A convicted rapist who terrorized the Wyandanch community decades ago was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years in prison for beating his girlfriend to death in 2015.
“I searched in vain for mitigating circumstances,” Judge Barbara Kahn said in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead before imposing the maximum term on Willie Johnson, 60. He will also be on supervised release for five years after his prison term ends.
Johnson was known as the “Wyandanch railroad rapist” and was sentenced in 1981 to 12 1/2 to 25 years in prison for raping three women and attempting to rape another woman. He pleaded guilty to the four crimes in satisfaction of an indictment charging him with 28 acts of rape, sodomy and assaults in 1979 and 1980.
He served 18 years before being released.
Most of the crimes were in Wyandanch. Police said Johnson repeatedly followed his female victims from the Wyandanch LIRR station to their cars in the parking lot, where he would make a superficial cut in his victim’s throat before raping her.
In November, he was convicted by a jury of first-degree manslaughter in the beating death of Thelma Stewart, 49, on May 12, 2015. She was severely bruised, had a broken jaw, broken nose and a ruptured spleen and died a few days later.
Johnson maintained his innocence Tuesday and said he hoped to be exonerated on appeal. “I know that I love my girl. I know I didn’t do that,” he told the judge.
Johnson had testified in his own defense that Stewart was a severe alcoholic who often fell down and bumped into furniture. He said it was also possible that “crackheads” who lived in the Wyandanch rooming house where he and Stewart lived may have beaten her.
Assistant District Attorney Raphael Pearl, citing Johnson’s criminal history, had urged the maximum sentence and told the judge: “There are very few redeeming qualities for this defendant.”