Originally Posted by IC10021
Rape Victim, 73, Says She Reported Earlier Confrontation With Suspect
By WENDY RUDERMAN and NATE SCHWEBER
New York Times
Published: September 14, 2012
The 73-year-old woman who was raped in Central Park said Friday that when she encountered a man masturbating in the wooded Ramble area two weeks ago, she not only took his photograph, but also reported what she saw to a park ranger.
“Some of the newspapers mentioned that after I saw the guy masturbating, I didn’t report it. I did. I reported it,” the woman said in an interview outside her apartment on the Upper West Side. “There was a park ranger who came by, and I stopped him immediately and showed him the picture. And I said: ‘Look at this picture. This guy is in the Ramble.’ And the ranger said, ‘Oh, O.K., I’ll look out for him.’ ”
The rangers, who work for the New York City parks department, have the power to make arrests and issue citations with their primary responsibility being to ensure that people abide by park rules. The ranger walked toward the Ramble, and the woman believed she had done all she was supposed to.
“I felt that was enough,” she said.
Vickie Karp, a spokeswoman for the parks department, referred questions about whether the victim approached a ranger and what rangers’ responsibilities in such situations are to the Police Department.
Paul J. Browne, the chief police spokesman, did not return an e-mail asking if the department was aware that the woman, according to her, had alerted a park ranger after she spotted the man masturbating. Mr. Browne said earlier this week that the situation had not been reported to the police.
The man whom the woman photographed is accused of raping and beating her in a brazen daylight attack near Strawberry Fields, south and west of the Ramble, on Wednesday. The assault was preceded, the police said, by a question from the attacker: “Do you remember me?”
The suspect, David Albert Mitchell, a 42-year-old drifter with a history of violence against women, was charged with rape. He was also accused of stealing the woman’s camera and other photo equipment.
The woman said she always carried a camera in her hand while in the park.
She has been an avid bird watcher for years, drawn to the Ramble, as are so many others, by the variety and quantity of birds found there.
But she also was not afraid to train her camera on people she regarded to be breaking park rules, often snapping photographs of those who let their dogs run off-leash, bicyclists riding on park paths designated for pedestrians, and children in rowboats without parental supervision or life jackets, she said.
“No photographer walks around with a camera in a bag,” said the woman, who is an unofficial guardian of the park she cherishes. “It’s like a gun. You pick it up and shoot.”
She keeps a photography blog, which primarily chronicles her bird sightings.
But she sometimes uses her blog as a kind of wall of shame. She posted a photo of a man who let his dog run unleashed and wrote that throughout the park there were signs saying that dogs must be leashed at all times. She continued that the owner thought the rules did not apply to him.
The woman scoffed at a description of her in an article this week in The New York Times in which a park maintenance worker said he thought he knew her, describing her as “a nice old lady” who always sits on a bench.
She described herself instead as an active person who is always on the move in the park.
The woman saw an ophthalmologist on Friday. She has a fractured eye socket as well as a broken finger on her right hand. Both of her eyes were bloodshot and ringed with purplish and blue bruises on Friday, and she wore large sunglasses. She said she felt nauseated by anti-H.I.V. medication that doctors prescribed, a routine course of treatment for rape victims.
As for Mr. Mitchell, the man accused of assaulting her, his life has long been filled with violence, dating to when he was a teenager growing up in southern West Virginia. He has spent much of his adult life in prison.
In 1989, he was charged with raping and murdering an 87-year-old woman, Annie Parks, in his hometown, Jenkinjones, W.Va., but was found not guilty. Several months later, he was charged with raping and robbing a 70-year-old woman in a nearby town. He pleaded guilty and served 10 years in prison.
Mr. Mitchell was also described by investigators as a person of interest in the murder of a woman in West Virginia in 2002, according to the West Virginia State Police, but there was not enough evidence to charge him.
Mr. Mitchell was one of about a dozen siblings, and his father was a coal miner, said Rebecca Lewis, 46, who grew up near the Mitchells and whose sister married one of Mr. Mitchell’s brothers. When Mr. Mitchell was in Jenkinjones during his short stints out of prison, Ms. Lewis said, he lived on disability payments and would “tell everybody he got a ‘crazy check.’ ”
Emily S. Rueb contributed reporting.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: September 19, 2012
An article on Saturday about a previous confrontation the 73-year-old woman who was raped in Central Park said she had with her attacker referred incorrectly to the authority of a park ranger, to whom the woman said she had reported the initial encounter after she said she saw the man masturbating in the park. Rangers have the power to issue citations and make arrests; it is not the case that they “are not law-enforcement officers.”
A version of this article appeared in print on September 15, 2012, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Rape Victim, 73, Says She Reported Earlier Confrontation With the Suspect.