Investigators retracing hours before Central Park attack Steady but slow progress being made, mayor reports


NEW YORK -- After culling through hundreds of leads over the past several days, investigators searching for the man who brutally assaulted a pianist in Central Park interviewed members of the victim's family for the first time yesterday as they attempted to piece together how she spent the hours and day before she was attacked.

Police are trying to learn more details about the 32-year-old, who lay anonymously in a coma for nearly three days until friends and family were finally able to identify her. Her two sisters arrived early Friday, and her parents flew in from a vacation in the Midwest later that day.

"She was a very solitary person, so there's not a lot of logical starting places," said an investigator. "You never can tell with these things. Maybe there was some altercation in a store or on the street and that led to this."

While details of the meeting with the family had not been released, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said earlier yesterday that police were making steady, but slow, progress on the case.

"I can say the investigation has a lot of leads and a lot of information and a good deal of things to follow up," the mayor said, speaking to reporters after an appearance at a mini-marathon in Central Park. "But I can't say they're making progress as if they are about ready to solve it."

Giuliani said he had met with the victim's parents at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, where she is in the intensive care unit. "The family is remarkably strong," he said.

Police said yesterday that they had all but discounted the possibility that Tuesday's attacker might have been the same person who murdered a Brazilian jogger in the park last year.

Working on the theory that rape, not robbery, was the primary motive in this daylight attack, detectives are checking their files on sex offenders. Witnesses and police have said the victim's top was ripped off and her skirt and underpants lowered. A trace of semen was found on her clothing.

Detectives are focusing on neighborhoods near the northeast section of the park. Investigators said they did not believe that the assailant was homeless because he appeared well cared for, according to witnesses. More than 400 people have called police to say that they recognize the sketch of the victim or the attacker.

Meanwhile, the city is also looking into whether an employee of the Central Park Conservancy ignored pleas for help from the woman who found the victim. The employee was waiting for a bus at 81st Street and Central Park West at the time of the attack.

Karen Putnam, the Central Park administrator and president of the Central Park Conservancy, a private nonprofit group that manages the park along with the city, said: "We want to make sure we get all the details before we say anything. We would hope that any park workers would respond positively and quickly to any request for help."

The Conservancy is paying the hotel bill for the victim's family in New York and has donated $10,000 to the reward pool, bringing the total to $20,000. When a violent crime happens in Central Park, it "really strikes at the heart of the city," Putnam said.

For doctors and nurses at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, Friday proved to be the day their wishes were answered. After days of hoping that someone would come forward to identify the woman, a stream of family and friends began a bedside vigil. By the time her parents arrived, the victim's two sisters and their husbands had spent the entire day at the hospital, speaking comforting words to a person so wounded she was unrecognizable.

Pub Date: 6/09/96

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