By Jennifer Peltz
NEW YORK -- An ex-convict whose violent history terrified his West Virginia hometown admitted Tuesday that he raped a septuagenarian bird-watcher in New York's Central Park in a case that prompted calls for tougher penalties for sex offenders.
David Albert Mitchell mumbled "yes" in response to a judge's questions as he pleaded guilty to rape and robbery in the September 2012 attack, one of three times he's been charged with sex crimes against women in their 70s and older. He was expected to get 30 years in prison at his Oct. 16 sentencing.
"David Mitchell is a predator who targets the elderly," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement.
Mitchell's lawyers declined to comment.
Mitchell was accused of raping the then 73-year-old birder, slamming her head on the ground and running off with her camera bag in a wooded area near Strawberry Fields, a spot that serves as a memorial to John Lennon and is one of Central Park's busiest sections.
Roughly a week earlier, he had demanded her camera after she used it to document his lewd behavior, she told police. On the day of the attack, he approached her asking whether she recognized him; she did but denied it, the DA's office said.
After fleeing the park, Mitchell groped two other women on the nearby Upper West Side, prosecutors said. He was charged with pulling a knife on a man and threatening to stab him during an August 2012 argument in the park.
He also pleaded guilty to a weapon-possession charge in the August 2012 argument. His plea also resolved the groping charges, although he didn't admit specifically to them.
Mitchell, 43, comes from tiny Jenkinjones, where his felony arrest record began in his teens. It grew so ominous that when he was released from a Virginia prison in 2011, some of his neighbors bought guns to protect themselves.