2008_06_witnessstand.jpgA 24-year-old woman took the stand and began to relive a terrifying ordeal as she described how she was raped, tortured, and held captive in her own Hamilton Heights apartment in April 2007.

The victim, now 24, was a month away from graduating from Columbia Journalism School and had stayed late at campus to work on her resume (a job fair was the next day). At 9:30 p.m. on April 13, a Friday, she took the 1 train from campus to 137th Street and walked to her building. In the elevator, there was a man with a "small rolling suitcase"; she asked, "‘Are you going up or down?’ He didn’t answer, so I got in.” (Last year, residents mentioned how the building's front door was not secure and very easy to open.)

She pressed the button for the fifth floor, then he pressed for the sixth. But when she got out at the fifth floor, she said, "I heard him a few steps behind me"--the man's suitcase's wheels squeaked--"I stepped in [my apartment], turned around, I started to close the door. He was right at the door facing me."

Robert Williams, 31, who is charged with 71 counts, including rape, attempted murder, and arson, was not present in court yesterday, though he was present on Thursday. He refused to leave his cell at Rikers, and the judge decided the trial could go on without him. The police say his DNA matches the DNA found in the victim's apartment; the victim also gave very detailed description of her attacker, "right down to his gold canine tooth and distinctive body scars."

The victim described her attacker pushing her into her apartment, choking her as he dragged her inside and, per the Times, "slammed her head into the floor near the foot of her bed." As he raped her, the victim said, “I thought he was going to kill me...I thought I was going to die. I just wanted to survive, so I did what he told me....I was crying, screaming, begging him not to hurt me.”

Still to come on Monday is her testimony about the ordeal itself. The Post points out she must "must suffer through testifying publicly to each individual act of penetration, each time he choked, struck, scalded and slashed her, and each petty theft down to the iPod earbuds that cops later found among Williams' belongings."