At 18, he was charged with raping and killing an 86-year-old woman in Jenkinjones, a struggling coalfields community of fewer than 300 people. A few months after being acquitted in that case, he was charged with raping a woman in her 70s and stealing her gun. The sexual assault charge was dropped in a plea bargain, his then-attorney said. But Mitchell served time in the case -- a prison term punctuated by a conviction for escaping -- and was released, then imprisoned again for a time on a grand larceny charge, according to West Virginia prison officials.
Released in 2001, he came under suspicion about a year later in the death of a 54-year-old Jenkinjones woman, but he was never charged.
Mitchell went to prison in Virginia in 2003 in the abduction of his ex-girlfriend. Released after serving about eight years, he was soon locked up on probation violations. After incarceration on those violations, he was later freed and dropped out of sight.
With his New York arrest and the arrest of a convicted sex offender in a rape in New York's Hudson River Park about two weeks later, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other local officials called for new measures to toughen sentences for sex offenders and make it easier to prosecute them.
Jonathan Stewart, 26, was sentenced Monday to 35 years in prison for the Hudson River Park rape. He pleaded guilty earlier last month.
After Mitchell's arrest, Mayor Michael Bloomberg found himself emphasizing that Central Park, the site of an infamous 1989 rape, had become safer in recent years.
On April 19, 1989, a 28-year-old investment banker was found after being sexually attacked while running in the park. She was in a coma for 12 days. Known worldwide for years only as "the Central Park jogger," Trisha Meili disclosed her identity in 2003 and published a memoir.
Concerns about park safety in the city were back at the forefront Tuesday, when an emotionally disturbed man wielding half a pair of scissors attacked a 1-year-old boy and four other people on a bike path in a busy, manicured area along the Hudson River, police said.