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NYC rape suspect acquitted in 1989 slaying

David Albert Mitchell, who was arrested on charges

David Albert Mitchell, who was arrested on charges that he brutally raped a 73-year-old woman in New York's Central Park. (Sept. 13, 2012) Credit: AP

The man arraigned Friday on charges he beat, raped and robbed a 73-year-old woman in broad daylight in Central Park this week remains a person of interest in a 2002 slaying of a woman in West Virginia, authorities there said.

The suspect, David Albert Mitchell, 42, also was accused of sexually assaulting and killing an elderly neighbor in West Virginia in 1989, but a jury acquitted him.

According to Trooper J.R. Coburn of the West Virginia State Police, Barbara Flake, a woman who lived in Jenkinjones, Mitchell's hometown, disappeared in April 2002. Flake's remains were found in 2004, but there was insufficient evidence to charge Mitchell, Coburn said.

Flake's son, according to a local newspaper, went looking for his mother after he found her pocketbook in her house.

West Virginia authorities contacted the NYPD after Mitchell was arrested in the Central Park case, NYPD officials said Friday.

Mitchell spent most of his adult life in and out of prison.

Sid Bell, one of the attorneys appointed to defend Mitchell in the 1989 case, said no witnesses or forensic evidence linked him to the assault and killing of Annie Parks, 86, for whom Mitchell used to do chores. The only evidence was a confession written by police and signed by Mitchell, Bell said.

Mitchell, however, could not read or write, Bell said.

At trial, an expert testified that Mitchell was not capable of understanding the Miranda warnings. The jury acquitted Mitchell on Feb. 16, 1990. Soon after, he served about 8 years in prison for attacking and robbing another woman, Bell said.

In 2003, Mitchell was convicted in Virginia of kidnapping and abducting Seretta Mitchell, his sister-in-law, according to records and Dennis H. Lee, the Virginia prosecutor of the case in Tazewell, Va. He served more than 8 years.

The Central Park victim told reporters Friday she photographed Mitchell performing a lewd act two weeks ago and reported the incident to a ranger, The New York Times reported. Police couldn't confirm this.

"He indicated he was homeless and had no place to go," said Lee.

Several months ago, Mitchell arrived in New York City and was a regular in Central Park.

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