25-year-old registered level 3 sex offender Jonathan Stewart, who allegedly brutally raped and choked a 21-year-old actress in Hudson River Park this weekend, reportedly tried to hang himself in court lockup yesterday. "It’s surprising that now it has become too much," his victim told the Post after being informed of the suicide attempt.
Stewart, who was paroled in July after seven years in prison on a robbery and sex-abuse conviction (he assaulted a female relative), reportedly was rushed from court to Bellevue with "distinct marks on his neck." He had been at court to be arraigned on rape charges.
Stewart is accused of chatting with a young woman in the park around 5:15 a.m. on Saturday—and then dragging her into the bushes for more than 20 minutes before she could break free. Once arrested he reportedly became "savage" in his jail cell. "He looks like an animal...He was going nuts in his cell," a source told the Post yesterday. "He was smashing his head against the wall and screaming and yelling at police officers."
In the wake of the attack—and the rape of a Central Park birdwatcher earlier this month—city leaders are calling on citizens to retake the parks. To that end, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn this morning organized an early morning march in the park today. "Our parks will be safe for women any time of the day or night that they want to use their parks," she announced.
The number of rapes and attempted rapes in the city has increased by 4.6 percent this year to 1,058 [PDF]. But the majority of those cases involve people who know each other. According to the NYPD, only 12 percent of rapes involve strangers and NYPD spokesman Paul Browne says that in contrast to the jump in rapes and attempted rapes, "the number of rapes and attempted rapes by strangers has fallen by nearly 9 percent compared with a year ago."