearby Dakota apartment building.
“As I was working my way along that path, I could see up ahead what looked like somebody lying down and I initially just assumed it was somebody sleeping,” Ozawa told ABCNews.com. “All I could see were someone’s legs, from the knees down, and their feet.”
As he moved closer, he looked in that direction again and was surprised to see that someone was sitting up and gesturing for him to come over.
“It was a small woman who, as I approached, I saw her face was badly beaten and swollen and then she told me that she had been raped and I took out my phone to call 911,” he said.
When he got the police on the phone, the woman said that she wanted to speak to them.
“She wanted to speak to the police. She was ready to do that,” he said. “She was incredibly lucid and together, given the circumstances.”
Ozawa said the woman was not crying or panicking, and he thought she may have been in shock.
The woman was treated at a hospital and released. She has two black eyes, bruises on her arms and legs and a broken finger. But she said the attack will not prevent her from returning to her beloved park.
“It’s majestic, it’s very soothing and I’m not going to stop,” she said. “Nobody is going to take that pleasure away from me. This was just one animal.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Kevin Liptak, CNN
Holly Yan and AnneClaire Stapleton, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN