David Mitchell appeared before a Manhattan judge around midnight, as details continue to emerge about his troubled past.
Officers recognized Mitchell from surveillance video that showed carrying the woman's bag. They caught him walking down West 77th Street and Amsterdam Avenue and took him into custody. He was questioned for a few hours before he was picked out of a lineup and placed under arrest.
The 42-year-old drifter is charged with rape, criminal sex act, robbery and assault.
The 73-year-old victim, who was birdwatching at the time of the attack, spoke exclusively with Eyewitness News. She made it clear that she won't let the attack keep her from returning to the park and its birds.
"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."
Police say Mitchell is a career criminal with a history of preying on elderly women. In the 80s in West Virginia, he was charged with sex assaulting and murdering an 86-year-old woman. Later, he served seven years in prison for the home invasion rape of a woman in her 70s. And in Virginia, he did another eight years for kidnapping.
Mitchell and his latest victim first crossed paths in Central Park almost two weeks ago, when she photographed him commiting a lewd act in the Ramble.
In Wednesday's attack, near Strawberry Fields, the victim says Mitchell wanted to get even.
"This was a revenge attack," she said. "All I was doing was praying to stay alive."
Mitchell spit on reporters as he entered court, and he is being held without bail. He claims he is innocent, but police say he was in possession of the memory card from the victim's camera when he was taken into custody.
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