NEW YORK —
A homeless ex-con accused of beating and sexually assaulting a 73-year-old birdwatcher in Central Park randomly groped two more women near the park before his capture, authorities said Tuesday.
Prosecutors announced the additional allegations against David Albert Mitchell at an arraignment Tuesday in state court in Manhattan. They also accused him of threatening to spit on and punch police officers following his arrest.
In addition to first-degree rape, the jailed Mitchell pleaded not guilty Tuesday to lesser charges of forcible touching and sex abuse involving the two other women. They credited the original victim with helping identify the alleged attacker, described as a drifter from West Virginia with a violent past.
“We want to thank the victim for her courage and for her assistance in the investigation,” District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement.
Authorities in West Virginia have said Mitchell was acquitted of a murder charge two decades ago and was considered a person of interest in another slaying in McDowell County that remains unsolved.
Sgt. C.F. Kane, assistant detachment commander of the Welch Detachment of the West Virginia State Police, told the Associated Press last month that investigators considered Mitchell a person of interest in the 2002 disappearance of Barbara Flake of Jenkinjones. Her remains were discovered in 2004, and her death was declared a homicide at that time.
There was no immediate response to a phone message left Tuesday with an attorney representing Mitchell.
Prosecutors have portrayed the broad-daylight assault of the 73-year-old as an act of vengeance.
It occurred on Sept. 12, about a week after she photographed Mitchell exposing himself to create “evidence of his lewd act,” prosecutors said. Around 11:30 a.m., he allegedly approached her in the park and asked,”“Do you remember me?” before beating and raping her, then stealing her camera bag.
Later that afternoon, Mitchell accosted two more women on nearby streets on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, prosecutors said, without going into greater detail.
Once New York Police Department officers grabbed him, Mitchell claimed he was recently sprung from prison and homeless, and that he carried condoms for sex with women in Central Park, prosecutors said in court papers. He also said he found the camera case he had in his possession “on a bench by the trash,” the papers said.
Mitchell also pleaded not guilty Tuesday to separate weapons and menacing charges alleging he pulled knife on a man on Aug. 20 during a confrontation in Central Park.
Records show that Mitchell was once sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty in an abduction case. Authorities say he also had been acquitted of murder charges in his native West Virginia, and was eyed as a potential suspect in another slaying.