Neighbor: N.Y. rape suspect terrorized W.Va. women

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Saretta Mitchell declined to elaborate on her relationship with the rape suspect, saying she fears for her safety and that of her children.

State Police Sgt. C.F. Kane said investigators considered David Mitchell a person of interest in Flake’s death, but they lacked evidence to charge him. They reached out to authorities in New York on Friday to find out if Mitchell has said anything about the 2002 slaying.

Wayne Mitchell said Flake was a sweet, generous woman who cleaned houses for a living and never bothered anyone.

“If you asked her for $5, she’d give you $10 — if she had $10,” he said. “She was just like your own mother.”

About a year after Flake disappeared, David Mitchell was charged in Virginia with kidnapping his ex-girlfriend. The indictment says he stole a vehicle and used it to abduct Saretta Mitchell, and that he drove drunk while evading police.

“It was a scary incident,” said Tazewell County Prosecutor Dennis H. Lee, “and thank God he was stopped before doing whatever he intended to do with her.”

Although he’d been arrested many times in Virginia, the abduction was the case that sent him to prison for the first time there. He served eight years at Red Onion State Prison, a maximum-security facility reserved for the worst of the worst offenders.

When he got out, he was placed in a halfway house in suburban Richmond and initially met the conditions required of him, according to a probation report filed in Tazewell County Circuit Court.

Mitchell worked with a tutor and was trying to obtain his GED. He was passing random drug-screening tests. Lee said some records that haven’t been made public indicate Mitchell may have schizophrenia.

But a month into the halfway house stay, Mitchell claimed he was robbed of $125 while working a construction job, “became very irate and threatened to kill everyone,” the probation report said.

Mitchell agreed to a psychological evaluation but was thrown out of the halfway house over fears about his mental state.

He went back to prison for probation violations last October but failed to report to his probation officer when he was once again released.

“He just dropped off the grid,” Lee said.

Authorities believed he might have been living in a tent in West Virginia. Then came word of the rape in Central Park.

Police there say he raped a birdwatcher who told police that she had taken a photo of Mitchell fondling himself days before the attack. She said Mitchell tried to take the camera away from her and demanded she delete the image. Then, on Wednesday, he attacked her in a wooded area near the busy Strawberry Fields section of Central Park, she told investigators.

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