Despite a chilling confession, a West Virginia jury acquitted David Mitchell of raping and murdering an 83 -year-old woman two decades ago, leaving him free to continue his reign of sexual perversion from the Appalachians to Central Park.
The shocking 1990 acquittal came after jurors heard Mitchell’s graphic account of his brutal assault on an elderly neighbor named Annie Parks.
“I drank some Mad Dog and some more beer. I went back up to Annie’s and knocked on the door and saw that it was unlocked so I went in,” Mitchell, then 18, said in a statement to investigators that was read aloud during his trial.
“I told her I wanted to f— her. Annie said, ‘No I won’t.’ I said we were going to do it anyway and I walked over and grabbed her and pulled [her dress] over her body and threw it over my shoulder.”
Mitchell went on to describe a heinous attack with eerie similarities to the crime authorities say he carried out in New York — raping a 73-year-old woman in Central Park on Wednesday morning.
“Annie then fell back on the bed and I pulled her panties off,” Mitchell’s statement said.
“Annie then hit me in the face and I hit her in the face with my fist four or five times and then got on top of her and f—– her. She was bleeding from the nose.”
The jury heard how Mitchell forced himself on Parks — and then bludgeoned her with a tire iron when he finished his deviant act.
Mitchell was facing life in prison if convicted of the crime. He had earlier agreed to plead guilty to a second-degree murder charge that would have sent him to prison for up to 18 years, his lawyer told The News.
But prosecutors’ insistence on nailing him on first-degree murder charges backfired.
Mitchell walked after the jury apparently bought the testimony of a psychiatrist who argued that his IQ was so low he couldn’t have given the statement or understood his Miranda rights.
Some 22 years and a litany of crimes later, a hardened and heavily-tattooed Mitchell struck again inside Manhattan’s most famed greenspace, raping an elderly bird watcher, authorities say.
The victim, when told of his detailed confession in the 1990 case, convulsed with anger.
“My question is why was he on the street?” the victim told The News on Friday, her eyes still ringed by dark-blue bruises. “Maybe I’ll hire a lawyer and sue West Virginia.”
Even Mitchell’s former lawyer admitted that he was stunned when the not-guilty verdict was read.
“We were very much surprised by the verdict but at the time he came across like a little boy to the jury,” said Sid Bell, who is now a McDowell County prosecutor.
“When something like that happens you just hope and pray that he never gets back into another situation that either he’s accused or commits another crime — but it’s just been a continuous thing,” Bell added.
Mitchell, 42, who dropped out of school while in the third grade and has a history of mental problems, quickly developed a reputation for preying on older women.
After a string of arrests and prison stints, every officer who worked in Jenkinjones, Mitchell’s remote and impoverished hometown nestled in the heart of coal country, knew his face.
“That was his M.O. around here, raping old women,” said McDowell County Deputy Sheriff Ron Blevins. “This is a very dangerous individual that likes to prey on the elderly.”
The illiterate ex-con was a person of interest in the 2002 slaying of a 54-year-old woman named Barbara Flake, but authorities didn’t have enough evidence to charge him with the crime.
His ex-girlfriend said he frequently boasted to her and others about killing Flake — and a second woman.
“He bragged to me and some of our friends at different times that he had murdered two people,” Saretta Mitchell told The Associated Press.
David Mitchell, who sources said is a member of Aryan nation, has shown a knack for avoiding hard time.
Months after his acquittal, he was charged with raping a woman in her 70s and robbing her of $20 and a 25-caliber automatic pistol. But prosecutors dropped the sex assault charge under a plea bargain.
He served brief stints in prison for other robbery and grand-larceny cases — and once briefly escaped.
In 2003, he was sentenced to eight years behind bars in Virginia after he pleaded guilty to abducting Saretta Mitchell.