Police say a man who raped a New York City woman more than two decades ago while she was walking home through a park with her groceries has finally been identified, bringing an end to a longtime cold case.
Police sources told the New York Post on Tuesday that James Edward Webb, a 68-year-old serial rapist who is currently serving the rest of his life behind bars at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, was behind the April 1994 attack.
New technology allowed investigators to link Webb to the rape through a DNA match with material collected at the scene, the sources said.
The woman had told police she was walking through Prospect Park in Brooklyn with her groceries when her attacker, carrying a large stick or cane, raped her next to a tree and demanded cash.
The high-profile case was the center of a libel suit against the New York Daily News, which published a column calling the victim's account a "lie" and a "hoax." The paper and its columnist, the late Mike McAlary, were cleared in 1997.
“Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Charles Ramos dismissed the lawsuit after finding that [Mike] McAlary accurately reported what his police sources told him,” reads an article in the New York tabloid’s archives.
A police spokesman also said at the time that investigators had doubts over the victim's account due to scant physical evidence and apparent inconsistencies in her story, the New York Post reported, citing deposition testimony viewed by the New York Times.
The woman on Monday learned that Webb was the attacker during a “very emotional” meeting with investigators who were working the case, and felt vindicated as a result, police sources told the New York Post.
“As soon as we knocked on her door and we told her we were NYPD detectives, she nearly broke down and cried,” Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce told the newspaper. “She cried last night when we told her we had the guy. I think my detectives cried with her.”
It is not clear whether Webb – who is serving 75 years to life in Sing Sing – will be charged for the rape.
Her lawyer Martin Garbus said "we have asked the Daily News and the Police Department for an apology and we have not heard back yet."
Boyce did say though Tuesday that the woman "was treated badly."
Webb is in prison for raping four women in Brooklyn while on parole in 1995, and served 20 years before that for six rapes he committed in the 1970s, the New York Post reported.